The Gothees cross Joy Division with the Archies, the Monkees and Josie and the Pussycats.
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"What if the Velvet Underground covered 'Sugar Sugar' "?
With that one-liner, Waldo P. Emerson Jones III had the concept for a rock 'n' roll band. Of course, it was supposed to be a band that would only last for one gig -- in December of 2002.
With: Vortex 7 (from Cincinnati).
Where: Brillobox, Bloomfield.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Four years later, The Gothees are looking less like a joke and more like a real entity. They've emerged from two years of hard knocks in the studios with a debut CD to be released on Starfish, a small label out of Cincinnati. It comes out in February, but will be previewed Saturday at the Brillobox with a CD release party featuring special edition packaging.
The Gothees could very well be the founders and keepers of the musical genre known as "bubblegoth." If you google the term, you get Bubblegoth Barbie, the page of some illustrator and then the Pittsburgh band.
Jones, a local artist, came up with the idea in the fall of 2002. "Growing up I was a big fan of television bands like the Monkees and the Archies and all the Hanna Barbera cartoons that had cartoon bands, like 'Scooby Doo' and 'Josie and the Pussycats.' That was my exposure to pop music. I thought, how cool would it be to put together a band for a one-off show and cover some of these '60s pop songs, and do it in a way that had a gothic twinge?"
Jones certainly had the voice for it, sounding like a cross between Ian Curtis of Joy Division and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus. And, he had a theremin, the essential instrument of camp horror.
He passed around some fliers indicating the formation of this bubblegoth band, and starting to pique some interest. When people called to inquire who was in his band, he told them the truth: "No one."
"A friend of mine said, 'You're starting a band, do you need a guitar player?' I said, 'Yeah, do you play guitar?' And he said, 'No, but I'm buying one' and I said 'OK, you're the guitar player.' That was the first recruit: Sir Lee Gothee."
With the addition of Crimson Bobbee Gothee, Toothless Rufus Gothee, Dan Fogel Gothee, H.P. Gothee and Mickee Gothee (who played clarinet and xylophone), they ventured into the Warsaw in Polish Hill.
"We went in thinking it's going to be our one-off show, and we'd all have a good laugh, but the audience really enjoyed it to the point where when we came off the stage, people were saying, 'When are you playing again?' and other people said, 'Do you want to play with us?' -- and we haven't stopped."
The Gothees have been darkening nightclubs, parties and horror conventions ever since, and have released two live CDs from radio sessions at WRCT. By Jones' count, there have been nine different incarnations of the Gothees in four years. One member, Dan Fogel Gothee, quit when the band started to introduce original songs, because, says Jones, "He just felt like that wasn't what the Gothees were about."
Two years ago, the Gothees decided it was time for a proper studio release, never imagining it could possibly take two years. The odyssey began with a home-studio attempt that was aborted. Then they booked a friend's studio for an eight-hour session which went exceptionally well until the bass player tripped over a cord and erased the entire thing.
After another session, they came out with a master disc that ended up being corrupt. Throw in band members coming and going, hard-to-reach producers, full-time jobs and a stolen car, and Jones was convinced that the whole project was cursed.
But now it's done and "Meet the Gothees" is a bubblegoth good time. The centerpiece is that diabolical version of "Sugar Sugar," so steamy it almost warrants a warning label. There are five originals including the tone-setting, "Some Irony Required," and a gothabilly track called "Country Pop Song." "Falco" merges Donovan's "There is a Mountain" with a narrative about the death of Falco. The most brilliant stroke might be a cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" that seamlessly evolves into "Love Will Keep Us Together," pulling off the death-defying feat of marrying Joy Division and Captain and Tennille (good thing Curtis isn't alive to hear that).
That sense of humor is exactly why goths don't like the Gothees.
"We don't take ourselves seriously," Jones says. "We're not goths. So, we don't have a lot of goth fans."
But that leaves a pretty big segment of the listening public who might find something to like about the Gothees and their debut, "Meet the Gothees."
As Jones sees it, what they have here is "basically the soundtrack for a children's show that doesn't really exist."