The Banana Convention: Gaining Momentum & Catching a Wave

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 742   By: Robert 'Bo' White

23rd February, 2012     0

The BC franchise has been around for almost twenty years, with various assemblages and souls poking fun at the punks while playing bubblegum music for the masses. It was a wild ride that wasn't totally focused or even aware that bubblegum was the new punk. It hit big in 1968 with the 1910 Fruitgum Company converting a children's game into a bonafide top ten hit with a bullet.
Frank Patrick, the owner of Daniel's Den, booked the band while they were still bubbling under the top 100. According to the Gavin Report, this was a band to watch. On the basis of Gavin's mystical insight, Patrick bought them dirt-cheap. But when Simon Says went screaming to the top of the charts, our hapless bubblegum lads wanted to renegotiate the contract. Nope. Patrick's contracts were ironclad. The Fruitgum Company had to settle for a grand instead of their current rate of $3000. No matter - the Kasenetz & Katz stable of acts (including the Ohio Express, Shadows of Night, and of, course early Tommy James over @ Roulette Records) continued to share the charts with the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Byrds and the Who throughout the late sixties and early seventies. It seemed to suggest a very diverse lineage of musical appreciation. And it's all good.
The Banana Convention got the message loud and clear, cutting against the grain of current trends, doing a bubblegum smack down and smiling out loud. They were poking fun at the punks, not knowing they were punks themselves. Punk and bubblegum are part of the same genetic code - the Clash meets the Ohio Express - Should I Stay or Should I Go versus Down At Lulu's. The biggest difference was that bubblegum was more lascivious than punk - Yummy Yummy Yummy, 1, 2, 3 Red Light, and I Think Were Alone Now was all about teenage lust. It was the eroticism of youth and it's always been a part of our culture from pre-teen beauty pageants to Disney TV depicting pre-teens romping with just a hint of G-spot frenzy; an apical ancestor to the musical culture of our times.
From their modest bubblegum beginnings in 1993 to the post-millennium girl group frenzy of the double bubble girls The Banana Convention has continued to evolve into a guitar oriented rock band, less hooks; more riffs. It started in 2007 with the addition of the phenomenally talented Ray Torres and the ascendance of vocalist Shar Molina who seemed to grow more confident with each passing year. She found her voice and developed into one of the most soulful and sexy singers in the game.
The BC continued write compelling original material and released their first CD Dirty Negatives to critical acclaim. The setlist changed with the addition of such great original songs as Preplan, Prognosis, Grand Illusion and I Wanna Be Hans Solo. The re-energized band captured the moment with a live disc recorded @ White's Bar. It had humor, rock-hard guitar, sensual vocals and a ton of good vibes!
Alas, Torres left the fold to be a cool rocking daddy and The BC Five moved forward with newcomer guitarist Jake Voisine. It proved to be the deal of the century; in line with bringing Sean Drysdale into the fold as the bass player, house musicologist and seeker of truth. The band got right and tight, dropped the bubblegum ruse, and rocked their asses off.
It was only a few weeks back when I got a copy of L.E.A.P., a new CD release by the Banana Convention. I listened to it and put it away, seemed pretty good. I listened to it again and then once more. It started to get under my skin. I was digging it. It had a fresh crisp sound. The arrangements possess a musical economy that allows each instrument to be heard and has Shar Molina's vocals mixed up front where they belong. Two Houses opens the disc with some righteous soul deep rock & roll. Jessica Fletcher ratchets the energy up a few notches with incredible sonic landscape, tasty guitar and Molina's no nonsense hot mama vocals that preach the gospel truth about love. New Guy is Monte Nothelfer's debut as a lead singer. It's a bit like bringing Ringo down from his kit to sing Sentimental Journey while John and Paul shag some birds - and that's a good thing.
New day is a compact little rocker. Shar Molina's vocals are exquisite - husky, soulful with just enough spark and hustle to lift it above the pack, the pretenders to the throne. Molina's got her groove on. She owns it!
Safe and Sound completes the CD and Molina's performance is simply breathtaking. It is her most mature and realized performance to date. This is a well-conceived and executed piece of music, with a layered atmospheric backdrop that underscores a message of hope and redemption. It is perfect
The Sean Drysdale Interview
Sean tell me about the new CD L.E.A.P.
There are a few things I want to say about these songs as a whole. Each member of the band tore down the house to make these songs the best they could be. Jake is a modern day riff master, a true musical mind. Shar is stellar and power and took her voice to a new level. Monte's percussion and energy shines through and his vocals on New Guy are nothing to over look. Chris our drummer is one of the best rock drummers today. Listen to his drums on this EP and you will see why. As the bassist I was able to craft melody and counter melody work on this album; making it feel more than just one bass one guitar and drums.
What does the acronym L.E.A.P.  mean?
The album art is an early 1900's map of Los Angeles and the faces are old movie stars. The idea for the name was the L.A. E.P so we moved the e and the a - LEAP. It's a perfect fit for the album itself. It is a leap in sound, song styles and performance. You have never heard us sound like this or sound this fantastic. That is not hyperbole in my opinion. It is the best we have ever been and it is a huge leap in the right direction for us. 
Where did you record L.E.A.P.
We recorded at Castle Oak Studios in L.A. It was an all day one day session. The most amazing thing about it was the fact that Shar woke up that morning sicker than sick could be. Barely a voice and no energy Shar struck magic in that studio. The band tracked each song while she slept on a couch in the back only getting up every little bit for tea and water. When it came to her singing we didn't think it was going to happen. Then she sang. It came out perfect. She only sang each song twice through and that was all we needed. As a band we have never seen anything like it. It was as if we were in a surrealistic movie. She was so sick, and we never thought she could to it - courageous! The best part is we had a film crew with us and they captured it all. So expect to see the documentary in the future. You simply have to see it to understand how incredible she is! 
I heard that Andy Reed was part of the project
Yes. For the second half of the album we had to fly in parts and mixing that was recorded at Andy Reed's Reed Recording Studio in Bay City. Andy is a true producer and engineer. He always has an idea or a way to make something better. He talks to you like a friend or even a family member. There was nothing greater or more pleasurable than working with him. Andy worked very hard and made the entire Castle Oak stuff sound perfect for us and our vibe. We are thankful to him, his talents and time for letting us do this EP there.  
Do you have any plans for the future?
We are planning several tours right now and are ready to do a full length album. We have a lot of momentum right now. Our music video for "Jessica Fletcher" has been a major hit with our fans and has had a lot of internet success as well. We have a documentary coming out within this year and now a full length album too. We need to focus on this album and the up coming tours. Right now it feels we are not upstream anymore. We are not on the crest of the wave but we are damn close and when we hit it we are not getting off.
This brings us to the new 5 track CD L.E.A.P. Can you describe each track?
Two Houses
This is kind of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It is about a girl in love with a good guy who is viewed as the wrong boy from the wrong side of town. She wants to be with him but he splits town on the night they were supposed to run away together. I wrote the song in 2006/7 on New Years Eve after TBC played Whites Bar. After an entire bottle of Bison Wheat Vodka a demo was born but was not completed until almost four years later. 
Jessica Fletcher
The song name was born while the band was goofing off at practice. None of us could think of a title until Jake and Chris came up with a name and it just stayed that way. The song itself is about the struggle to be in a rock band - pouring all of you heart and soul into something you love; something that is more than a hobby. It helps sustain you in the face of people and venues that could care less about what you do. It is an anthem for the rockers and musicians who feel the same pain and struggle every day. Jake Voisine came up with music and lyrics. The night he first played us the chorus riff we knew he took lightning out of a bottle, strung it on his guitar and created one of the freshest and hottest guitar hooks since T-Rex's Twentieth Century Boys. 
New Guy
This song was written and sung by Monte. We did at least five different versions of this song. In an early version it was a SKA song; there was a Weezer-like version and one reminiscent of an old local band The Rugby Mothers. It is a fun little rocker about your girl dumping you for a much "hotter" guy. He has money, good looks, been all over the world and is a really cool dude. It is about heart break set to a wonderfully crafted Weird Al sounding song. Essentially the girl left for the BBD (bigger better deal). 
New Day
Is a summer pop hit sensation if you ask me! Similar to the lines and parallels that Jessica Fletcher draws, New Day is a song about wanting to be heard. It is about wanting people to see the work and the talents of the singer and the band. It's a road song, a nose to the grind stone song. The idea of not knowing where you are going while in the pursuit of musicianship on the road, on the stage and at the end of every day is the message of New Day. It was an acoustic song Shar used to do on her own. She wrote the chord structure and all the lyrics. The first time we all heard it we knew that we had to jump on this song and make it happen. This song is a true showcase of the skills of each member of this band.  
Safe and Sound

Similar to Two Houses this was an old demo I wrote many years ago. I found the original demo of this on Type 2 tape in an old Tascam 4 track recorder dated "2006 Safe Home Demo". Last year I brought a rough music idea and lyrics to a practice session and after a few times trying it out the song hit. It was ready; it was lean, powerful and anyone and everyone could/should love it. It is a ballad. When things go astray, when you feel at your darkest and lowest someone is there for you. It could be the person you love, your family or your favorite band. You fill in the blank with your life and this song sings you the message that it will all be ok. I worked the hardest on this song from playing the string section you hear to the final mixing. It is my baby and the band really let me take over. We also think that this is one of Shar's greatest vocal performances ever recorded. Her soul is in those vocals. 


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