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pandemonian

The Unband

The Unband is a hard rock band composed of drummer Eugene Ferrari, lead singer and guitarist Matthew Pierce, and Mike Ruffino (bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards). Their music paraphrases punk, glam­, 80s heavy metal, and 1970s rock and roll, with notably disencumbered song structures characterized by a lyrical content mainly organized around "partying", "rocking" and related matters. The band is often associated in print with now ubiquitous misspellings such as "rawk" and "stoopid", as attempts are made to denote a perceived ironic, tongue-in-cheek foundation for the group's otherwise inexplicable attitude.

Cited as a musical inspiration by numerous rock bands of more recent origins, in the course of a career spanning three decades, The Unband came to be regarded for gleefully self-destructive escapades and an unexclusive lack of subtlety as much as for its musical output.

Beginnings; Banned In Boston

Matt Pierce and Mike Ruffino began playing together in suburban Boston sometime around 1987/88, originally with drummer (and future ABC News correspondent) Dan Harris, who departed shortly after the maiden gig, well before the band had any tangible definition, purpose, or a complete set of bass strings. Harris was replaced by Eugene Ferrari, previously Pierce's bandmate in the locally storied punk band Afghanistan Spoon Festival, who eschewd his vocal duties in that band in favor of punishing drums for existing. Ferrari, Pierce, and Ruffino called themselves "The Un-band" temporarily for lack of a name or even a vague guideline. With the passage of time, the employment of the inaugural modus operandi (never writing a song prior to performing it), and because members thought choosing an actual name to be twee, the nom remained the same.

As their music owed equally to Black Flag, The Rolling Stones and Ratt, their casually unapologetic stage show owed to alcohol, sacks of "prop" drugs, frontal nudity, LSD-fueled odessey, drinking feats, projectile vomiting and other depraved improvisations, as well as a tendency toward formal evening-wear. According to The Boston Globe they occasionally “lit stages on fire”, and consequently few Boston venues invited the band back, while many banned them outright, sometimes with violence, such as from Kenmore Square's colloquially historic Rathskeller (aka The Rat, long since defunct). Mink Rockmoore makes an appearance in the band as Shotgunn Johnny on lead guitar but quickly leaves the group to pursue a solo career. He currently continues a loving tradition of 'a rock-type' of lifestyle in Boston as a 'radio personality' and is CEO of 'Rockmoore Records' minkrockmoore.com

Roots & uprooting

Lesbianville, U.S.A*

Having relocated to Western Massachusetts’ pastoral Pioneer Valley by the early 1990s, The Unband quickly drew provincial renown/ire for their repertoire of shamefully non-Pavement-like, “inane” (The Valley Advocate) hard rock songs, their logos soundly unacceptable to the indie rock ethos of the period, a particular vehemence of the locale. The band did manage to mobilize local press and considerable police attention due their increasingly pandemonian live shows; most famously inciting a somewhat dilatory small scale riot at Northampton’s Bay State Hotel in 1994. An instantaneous and spectacular banning from that venue and subsequent antic-heavy court appearances touched off a new scorched earth style pan-regional banning of the group.

[*]The National Enquirer, on Northampton.

Go West, Unband

In 1995, The Unband acquired one-way airline tickets to Los Angeles in search of inspiration and—ostensibly—venues, taking up residence with a supply of rum at the foot of a cliff in a hut on a private stretch of Malibu beach, into which they optimistically dug a “food-cooking hole”, perhaps to some end. The band performed at any club that would have them, such as the Whisky a Go Go, and—at first—others. Though the band's West Coast performances were not usually as volatile as those that preceded, they had neglected to bring instruments with them and so performed on found items (kazoos, car parts, toilets) or surruptitiously borrowed musical equipment (Hamer guitars, Crate amplifiers, Chapman Stick), to the obfuscation of their craft. The band was prone to think of these experimentations as sensibly "expansive"; therefore, rode a great wave of misunderstandings and generic beer that crested as far north as San Luis Obispo, south to Costa Mesa and as far into absurdity as Tijuana. Outside of the band’s seemingly insatiable lust for folly and madness the recorded music had its own weight, and by distributing demonstration cassettes in Los Angeles The Unband did not always have to set foot in a club to be banned forever with extreme prejudice. Spaceland, for example.

Eventually, despite (or partially due to) their self-styled "Employee-Of-No-Month" stage look achieved in stolen Mann Theatres ushers' jackets, the well of amenable venues again ran dry, and some time later the band began contriving to get back East.

Recording Contract

Serendipitous Dipshittery

In 1996, stranded en route to New England for want of gas money, the band (reportedly) parted with a borrowed vehicle in New York City for $50, which they divided up and squandered. Now residents of Manhattan's still pre-gentrified Lower East Side by default, they foraged in Alphabet City, dependent on wit, dumb luck, their dominatrix-manager, publicist Erin Norris (a.k.a. Ms. Management), and not least the unconditional acceptance of the local alcoholics and bartenders.

Perpetually within moments of being hospitalized from the rigors of excess and a resplendent poverty, Ruffino and Pierce were frequently demonized in the city’s libelous and program-heavy underground weekly New York Press for their inviolate prosecutions of the former. The band continued to perform, musically when possible, usually with uncannily predictable results.

In the Spring of 1998 the band signed a nominal contract with Royalty Records (NYC) and regrouped in Massachusetts to record a collection of songs with Mark Alan Miller, to be called "Retarder". The band delivered the album complete with artwork several weeks later. The label, enraged and disgusted, refused to release the album. The next day, an apocalyptically enraged owner-operator of a Lower East Side club shut the band down during a particularly typical performance and banned them for life over the club's PA system, arousing the interest of TVT Records A&R man Lenny Johnson, who was lounging at a back table, and the band were soon successfully courted onto TVT's roster. The band was able to re-negotiate the terms of dissolution with Royalty Records, and left the offices with their master tapes, got in the elevator then hailed a cab to deliver them to the infinitely more receptive TVT. (Royalty Records folded shortly thereafter).

Within weeks the band began a relentless tour schedule, scouring the U.S. with Motörhead and Nashville Pussy, and Europe and the UK with SoCal stoner-rockers Fu Manchu. In between these more major tours the group traveled on their own (dubbed the Breathalyzer Tour, generally), playing small clubs concentrated in the Midwestern United States, often finding themselves attached to heavy metal bills opening for Dokken, Great White, Enuff z' Nuff, Sebastian Bach and the like.

Where the Motörhead and European audiences had been more than receptive, the metal crowds almost invariably booed or threw things, or in an act of most adamant tribal disapproval, turned their backs to the stage. The band's usual response was to reciprocate in some elevated manner, and as often as this would inspire a good-natured tête-a-tête, on more than one occasion they were physically attacked on stage. Band and crew were often moved to devise and drill escape plans at soundchecks.

Major releases

As their notoriety and press kit grew, so did the band's relationship with their obliging record label, unleashing spasms of new activity and even better liquor and eventually in 2000 the band’s semi-seminal party record Retarder.

The recording had been tracked earlier that year with Mark Alan Miller (J. Mascis, Sonic Youth, Out Out) and Jon Marshall Smith (Ramones, Misfits) at Miller's Slaughterhouse Studio in Hadley, MA at the behest of an expiring Long Island vanity label, but following some retouching/re-mixing by Kevin ‘Caveman’ Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Black Crowes) and the addition of the song Too Much Is Never Enough, along with a re-recording of We Like To Drink And We Like To Play Rock And Roll (originally on Chung Wayne Lo Mein, now re-titled Drink & Rock), the album was released by TVT in time for the summer solstice, to formidable critical acclaim and enthusiastic public file-sharing.

Several tracks from Retarder made contributions to Hollywood’s once-popular film industry, including a zealous interpretaton of William Squire's Everybody Wants You to Scary Movie (2000); and Geez Louise and Pink Slip to Broken Lizard’s bong opus Super Troopers (2001).

Tours

On their three-year, nearly uninterrupted tour (some say detour) around the planet with Dio, Anthrax, Def Leppard and others, the Unband found themselves not only growing accustomed to voluminous backstage catering and seemingly limitless premium drink, but were consistently playing to anywhere from two-thousand to eighteen-thousand seats—seats often containing bored, confused, or even angry fans of the headliner—begging a need to present a more visual and more sizeable spectacle. The band contracted a Midwestern parade balloon company to construct an enormous self-inflatating hand for the purpose of "throwing the goats" or "flipping the bird", when necessary, both of universal meaning to rock audiences. They also adopted the practice of taping fireworks to their instruments and lighting them at imprecise moments, leading to a brief resurgence of bannings.

Consistently mis-matched tours at the turn of the century, as pop and "singer-songwriters" reigned, did little if anything for the sales of what was essentially a blatantly irresponsible, "musically infantile" binge-drinking and drug-snorting instructional record, but did everything to mortar the band's reputation for fearless stage shows and staggering immoderation. When asked in 2004 to comment on The Unband’s pre-show intake, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard recalled: “Nice lads. F-cking crazy.”

Recent

In November 2004, Kensington Books published Mike Ruffino's Gentlemanly Repose: Confessions Of A Debauched Rock & Roller, a document of the band's risings and fallings. It is currently being adapted for the screen.

A full length documentary feature about the band, Gringa Productions We Like To Drink We Like To Play Rock 'N Roll premiered in June at the 2006 Modern Drunkard Convention in Las Vegas. The film is currently showing at independent film festivals in the U.S..

The Unband is currently performing intermittently and contemplating the assembly of new material for their long-awaited follow-up album, reported to be a neo-conceptual piece tentatively titled Sexy Offender.

Discography

2001 Supertroopers (Soundtrack) TVT

2000 Scary Movie (Soundtrack) TVT

2000 Rock Hard: TVT Rock 2000 (Compilation) TVT

2000 Retarder (Full length) TVT

1996 Pretarder (B-sides & demos) Unreleased

1994 Chung Wayne Lo Mein (Full length) Moonpig/Chunk

1993 Hotel Massachusetts (compilation) Chunk

1991 Grunge (EP) Unreleased

1990 Sink (EP) Unreleased

1989 Good Music (EP) Unreleased

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