|Swiss Family Sublime|
The Swiss Family Sublime was comprised of myself (Brendan deVallance), Adam Burke, Mark Cook and Bruce Tribbensee. We all knew one another from High School and after graduating Mark went off to Los Angeles. In LA, circa 1979, Mark went to a Chuck Berry Concert and had a religious experience. He went right out and bought a cheap Japanese guitar (I still have it!). Mark returned to Phoenix soon after and we set about becoming a band. Adam and I shared an apartment and we began by practing over in the garage at Bruces familys house. We then decided it would be a better arrangement to move into a place together. We moved into a house which was dubed Casa Del Sublime (3425 E. Sheridan Road, Phx). We never got the band out of the living room, but we did learn to rock there. This was a real kick start to the rest of the bands I was in and I owe a debt to Mark and Adam for their energy and friendship.
Adam, Brendan, Mark and Bruce started with the idea that everyone should be in a band. So we started one. Guitar's bought from J.C.Penney's for next to nothing, Brendan's former Pearl Drum kit brought back into the family from the guy who had bought it. No one knew how to play their chosen instruments, but that was irrelevant. Band-dom had arrived. We got together in Bruce's garage a few times and started learning some covers. We played Jonathon Richman, Devo, and our first original: "gray really matters".
When we all moved into Casa Del Sublime band practice took a turn. We'd learned enough notes to start figuring out that Brendan and Bruce were not interested in learning many more notes, and Mark and Adam were starting to play chords. We worked out the schedule for the living room and the Swiss Family Sublime split up.
A lesser-known piece of this story is the part I remember as the beginning for Mark and myself with playing "real" music. He and I were hanging out one night in the fort my Dad had built in the backyard, and we were - as usual - listening to some great music. I remember we then started to jam on our own, taking up pencils and whacking on objects - Mark on Coke bottles, and I on a small wine barrel. Anyway, we found that we really grooved together, and that culminated in our drawing the jam to a spontaneous close at precisely the same moment. I'm sure it was true for us both that at that very moment, we each glimpsed that playing music would be our fate.
Fortunately, we had some very cool friends, particularly Brendan and Bruce, who each had some actual experience with music. Eventually, after the purchase of some rudimentary guitars (mine, a J.C. Penney bass, still here in my room as I write, over 25 years later!....And Bren, you still have my Kustom bass amp, right?), we decided to form the band that would become the SFS. Thanks to Brendan's indefatigable insistence upon creating art (and seemingly inexhaustible fount of great band names), and Bruce's skill with drums (and his family's woodshop), we did indeed manage to crank out some tunes. I especially remember gleefully playing, along side a saw-dust covered table saw, our version of Jonathan Richman's "Roadrunner," requiring only two chords. It was exhilarating to play actual rock and roll, and fairly well at that.
We played together for some time, then we went on to play in other bands in the ensuing years. Were it not for this seminal band experience, perhaps we would never have known the joys of being a band. I remember Bren used to thereafter pronounce that "everyone should be in a band." To this day, I not only agree, I have tried to convince everyone I have known on this point. Some of the best times I have had in life happened while playing in great bands, including this very first band. Thanks, Brendan, Bruce (and Mark)! And, thanks, Brendan, for taking care of Mark's first guitar.
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