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FEATURED IN PODCASTS: Music That Matters (KEXP),The Unheard Music (Flashback Alternatives),Chasing the Essentials, John and the Herd, The Book of Lies, Singles Going Steady, Moment of Eclection, Life Elsewhere with Norman Be and more..
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Primavera Sound 2019 Rocked!
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Review in upcoming Spring 2019 issue #84
Available by subscription and at Barnes and Noble May 2019
pylon reenactment society
messenger/cliff notes 7”
Following the unexpected passing of guitarist Randy Bewley in 2009, innovative Athens, GA post-punks Pylon called it a day. It was an appropriate gesture given Bewley’s signature, and moreover singular, guitar textures… but what if there was a spinoff Pylon tribute/heritage act? Enter PRS, featuring original front-lady Vanessa Briscoe Hay alongside alum from Casper and the Cookies, Glands, and Big Atomic, who’ve been performing Pylon tunes live for the faithful since 2014. Hay’s lovingly dissonant pipes remain unaltered since Pylon’s initial run in the early ’80s, and on top of revisiting those gyrating, crazy-cool cult classics, the lineup has managed this recent single. Even with the new recruits, “Messenger” and “Cliff Notes” harken to Pylon’s initial Reagan-era dispatches, buttressed with some fresh tweaks. Whether you go way back or are getting your first taste, this 45 is a treat. (chunklet.bandcamp.com)
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New and Notable Releases (November 2018)
By Robert Ham
Pylon Reenactment Society – ”Messenger”/”Cliff Notes” (Chunklet Industries)
Through their on-again/off-again existence, the post-punk band Pylon may not have found the commercial success of their Athens, GA compatriots R.E.M. and the B-52’s, but their wiry dance funk sound has continued to carry forward, influencing the likes of Le Tigre and LCD Soundsystem. And while the original lineup will forever be shattered due to the untimely death of guitarist Randy Bewley, vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay has, since 2014, keeping the group’s legacy alive with her project Pylon Reenactment Society. Until now, this outfit has been content to play the music of Pylon, but this week they are releasing their first bit of new music with a 7” single featuring two freshly written jams. Both are very much in keeping with the original Pylon spirit, with the agitated rhythms of “Cliff Notes” sitting nicely alongside the glowering “Messenger,” and Hay’s vocals sounding like she hasn’t lost a step in the four decades since she first stepped onstage at the 40 Watt Club with Bewley, Curtis Crowe and Michael Lachowski.
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As the gap between Pylon and vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s Pylon inspired PRS gets wider, perhaps it is time to stop using that link as the jump-off point for anything that gets written about them. Of course Pylon were a highly influential band back in the day, treading the same boards as fellow Athens GA luminaries as R.E.M and The B-52’s but that was then and this is now. Whilst we are at it let’s dispense with the term post-punk for exactly the same reasons.
So the style is familiar, the vocals the expected blend of sweetness and raw edge and they sound a bit like a bunch of bands that coloured the younger days of us aficionados of slightly off-kilter pop, but apart from those few tenuous and lazy-journalistic connections, it’s all about moving forward, it’s just that unlike a lot of music being made today Messenger does so without resorting to studio gimmick or sonic glitter. New music made with old values? Why the hell not?
So try getting that bass line hook out of your head, dexterous yet hypnotically repetitive, and as the band layer on guitar detail, keyboard washes, infectious riffs, simple beats, the groove and the grace notes, you remember that it wasn’t so much the punks who kicked down the barricades at the end of the seventies that really made a difference to the musical landscape but those who poured through the gap behind them.
But as I said, this is no mere exercise in nostalgia, far from it, PRS give any modern indie or alt-rock band a run for their money and they do so by staying true to themselves rather than conforming to whatever fad or fashion bandwagon is being jumped on by lesser musical mortals. Messenger is the perfect blend of a nod to the past, a reminder that honesty, in music as much as anything else, is the best policy and perhaps the penning of a whole new musical chapter, one where people remember that whilst studio bands, producers and sampled musical building blocks may seem cool right now their shelf life is decidedly limited. Let’s get back to the real deal, let’s get back to bands like Pylon Reenactment Society! After all, there is a reason why after all this time we are still talking about this sort of music…well, quite a few actually!
Background photo by Hissing Lawns at 2019 Savannah Stopover Music Festival
PYLON REENACTMENT SOCIETY
A brief history
Pylon Reenactment Society (PRS) is fronted by former Pylon singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay, whose inimitable vocal textures and phrasing defined the post-punk era band’s sound for most listeners. Pylon is considered to be one of the most influential bands at the beginnings of what would become known as the “Athens,GA music scene.” 30 years ago, Pylon, along with The B-52’s and R.E.M., were heavily featured in the original feature documentary Athens,GA/inside-out. After guitarist Randy Bewley passed away in 2009, Pylon formally disbanded.
PRS formed in 2014 for what Hay thought would be a one-off project to perform for Art Rocks Athens- a series of events that explored the connection between the art and music scene in Athens between the years 1975-85. Guitarist and producer Jason NeSmith, a friend and former bandmate in the project Supercluster, invited her to perform. He helped put a backing band together from his band Casper & the Cookies which included powerhouse bassist Kay Stanton (who had also been a member of Supercluster) and drummer Gregory Sanders. The audience response was great. Art Rocks Athens invited them back the following year to open for Fred Schneider’s project Supa-Fine. Ace drummer Joe Rowe was added after Gregory Sanders had to bow out for shoulder surgery and kinetic keyboardist Damon Denton came onboard to add textures and fresh sounds. The audience response was ecstatic.
Indie Rock heroes Dressy Bessy heard about these shows through the grapevine and invited them along on some dates. Since then, PRS has turned into a tight touring unit having performed at festivals and venues on both coasts, the Midwest and in the Southeast. Along the way they have begun to develop their own sound using Pylon as their inspiration and played with some amazing acts.
In addition to Hay, PRS is rounded out by Jason NeSmith (Casper & The Cookies) on guitar, Kay Stanton (Casper & The Cookies) on bass guitar and backing vocals, Damon Denton (Big Atomic) on keyboards, and Joe Rowe (The Glands) on drums.
PART TIME PUNKS EP
In October 2017, PRS released a 6-song EP, "Part Time Punks Session" on Henry Owings’s Chunklet Industries label to rave reviews. This was recorded for KXLU on December 10, 2016 at The Cave Studios by Josiah Mazzaschi in the afternoon prior to their performance at The Echoplex. 300 copies were pressed on clear orange, clear, red and black vinyl. 50 cassettes were manufactured. A few EPS still remain here and there via Bandcamp, Revolver USA / Midheaven Mailorder and at indie record stores like Low Yo-Yo Stuff.
SINGLE: MESSENGER / CLIFF NOTES
2018 found PRS writing new material. Jason NeSmith recorded and mixed two of these new songs in his private studio. The single is “Messenger / Cliff Notes.” “Messenger” is a mid tempo meditation on love, war and modern communication. “Cliff Notes” immediately jumps out at the listener at breakneck speed with lyrics that mix silly dance moves with anti-racist admonitions. It has been well received by reviewers like Joseph Neff for The Vinyl District who gave it an A-.
This single has now gone into it’s second repressing on green vinyl via the Chunklet Industries label. (Previously pressed on blue,clear,black,purple) It is available through Bandcamp, Revolver USA/Midheaven Mailorder, and Juno websites and for digital download worldwide. A “special tour edition” on clear gold color vinyl is now available at live shows.The single is being limited to 500 total physical copies pressed.
A video for Messenger was directed by Tony Brazier, co- director for the upcoming documentary Athens, GA…30 Years On, and released in conjunction with the single.
SINGLE RELEASE SHOWS
Single release parties were held in Athens and Atlanta,GA. The co-bill included Peter Holsapple Combo who drove down from North Carolina with his cool trio in support of his solo album Gameday.
ATHENS, GA... 30 YEARS ON
Pylon Reenactment Society were recently filmed for Athens, GA...30 Years On,directed by Bill Cody, at a special event held at Southern Brewing Company. Other bands filmed that night included our bandmates who are also in Casper & the Cookies and the Grands (a one- off Glands cover band with David Barbe stepping up to the plate for Ross Shapiro and Joe Rowe on Drums) Watch for it’s release in 2020.
Currently, Pylon Reenactment Society are in the process of writing new material. Four new songs were recorded at the Cave in LA by Josiah Mazzaschi for Michael Stock’s long running show on KXLU, Part Time Punks, in December 2018. Two of them are previously unreleased. PRS look forward to a little touring and a few select shows this summer. Those dates will be released when the time is right. Contact us at pylonreenactmentsociety (at) gmail.com if you are interested in booking us or obtaining a track for radio air play. We’d love to hear from you.
Background photo by Vanessa Briscoe Hay
Why does the music of Pylon still have such appeal to all ages and types of people?
Vanessa Hay and the musicians in the Pylon Reenactment Society — guitarist Jason NeSmith, bassist Kay Stanton, keyboardist Damon Denton and drummer Joe Rowe — give muscle to Pylon’s compositions, and Hay’s singing remains as tart and original as ever. Pylon’s musical reputation has grown steadily since 1979, which Hay chalks up to, among other things, the universal appeal of music that compels movement. “I think it still sounds fresh because of what it is, and I think it’s danceable,” she says.
- Edd Hurt, Pylon Reenactment Society Carries the Flame for Athens Post-Punk Legends, Nashville Scene, March 1, 2018
Photo by Derrick Pierce, The Basement, Nashville
In the fertile art-rock scene of Athens, Georgia, in the early eighties, the band to beat was Pylon, a post-punk quartet that front-loaded ominous, danceable bass lines and the screech of the magnetic singer Vanessa Briscoe. As its peers went on to grander stages, Pylon disbanded, in 1983, choosing cult status over a chance to accompany U2 on their first U.S. stadium tour. After a series of reunions, the band closed shop in 2009, upon the death of its guitarist lodestar, Randy Bewley. Pylon Reenactment Society is at once a tribute and a spinoff, with the singer (now Vanessa Briscoe Hay) energetically backed by tasteful musicians from Athens present.
- Jay Ruttenberg, Goings On About Town, The New Yorker, July 1, 2018
Background photo by Damon Denton
In 2014, singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay formed Pylon Reenactment Society with an entirely new lineup of Athens musicians. PRS is now keeping the music and legacy of Pylon alive, while also releasing new music of their own.
The new-look band has garnered acclaim for their performances since forming, and has breathed new life into the groundbreaking combination of art rock, post-punk and new wave that Pylon created in the early 80s.
-Sean Kelly, Pylon Reenactment Society brings stellar legacy to Stopover, Connect Savannah, March 5, 2019
Background photo by Jamie Lee Arvin, March 2018
Listen to “Messenger,” PRS’ newly released single, and you’ll think: post-punk. A danceable backbeat, a poppy bass-line, a radio-simple guitar lick on low overdrive, and airy synth keys united by Briscoe Hay’s Southern-tinged howls.
Her singing style is unique enough to warrant a spot on an all-time list: playful, sometimes atonal and always freewheeling.
-Moses Zarate, Historical Post-Punk, Sacramento News and Review, December 6, 2018
Background photo by Damon Denton, The Red Museum, Sacramento, CA
Hay’s current group doesn’t only perform vintage Pylon classics such as “Cool,” “Weather Radio” and “No Clocks.” PRS just released a 7-inch single with two brand-new songs, “Messenger” backed with “Cliff Notes.” The A-side is an intriguing track as Hay purrs enigmatically over a rubbery bass line and sliced-up guitar accents, emphasizing that the charismatic vocalist’s worldview is just as (post)modern as ever
-Falling James, Pylon Reenactment Society , The Tissues, LA Weekly, December 9,2018
Background photo by Steve Harvey, Part Time Punks, Echoplex, LA
We’ve got the premiere of “Cliff Notes,” which is very much in the nervy, danceable Pylon tradition: angular riffs played at breakneck speed with just a touch of Southern twang, and Vanessa’s attitude-filled vocals sounding great as ever.
-Bill Pearis, Pylon Reenactment Society releasing new single (listen), touring, Brooklyn Vegan, November 30, 2018
Background photo by Jim Leatherman
From the first 30 seconds of opener "Feast on My Heart," Hay's signature growl retains the infectious force that helped enshrine the Gyrate track in the post-punk canon. Though the rest of the band members weren't actually in Pylon, they faithfully revive the interplay between its original member as jagged guitars, dance-floor drum rhythms and mammoth bass erase the lines between punk and disco. Released via Chunklet, Part Time Punks Session may generate renewed interest in one of Athens' most venerated but perpetually underground bands, while convincing longtime fans that the Pylon Reenactment Society charts a fresh and faithful course.★★★★☆
-CL Staff, RECORD REVIEW: Pylon Reenactment Society. Part Time Punks Session Stays Fierce, Faithful, Creative Loafing, September 25, 2017
Background photo by Mike Lothrop,The Veranda, Orlando, FL, May 11,2018
Today, Pylon Reenactment Society is six tracks away from completing its debut disc, and Hay, at 63, feels like she’s firing on all creative six. “I still think of odd things at 5:30 in the morning when I’m writing lyrics,” she says. “And nobody but me knows what I’m thinking of.”
-Tom Lanham, Meet Pylon Reenactment Society, San Francisco Examiner, December 5, 2018
Background photo by Jason Thrasher
Background photo by Chris Sikich
Kay Stanton photo by M.J.Fine