Obliterati's rehearsal space lies 50 yards from the shore of Lake Ivanhoe in the heart of the antique district on Orange Avenue. The district's collection of progressive-oriented, off-kilter stores and restaurants reflect the diverse backgrounds of the avant-garde ensemble. The seven-piece band has released "Havy Baubaus Inflience," a sonic manifestation of Obliterati's forward-thinking philosophy: "Freedom and form need not oppose. The heart, head and booty work it out."
The tangled roots of Obliterati involve a circle of friends who have greatly contributed to the history of underground music in Orlando. Bassist Anthony Christy and drummer Nadeem Khan formed their first joint-venture called Operation Bellbottom in 1981. That band's loopy sensibility and willingness to sacrifice popularity for the sake of realizing their absurdist musical vision laid the groundwork for many of Christy's and Khan's subsequent endeavors.
They continued to evolve through projects christened with increasingly strange band names such as Antelope Fight, Haunted Laundromat, Demon Carrott, Stretchy and Turkish Gravity Bus. In 1986 the duo hooked up with saxophonist Jim Ivey to form Bad Afro Experience, a band heavily influenced by the free-form flavor of the late-jazz eccentric Sun Ra. Bad Afro Experience were ahead of their time and often astounded audiences who expected carbon copies of mainstream bands on the '80s club circuit. The band's "primal dancefests" are still held precious in the hearts of die-hard local music scenesters, but more importantly the philosophies and ensemble approach that would gel in Obliterati were taking shape.
Bad Afro Experience evolved into St. Moist by 1990, which in turn became Choc when keyboardist Holly Tavel joined the group. By the time Steve Garnett invited himself to play "anti-rock guitar" with the ensemble, another name change was in order, and Obliterati was born. Up to that point, all of Christy's and Khan's projects had been solely instrumental, but s invitation to vocalist Lisa Bugayong to join the lineup led to a new dimension for the band. The band debuted in 1996 at the Tora!Tora!Tora! festival in Atlanta, performing alongside avant-garde brethren Silver Apples.
Classically trained violinist Sara Morrison was the last to join, providing spooky-stringed sophistication to the band's self-proclaimed "orgy-stra." In a musical world of post-punk, post-industrial and general post-ad nauseum, Obliterati claimed they would be the first band to move in a "post-er direction."
"Some people call it circus music," says Tavel. "Some call it free jazz, or pre-house dance music, or soul. We're not hung up on one thing."
"But we are hung over," adds Khan.
"We come from very different directions and ethnicities," says Ivey. "Usually that doesn't work. But in this band, it works. That's why I think our music is really special and it certainly comes through in our live shows."
Most importantly, they don't take themselves too seriously. "Everything today is about the obverse -- in other words, the frontal," says Christy. "We're a band that gives you the reverse, the backside. We're very much pro-tail."
Obliterati's first foray into recorded music came when they were asked to contribute the music for the 1998 Florida Film Festival trailer by local filmmakers Greg Hale and David Baker. They went on to record "Havy Baubaus Inflience," a collective effort representative of their live shows. "It was fundamentally recorded live with minimal overdubs. And I used .38 Special's drum kit in the studio," says Khan.
The CD reveals something special about each of Obliterati's members. "Hyperdormant" features a sample from a song about the Japanese village where Ivey was born and ends by welcoming his baby daughter to the world. "George Washington vs. Abraham Lincoln" was written by Christy's son and is recited by Khan's daughter.
And the name? A horrendous typo. Khan explains, "In Jam Magazine, a guy was looking to put a band together and was asking for musicians havy baubaus inflience.'" Obliterati couldn't resist the jab at the seminal goth-band Bauhaus, and the title stuck.
The band heads north in July for a tour that stops in New Orleans, Athens, Chapel Hill and New York City. During upcoming shows they want to illustrate their credo, a nonsense phrase on the surface that makes sense when taken in Obliterati-context: "All you need is what you get."
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