When people talk about the beginnings of the music scene in Athens, GA the discussion usually begins with The B-52’s and R.E.M. Those who know will continue the list…Pylon.
They were every Athens band’s favorite Athens band. Their musical naïveté, southern upbringing, art school smarts, and house-party roots exploded together to create something quite simply and perfectly amazing. It hits the listener on mental, physical, and spiritual levels. On the surface, their angular guitar parts and propulsive rhythm section had something in common with UK post-punk bands like Gang of Four and PiL. But Pylon was more fun and less studied. And they had a secret weapon in Vanessa Briscoe Hay, whose inimitable vocal textures and phrasing defined the band’s sound for most listeners.
Pylon’s celebrated history came to a sudden end with the death of iconic guitarist Randy Bewley in 2009. Pylon was and always will be Vanessa, Randy, Michael, and Curtis. It is a certainty that the band will not reform with a new guitarist. But, there is something new. It’s called the Pylon Reenactment Society.
Vanessa recently took the time to answer a couple of questions. Let’s see what she’s up to…
Didn’t you record a song for the new Dressy Bessy LP? If yes, can you share some insight on how that came about?
Last year my friend Tammy Ealon, who is the singer/songwriter/guitarist for Denver, Colorado’s Dressy Bessy approached me about singing back up on a song or two. They emailed me the “tapes” and I went into record with my husband Bob Hay at a little studio in Watkinsville, GA called Starratt Studios and attempted to sing on a couple. Her bandmate John Hill, who also performed with The Apples in Stereo, mixed them and picked one track to be on their latest record, choosing Get Along (Diamond Ring). They have a Who’s Who of Indie artists contributing their talents including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Rebecca Cole from Wild Flag. Dressy Bessy are on a national tour to promote this new record released by Yep Roc called KINGSIZED. Out now!
What led to the Pylon Reenactment Society?
We first got together when Art Rocks Athens asked me to put together a short set of Pylon music back in May 2014 for their weekend which showcased the connection between art and music which developed the scene here in Athens back in 1975-85. The next year, they asked us to do a longer set at their photography, film and music event in August 2015 which also included Fred Schneider and Kevin Dunn. It went over really well. When Dressy Bessy asked us to play a few dates with them on their tour, we said -heck yeah! We may play a few more special occasion type slots later this year in conjunction with the release of a live vinyl double album of the first final Pylon show recorded back in December 1983 by Henry Owings of Chunklet fame. The name Pylon Reenactment Society sets us apart from the original Pylon which doesn’t exist since guitarist Randy Bewley passed away in 2009. Pylon jokingly called ourselves the Pylon Historical Reenactment Society at practice because we were relearning all of our material in our third incarnation from 2005-2009. I shortened that for this project.
Everything really is cool. Vanessa has gathered members of Athens bands Casper & the Cookies, The Glands, and world renowned pianist Damon Denton to create Pylon Reenactment Society. Is it a cover band if Vanessa is singing? Technically, it’s the next best thing. PRS are here to have fun and perform in the spirit of Pylon. Don’t be discouraged! Let’s dance! The driving force behind Pylon Reenactment Society is Vanessa Briscoe Hay, former lead singer for Pylon. Her striking voice has retained every ounce of the power that shocked people upon the band’s debut in 1979. Jason NeSmith and Kay Stanton were fans before moving to Athens with the band Casper & the Cookies. They snuck in the back door of Little Kings Shuffle Club for a surprise 2004 Pylon reunion show. Kay was asked to join Vanessa’s band Supercluster, which included Randy Bewley and members of New Sound of Numbers, Olivia Tremor Control, and The Squalls. Jason was brought on to produce Supercluster’s recordings and helped fill the guitar slot after Bewley’s passing.
At present there are no plans for a national PRS tour. Every show in a special event. Atlanta can see them at The Earl on Friday, February 19th and again in Athens at the 40 Watt Club on February 20th.
See you there. Get a ticket for Atlanta here ~~>> PRS/DressyBessy/TheEarl