By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Few American cities devoured the electroclash (or "nu-electro") movement more voraciously than San Francisco. By the summer of 2002, weekly clubs like "Sex With Machines" and "Fake" played the sultry, synth-heavy tracks ad nauseam. Larry Tee's Electroclash Tour swung through town again and again, selling out the Fillmore and the Great American. Songs by Peaches, the Faint, and Fischerspooner ruled the local airwaves, from college radio to LIVE 105.
And yet, strangely enough, there were no high-profile Bay Area electro bands. Sure, there were synth-noise groups and organ-based indie-pop acts and bedroom-techno laptoppers, but no outright electro-rock artists. The town that defined cutting-edge music was behind the curve.
Then, as soon as you can say, "Newsweekarticle," electroclash became passé. The ascendancy of acts like W.I.T. -- three models who lip-synced about doing whatever it took to be famous -- and Cherry Bikini, which sang subtle songs like "Just Fuck Me" and "A Good Hard Lay," didn't help matters. Neither did the advent of faux-hawks or Tiga's electrofied version of Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night."
The Paradise Boys play the Prince House Records one-year anniversary party with the Vanishing and Von Iva on Thursday, Jan. 29, at 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Mount Sims DJs. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455 or go to w ww.bottomofthehill.com
But just when the rest of the world was tiring of sexed-up female singers and robotic dance rhythms, the S.F. electro-rock scene exploded. Suddenly, there were a dozen acts playing local clubs.
The only problem was that most of these bands were craptastic. Vomitorious. Dull as dishwater and twice as toxic. Dynasty, Luxxury, Crack: We Are Rock, Ghost Orchids -- each was bad in its own way. The only moment in the last year that held even a glimmer of hope for the Bay Area scene occurred during the support set at a Rapture show at the Great American Music Hall in May. During the first two songs by the Paradise Boys, I finally had the notion that "Wow, this band is it! Our equivalent of New Order and Derrick May, all rolled into one!" But by the fourth tune I was bored shitless.
Little did I know that this was only the second Paradise Boys show ever and that the group had been cobbled together from friends and housemates. Or that co-leader and guitarist Jeff Fare was known around town for his party-hearty DJ sets as Jefrodisiac, and had -- in the Calculators, along with two members of the Rapture -- inspired such current post-punk luminaries as the Faint and Hot Hot Heat. Or that, over the next six months, Fare and his partner, Bertie Pearson, would craft the San Francisco electro statement, an album of party anthems that would prove once and for all that rock could be dance music.
Jeff Fare started out as a rock 'n' roller. His life changed inexorably at 15, at a show in his hometown of San Diego. "My friends were into Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, and I was like, 'There's no way I can play that stuff,'" Fare says during an interview in his Mission apartment. "But then I saw [S.D. punks] Rice. It was the same way people described seeing the Sex Pistols: If you have the right feeling, you can be in a band and make it rule."
Following a stint playing guitar in a popular Goth/new wave band, he headed north to attend S.F. State in 1997. There he met drummer Vito Roccoforte and bassist Michael Talbot, and started the Calculators, rounding out the lineup with Moog player Chris Relyea and keyboardist/singer Luke Jenner (who would go on to form the Rapture with Roccoforte). Together, the musicians created synth-driven punk tunes inspired by Devo, Gary Numan, and Joy Division, and toured the country, inspiring the likes of Adult. and the Faint. But after releasing a 10-inch and a full-length by 1999, the Calculators imploded. "There were four leaders in that one band, so when it worked it was amazing," Fare says. "But when it didn't, we all hated each other."
Tired of band politics, Fare swore he'd never play in one again. Instead, he started DJing at the Beauty Bar as Jefrodisiac, and attempted to set himself apart from the punk-since-birth DJs there by playing artists like Shannon and Afrika Bambaataa. In the summer of 2000, he hooked up with Jenny and Omar, the future producers of electro/rock nights "Fake" and "The Finger," for a monthly night called "Booty Bassment," which they held at the Coco Club (now Buzz 9) and then at Backflip (now Bambuddha Lounge).
"For three months it was good and crazy," Fare says. "It was the kind of moment I'd always wanted. There was no scene, people didn't just want rock 'n' roll or to just hear glitched-out techno. We played Run-DMC, Egyptian Lover, Georgio Moroder, old disco, and electro."
When the club ran its course in early 2001, Fare took off for Barcelona. While there, he fell in love with the German minimalist techno sounds of Kompakt and Playhouse Records. He also kept running into Bertie Pearson, a trained Latin percussionist and drum machine aficionado whom he vaguely recognized from San Francisco. After realizing how many musical interests they shared, Fare invited Pearson to play percussion at one of his DJ gigs.
Eventually, though, Fare felt like he was spinning his wheels in Spain. "I thought, 'I'm DJing and I'm drinking, but I'm not really going anywhere.'" Unfortunately, a return to the Bay Area in August 2001 left him feeling the same: He was a DJ stuck playing hits for yuppies at the Beauty Bar. With no money, no job, and no major prospects, he contemplated moving back to Europe or across the States.