By Scott Roberts
Way back in the twentieth century—the 1980s to be exact—in a large, sunny town called Los Angeles, there were several bands who were influenced by the music, clothes, and attitudes of another time two decades earlier. Bands like the Dream Syndicate, Bangles, Three O’Clock, and Long Ryders lived, played, and rocked together and were offhandedly dubbed the “Paisley Underground” by Michael Quercio of the Three O’Clock. Perhaps the dreamiest, most psychedelic-leaning of these bands was Rain Parade, whose time was brief (1983–1986) and output (two LPs, an EP, and a live record) was humble, but their star shone bright while they lasted. Other than a spontaneous gig they played last month in L.A., the band has not performed together in more than 25 years. But when one of their old pals, Bobby Sutliff from 1980s pop-rockers the Windbreakers, was in a serious car accident last June and needed help with living expenses during his recovery, the band jumped at the chance to play a reunion gig to raise money for their fallen comrade. Rain Parade singer-guitarist-leader Matt Piucci, who has remained musically active through the years, playing solo and as part of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, agreed to answer a few questions about the highly anticipated reunion at The Earl on January 19.
When I first heard about the reunion, I understood it was to be the band’s first show in 25 years, but recently I’ve seen some YouTube clips from a one-off you guys did in L.A. last month, is that right?
[Yes], it will be our second, we didn’t want to show up in Atlanta without having taken the band out for a spin. It was supposed to be very low-key, but it ended up selling out. We played with two very cool bands who share our love of vintage guitars and amps: Powder and The Bang Girl Group Revue.
How did this show come about? Were you contacted by Bobby Sutliff or was it a fan who asked or did you ask if you could help out in some way?
Chris Chandler [promoter of the Earl show] has been after me for a while to play in Atlanta. We’ve known Bobby and Tim and Susan Lee [from openers the Tim Lee 3; Tim was also in the Windbreakers with Bobby] since forever. They have been through the Bay Area and we have either jammed, played a gig, and/or broken bread together over the years. …then Bob had his accident.
At that point, Tim brought up the idea of a benefit gig and a CD of Bobby covers. Originally I was going to record the Windbreakers’ “That Stupid Idea” on my own, which I did with all these same people, and then go down south and make noise with the Tim Lee 3. [Then, original Rain Parade member] Steven Roback had moved back to the Bay Area relatively recently and had shown up at a couple shows. It was as if he never left. We had a great drummer, Stephan Junca, who was in boatclub and the Billy Talbot band with Mark and I, but he was unable to do the RP thing. Then we met Gil Ray and that settled it. Gil has been wonderful.
We are so grateful and happy Mr. Sutliff will be there with us at the Earl…or anywhere, for that matter.
Did Rain Parade officially break up at some point or did things just sort of organically stop?
Probably both, we had run our course.
Have you ever played in Atlanta before? If so, do you recall where?
We played the 688 three times, I think. Loved that place. Epic, legendary shows and club.
What will the lineup be at the Earl show? Do you have all of the original members on board (other than David Roback, who I assume won’t be involved since he left pretty early on, as I recall)?
In order to have Rain Parade, you gotta have me and Steven. That’s been the lineup since late 1983 when David left after one tour and one album [and eventullay formed Opal and then Mazzy Star]. John [Thoman] came in the fall of 1984. After we had completed the Explosions in the Glass Palace EP and had begun touring as a four piece, I realized I only had two hands and couldn’t play all of my parts live. John has always been one of my guitar heroes since I saw him play with his teeth when I was wee lad of 17.
Will Glenn stuck around for another album and a couple tours until he left to join Mazzy Star. Sadly, he passed away about ten years ago. David is a part of this, too. He helped craft the band’s original persona. John does a fine job of playing and enhancing some of David’s and my parts, as well as his own filthy shredding. He probably has the sweetest voice of all of us.
Mark Hanley is one of my dearest friends, and is an amazing songwriter with whom I have written a great deal, more than with anyone except Steven. He can play anything and is a beautiful singer. He is our secret weapon. Alec Palao is simply a force of nature and knows more about rock music history than anyone I have ever met, and that is saying a lot. He has been a huge help. And then there is Gil Ray. Call it fate, karma, divine intervention, who knows, but that guy is perfect for this band. He is a true Southern Gentleman. Thank you Tim and Dan Vallor for suggesting him.
There is your band, RP 2013.
Will your set include songs from all 3 Rain Parade releases? Should fans expect any new stuff or covers you’ve worked up for the show?
We will play all of the EP and stuff from the other two official releases, plus possibly a song from Demolition [an album of unreleased material and outtakes released in 1991] and maybe a song or two from back in the day that never made it to any record.
Did you guys like or relate to the whole “Paisley Underground” tag back in the ’80s or did you think of it as just an easy categorization for journalists to use, so you basically ignored it?
A little of both. People need simplification and reference points, and when Michael Quercio came up with that, it stuck. I do not think it is terribly accurate. Only the Salvation Army [the Three O’Clock’s original name] and the very earliest Green on Red and Dream Syndicate records are psychedelic.
Any chance of this gig sparking a full-blown reunion with either more shows or some recording?
I’m not sure what that means exactly. We have one other show planned for Calgary in April. That is it. We do have the spacecraft up and running, we will see where it flies and lands next. We have sufficient fuel for the Interstellar Overdrive to kick in when needed.
Anything else you’d like to add that you might want the fans in Atlanta to know?
We are deeply moved and appreciative of the love and kindness that has been directed our way. This recent effort was borne out of love for our friend and the desire to reconnect with our community. It has been nothing but beautiful.
Rain Parade with the Tim Lee 3 and the Head play The Earl on Saturday, January 19.