Monday, October 5, 2009

As Brown As It Gets

Malabaster - self titled (2000)

1. This Does Not Work This Does Work
2. In The Early Days
3. Lungbrush
4. Starts To Melt
5. Southern Lights
6. Steak Pie Please

Brian Doub - guitar
Will Dyar - drums
Kat Lamp - bass, vocals
Kemp Stroble - guitar, vocals

#5 live on WXDU.
#1 done on a digital 8-track.
All others recorded @ The Wherehouse studio on 16-track. 

In 1999 Kat Lamp and Kemp Stroble's group, Teratoma was laid to rest; with the untimely passing of the drummer. While Kemp was living at the Wherehouse, he and Kat found themselves in the communal kitchen discussing what their next musical move might be. Kitchen lurker and drummer, Willie D, offered to join forces with them and a legend was born. The larval three piece asked fellow resident Mark Linga to name the band. He immediately broke out a brown marker and a piece of paper, creating a long list of possible names. Of them all, Siamese John Cale and Malabaster, were the favorites. They said they knew what the one meant, "...but what's a malabaster?" To which Willie D slyly quiped, "It means; as brown as it gets!" After a few early practices, Brian Doub and Chris Leiser sat in, with Brian eventually joining. Kat says it was the most effortless writing arrangements she's ever been involved in. "Someone would bring in a riff, someone else would add something and before you knew it, the tune had evolved into something new." The group practiced in the Wherehouse basement studio; consequently it was easy to capture the sessions on tape. Songs developed as demos, and were re-recorded by laying down single instrument tracks (not as a live group recording). The self titled album engineered by Brian and Willie D, also featured one track recorded at a practice, and one recorded live on WXDU (hopefully, more about that later).

Live Malabaster shows involved plenty of improvisation, lengthening and modification of their compositions. The band played the Wherehouse, several Malette Street house shows in Chapel Hill, Greensboro's Onion Cellar, Go Studios in Chapel Hill, and house shows in Asheville. One show was in Baltimore at the OttoBar with Oxes and Erase Erata. Drummer for Oxes, Chris Freeland, even performed a solo set dressed like a pimp and talking about himself over some pre-recorded tracks. He stayed in character all night, except when playing with Oxes. This gig was a showcase where some record execs had come to scout. One approached Willie D at the bar with a slick spiel along the lines of, "Hiiii, I'm (insert name) from Monitor Records, and weeeee came down tonight to check you guys oooout..." which Will cut short with, "Whoa! Relaaaax man! I'm just here to get a drink."

Malabaster was the first Wherehouse band to play at the Pudhouse in Charlottesville, Virginia; eventually performing there at least three times. This connection happened when Raw Dog Rex & the Family Nads played the Wherehouse. Kemp was booking the Bellabaster tour and asked Family Nads members, Tom and Colin if they could recommend a good place to play. Colin replied, "We have a place called The Pudhouse." This venue was a wild and totally unscturctured scene of people dancing and freaking out inside, as well as roaming around outside on the train tracks, uncoupling the cars and making them collide with one another. Kat remembers waking up to that sound and thinking, "Really? First thing in the morning?" It was at these shows that they witnessed the gestation of USAisAmonster. In the beginning Tom played keyboards and guitars, Sara was the drummer and Colin would wail on his guitar while running around the room, sliding on his knees and generally freaking out. Alot of Rod Stewart was listened to in the van on the Bell Brothers and Mabaster tour, and became a running joke amongst the two groups. In an interview for the Wake Forest college paper, The Old Gold & Black, they were asked what advice they would give to record companies. Willie D blurted, "Listen to Rod Stewart!"

There was a Go Studios show with Engine Down, and another with Mile Marker, Oxes, and Fin Fang Foom; as well as a weekend mini-tour to Greensboro, Asheville and Durham. The first of these was in Greensboro at a shortlived warehouse space near some railroad tracks called, Track 13. The show was with Damad, Zegota and Catharsis; the last two being part of the Crimethink family. These band's radical roots brought a clique of Washington DC fans down, including some who were working on a benefit project. After the show Malabaster were asked for a contrubution to that compilation. By the time the, WITH LITERACY & JUSTICE FOR ALL: A BENEFIT FOR THE DC AREA BOOKS TO PRISON PROJECT disc came out, Malabaster was already broken up. The second show was in Asheville at Vincent's Ear, where they stayed the night with college buddy Reed and it snowed. The nasty storm caused numerous accidents, which Malabaster avoided as they crept from Asheville to Durham to play live on WXDU. They also played three shows at the Cedar Street House in Greensboro; one of which was their last show (as well as the last Bell Brothers show). Another Cedar Street show with Zegota was a particularly great one, where everything gelled for the packed crowd (Zegota were also featured on the same Literacy compilation). The other was with Wherehouse band Cobra Clutch, when lead singer Steve Tesh crawled under the carpet and sang, then rolled himself up in it like a burrito. Of course, there were plenty of Wherehouse shows like; with Fin Fang Foom & Oxes (2.19.2000) and Mercury Birds (7.16.2000).

Malabaster dissolved in the late Fall of 2000, when Willie D moved to New York City. Of all the different bands, projects and groupings from The Wherehouse; Malabaster is easily one of the most talked about, marveled over and sought after of recordings. On October 25, 2005 a special pre-Halloween Reunion show brought several old Wherehouse bands back together; namely Rompe Cabezza, Bell Brothers and Malabaster.


  1. I wish the Dude from WXYC would get me the performances from way back when & let me post them!