Early 1995: Rhode Island-based trio Scarce, whose post-Pixies sound and exciting on-stage dynamics had been receiving some attention from UK indie radio, released their debut LP Deadsexy on the Paradox label in the UK. They toured Europe supporting Hole and returned to the USA, having been picked up by major label A&M. Then, in June 1995, singer Chick Graning suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was discovered by his bandmates; bass player Joyce Raskin and new drummer Joseph Propatier, who broke into his apartment, concerned after he didn’t turn up for a rehearsal. Their swift action saved his life, but he was in a coma for 18 days. Six months later Scarce were back on the road, playing to promote their now delayed album, but Graning wasn’t ready and the band split in late 1997.
Fast forward to 2008 and after writing a book (Aching To Be: A Girl’s True Rock & Roll Story) about her experiences in the band, bass player Joyce Raskin contacted Chick to apologise and rekindle their friendship. She also suggested they get the band back together. The band played a London show last year and have been working on new material. They play a string of UK dates this week accompanied by a screening of a documentary about their career, Scarce: Days Like This, directed by British artist Sally Irvine. Joyce and Sally answered some questions for The List.
Joyce, It’s been a while! What have you all been doing since you the band was last active?
Chick has released a solo album called MT available on iTunes etc. He toured solo in Germany in 2001 and 2002, and had a steady acoustic gig in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Joe has toured with several bands including The Silver Apples, The Bevis Frond, Mary Lou Lord, Jason Lowenstein Project, Will Oldham, Songs Ohia, Damon and Graham from Blur and The Velocet. I have worked as a book designer, written several books, and am raising two children.
The music industry has changed so much since you first released Deadsexy. Did it feel like it would be easier to do your own thing now, without a major label to put pressure on you?
It is much easier to do everything. The fact is, our record Deadsexy never would have had a second chance to be heard if it weren't for iTunes and the ease with which you can now release things on the internet. All our videos can be seen as well. Instead of vying for the few select spots, anyone can release anything. It is much tougher to be heard amongst that space, but we'll accept it in order to have a chance to be heard. We are happy to be able to be a band, even if it is being heard by a few people. They are definitely some wonderful people. If it wasn't for the internet, i'm not sure we would have ever known how many people did hear about us. There was such a disconnect before. Now you know instantaneously, as people can contact you directly.
How does the rest of the band feel about your book?
They are happy to have story out there being told and not forgotten.
How does it feel to be performing again after such a long break?
Wonderful. We feel like a bunch of hormonal teenagers.
What should someone who never got to see you live the first time around expect from your live show?
The storm before the calm has settled onto the harbour. Like two ships passing in the night but on a parallel course.
What has been the highlight of this reunion so far?
Playing the London show and having everyone sing along to every song. Mind blowing and so thankful. And Sally making a documentary about us.
Do you plan to keep recording more new material and touring more in the future?
We have a new record that will be released worldwide called No One Likes You in January 2010.
Sally, How did you come to make a film about Scarce?
I've been friends with Joe since the late '90's. We met soon after Scarce split up at The Terrastock Festival in San Francisco, where he was then drumming for The Silver Apples and I was there to photograph the festival. I was thrilled when he told me a year or so ago that Scarce had got back together and I went to see them when they played a couple of London dates in October 2008. Joyce gave me a copy of her book, which I loved, and we got chatting about making a film of their story. I had had quite a long break from focusing on the music industry while I worked on my own art projects and I've loved getting back into working with a band again.
Was there a lot of archive material for you to work with?
I had a fantastic response from several fans who sent me lots of live footage plus I managed to get hold of a couple of old interviews, television performances and music videos. In addition to this I was provided with lots of photographs and Joyce's artwork to work with.
It's meant that I think I have a good balance of the old and the new.
Did you see the band in their earlier incarnation? Do you think they’ve changed much in the intervening years?
I didn't ever get to see them in the 90's, though I did buy Deadsexy. It was, and still is, probably one of my most played albums. From watching the old live footage though, and comparing it to the recent gigs, both in the UK and in the US that I've been to, I think they still have that amazing connectivity that they always had and they're still just as exciting to watch as ever.
It’s unusual to screen a film at a gig. How has it been going down with audiences so far?
I think (and hope!) that people like the idea of mixing up culture so that you can see a film and a live show all in one night. I've had a really positive response from everyone I've talked to about it. I've been part of an art collective for years that have always put on events that mix up sound, film and performance, so it didn't feel like an unusual thing for me to do. I hope it's the start of a new trend for live shows!
Scarce play Glasgow Stereo on October 15th