Jeff Giles, God love him, is directly – if accidentally – responsible for inspiring this week’s column. Awhile back, he thought he was just offering up a snarky one-liner in his Cutouts Gone Wild! piece about the second Katrina and the Waves album when he referred to SBK Records as having the motto, â€œWilson Phillips and some other acts,” but what he actually succeeded in doing was making me think of one of my favorite of those “other acts”: Loud Sugar.
Now, mind you, I’m not entirely sure how many other people share my appreciation of the band. In fact, I’m not even sure if the former members of Loud Sugar do. I tried and failed to get a response from keyboardist and songwriter Eddie Bydalek, who’s served as sound mix technician on many a film since the group disbanded, and when I sent a MySpace message to The Fizzies to confirm if their lead singer, David Grover, was the same David Grover who fronted Loud Sugar, I got no response…but after you’ve checked out some of the below Loud Sugar MP3s, hit up the Fizzie’s MySpace page. It clearly must be the same guy. Look, if it were me, I’d be the first to admit to having some mild embarrassment about the hippy-dippy look I was sporting back then, but it wouldn’t be to the point of ignoring someone who’s actually out to praise the music I made at the time…uh, with the possible exception of “No Ozone.”
Wow. That just has not held up well. But, thankfully, it’s an isolated incident.
When stymied in my attempts to speak directly with members of the band, I decided to search MySpace and see who was a big enough fan to actually cite the group within the Music section of their profile. I came across precisely one person: her name is Alana, and she lives in Columbus, OH.
“I don’t think I have come across anyone that has heard of Loud Sugar, other than the friends that I have played it for,” she said, when I approached her about this piece. “I first came across them when my older sister came home with their tape…I think it was around 92-94, I’m not certain…and after hearing their songs, I fell in love. To this day, I have still not found another band that sounds like them. Their sound is very unique; it reminds me of a mix of 70’s hippie/early 90’s alternative/new age coffee house type of music…if that makes sense. But, like I said before, I have their tape, which makes it a little difficult to listen to. I have tried to find a CD copy but to no avail; if you know of a way for me to purchase one, I would really appreciate it.”
(As it happens, the CD can be found on Amazon for…wait for it…a penny. Then again, I’m guessing you could probably pick up the majority of the CDs released in the history of SBK Records and come in at a pre-postage total of under a buck.)
There was, it should be noted, at least one other person who referenced Loud Sugar on MySpace: Missy, who purports to reside at South of the Border. (Based on my experience with the place, I’m guessing that means she has ready access to carnival food, tacky tourist merchandise, and reasonably-priced 3-packs of porn mags, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have solid taste in music.) She’d posted a comment to a friend’s page, referencing that she still had cassettes of albums by The Wonder Stuff and Loud Sugar, so I figured I’d ask her how she came to encounter the band.
Her first reaction was amusement.
“How funny to be asked about Loud Sugar!” she replied. “I was turned on to them by my friend Keith, whose page I posted on. We were 14-15 at that time. Ironically, my current MySpace profile pic is of me from that very era. I am wearing Keith’s homemade puffy painted denim jacket; I think he had written ‘funky little flower‘ on it, but it’s on the back. I wish I still had it, but I supposed I edited it out of my closet sometime after neon puffy paint went the way of the wild buffalo. We grew up in Buttskate, NJ, so I have to assume that he’d heard about Loud Sugar from his super-cool older brother, Lee. Lee played in some big South Jersey bands at the time – Grooveyard in the early 90’s, Black Light Violets in the mid-90’s – and he knew pretty much everything about music. We liked all of the neo-hippie psychedelic and groovy funk music that was coming out of LA at that time: Jellyfish, White Trash, Sun House, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Redd Kross. When I was in my 20’s I moved to LA, met and married the guitarist from Wuditiz; they were a fixture on the scene at that time, and played with a lot of those bands. Loud Sugar, albeit on the ‘lighter’ side, fit right in with that whole aesthetic, and I think they still resonate with me because they remind me of a happy time in my life: a last little spurt of neon euphoria before the dark cloud of grunge rolled in.”
Neon euphoria? Well, yeah, that’s as good a description as any, especially once you’ve seen the CD booklet:
Loud Sugar was released in 1991, as the production often makes abundantly clear, but even if you can guess the release date of a song like “Home” from the way it sounds, it still goes down smooth. (That sax solo always makes me think of The Ocean Blue’s “Drifting, Falling.”) Personally, my mix tapes of the era always used to fall back on the 2-fer of “Instant Karma Coffee House” and “Creamsicle,” with the latter providing a chorus that – appropriately enough – melts in your mouth. Your opinion may vary, but I’ve always thought that Mr. Grover’s voice had a slightly Finn-like quality to it, both on “Take Me Woman” and on closing number “The Sun’s Come Into The Room.” I’m not saying they’re identical or anything, but there’s enough of a similarity that it’s caught my ear more than once.
So that’s Loud Sugar for you. They came quick, didn’t stay long, and didn’t sell very many albums, either. But they’re still sitting in my CD collection, and they probably always will be.