Pearse Lambert arrived in Northport this year to join his friend Brian Higbee, a C.W. Post M.F.A. student, so they could earnestly pursue the band they’d been conceptualizing since they stood side by side on their high school soccer team back in Pennsylvania. “Brian called me and said that he found a drummer, so I just came,” Lambert explains. It was a gutsy move to leave Boston— a main hub of college radio and the indie rock scene— for the underdeveloped underground of suburbia. It’s gone the other way quite a few times, like with Dave Rapp, whose band Shy Camp released a charming indie pop single on Harriet Records while at Stony Brook, only to leave for Boston in 1997. But Lambert’s journey to Long Island to form the New Jesus with Zoom Zoom and Chi Chi is a case of fundamentals over fashion, hope over hip.
“Necessity was the bottom line,” says Higbee, who was committed to finishing his degree at Post and making his way in New York City’s visual arts community. If the New Jesus was to rise at all, it was going to have to rise on Long Island.
Along with fellow Post student Charles Case, the transplants have at last found both time and inspiration enough to create the New Jesus with Zoom Zoom and Chi Chi. Rehearsing on weekends in the school’s spacious and desolate printmaking lab, the lads mixed droning quasi-funk guitars with pulsing Pixies-esque bass lines to create just the right unsettling dirge for Lambert to growl over. Tales of trailer-trash bohemians, aliens and good old-fashioned religious alienation gave fury to the sound.
“I lived in Ireland until I was 16,” says Lambert, “but since then I’ve been fascinated with white-trash America. I watch it on TV, but I try to keep a healthy distance.” Part art-school grunge, part William Burroughs backing band, the New Jesus is definitely not your typical Long Island rock ‘n’ roll band— probably due to the fact that these guys don’t know what a typical Long Island rock ‘n’ roll band is. They come to our scene like the cool foreign-exchange student in high school with the Converse All-Stars.
With two strangely compelling shows at the Spiral in the East Village under their belts, the New Jesus is prepared to get to know its neighbors with a show at the Spot in Stony Brook later this fall. Until then, Higbee is littering the Island and the city with band stickers and flyers. They work hand in hand with the subversive imagery he was already doing with the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, an art collective he runs out of his painting studio. So far, more people have probably seen the New Jesus sticker than have actually heard their raw but promising four-song demo. But that will change soon. I think it’s in the scriptures.
Electrified pop merchants Bunsen Honeydew continue their post-Coney Island High period with a show November 5th at the Spot in Stony Brook. The band’s eardrum-shattering performance at Coney Island High this summer was allegedly one of the straws that broke the camel’s back for the now-defunct St. Marks club, the center of the downtown punk scene for the last few years before it suddenly closed.
Drummer (and Long Island Voice contributor) Theo Cateforis explains it this way: “We played a set so loud that we were banned from ever playing there again. In fact, they received so many complaints about our show that the owners were forced to close down until they could prove they had sufficient soundproofing. They gave up, and now the venue is being turned into a Wendy’s or Burger King or something. Tragic.” While, according to reports, the official cause of death included a run-in with the dreaded cabaret license that’s the trademark of the Guiliani-era fun police, the club admitted that residents’ noise complaints also hastened its demise.
So now, in the bitter wake of its own feedback, Bunsen Honeydew promises a slightly revised approach to its infectious, mod-ish guitar pop. “We’re a band shaken and forever changed by our own scary powers,” Cateforis declared, and Bunsen’s second coming promises “mounds of gorgeous heart-wrenching melodies” and an opportunity to witness their fab sonic spectacle without risking long-term hearing loss. Surviving is believing.