Well, not exactly where they left off. Scarce’s whirlwind Behind The Music saga is more poignant than most. Initially a tale all too familiar to many struggling young bands —one of lawsuits, sleazy A&R reps, and grueling, endless tours —things changed irrevocably the fateful day that singer/guitarist Chick Graning failed to show up for rehearsal due to a near-fatal brain hemorrhage. Although he eventually made a full (albeit slow) recovery, the band never did, limping its way to an acrimonious split nearly two years later. It was a heartbreaking, ignominious end to a group with such promise.
Singer/bassist Joyce Raskin was heartbroken too. She knew that the band deserved far better. As therapy, she channeled all her sadness and anger into a memoir, Aching To Be(Number One Press), which offers an unsparing, yet affectionate, account of the group’s many ups and downs. A raw, honest portrait of life on the road, the book is also a cautionary tale about how tough it is to grow up in the regressive boy’s club of the music business. Only 20 when she joined the band, Raskin writes of shining onstage but struggling to find her equilibrium out of the spotlight.
Looking back on it all, Raskin wishes she hadn’t been so hard on her younger self. “I was 25 [when the band ended] and I thought my life was over. I laugh at that now: so dramatic! I was just starting out —it’s okay to take bumps in the road. But in that setting you feel like it’s all-or-nothing. People build you up constantly, and then, all of a sudden—boom—the bottom drops out.”
It wasn’t meant to go like that. Chick, who’d been through the record label wringer before with his previous group Anastasia Screamed, had a finely-honed bullshit detector. He was writing the best songs of his career; he had a great band with chemistry lesser groups would kill for, and an inspired co-conspirator in Joyce, who also contributed songwriting duties. Everything was in place —or so it seemed.
When I interviewed Chick in 1995, only weeks before the aneurysm, he was excited but sagely realistic about the band’s imminent wider exposure. (They’d just signed to A&M, who would later release their debut Deadsexy.) “You can either throw yourselves into the media frenzy or you can form your own record company and do it all yourself —which is great if you’re independently wealthy to start with. I’m sure it’s going to be kinda fake here and there, but just because you’re doing an artistic thing you can’t expect all of life’s problems to disappear. I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of bullshit, but that’s life.”
Fast-forward ten years, and the band have chosen the right reason (and the right time) to return: not for fame or glory, but for their own satisfaction, and to set the band’s legacy to right again.
When they finally had their first rehearsal this past fall, Joyce says, “It almost felt like no time had passed.” The band’s fierce chemistry had returned, stronger than ever. More importantly, “I think Chick finally has that drive back. I feel like he got something taken away from him [after the aneurysm]. [Now] he’s almost a teenager again. He’s got that exuberance and genuine excitement back. I can finally see a happier spin on this story.”
You can read more with Joyce here.
Scarce have already begun recording new material; look for live dates and record release plans in the new year. For updates and news, add them over at Myspace.
This just in: Chick and Joyce are playing a short set at TT The Bear’s in Cambridge on Friday night (12/21) to help raise money for a friend stricken with cancer. 10 PM, $15 for a very good cause.
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Scarce, “All Sideways” (from the Red EP, 1995)
Scarce, “Dozen” (from the Red EP, 1995)
SCARCE, THREADWAXING SPACE 1994. PHOTO BY ANDREA FELDMAN