Sunday, November 20, 2005

Being haunted by The Van Pelt

Around 4 AM my room began to emit sounds. This is a regular occurrence thanks to walls that are so deli slice thin, I can hear everything going on in the apartment building around me.
Above my bedroom lives a 22year old student from Northern Virginia and apparently he suffers from a worse case of insomnia than me. He also tends to play the same cd when he either can’t sleep or when he is umm…entertaining his lady friend.
Last night was the latter.
Anyone who keeps me awake at least a few nights each week would normally earn a wrath of biblical proportions but his choice of favorite cd is so utterly random and surprising that I can’t bring myself to scold him.

The Van Pelt.
Who you might ask? The Van Pelt were an anomaly from N.J. in the mid to late 90’s who rose from the ashes of Native Nod and went on to release a handful of records on Gern Blandsten. Founder Chris Leo’s (Ted Leo’s brother) talents can best be described as the talkie of post- hardcore. Chris was a singsong out of tune pasture emoting often screeching from a moody mid tempo pulpit. An aquired taste of sorts, The Van Pelt’s popularity never truly expanded outside of the Abc No Rio / house show circuit and hardly lasted the test of time...or so I thought.

This one in a million chance neighbor a decade later and three states away claiming them heroes has me reconsidering.

The Van Pelt broke up in 1997 but during their 3 year stint they had parade of members coming and going. To my knowledge there were at least 8 line up changes but their mercurial roster is a talented bunch. Drummer Neil O’Brien played is quite a few N.J / N.Y. groups but I best remember him as drummer in another relatively unknown but none the less legendary band Greyhouse who paid homage to all that was Dischord. Toko Yasuda went on to form The Lapse with Chris Leo but divided some of her time with a brief spell in Blonde Redhead and landed as a permanent member of Enon. First bass player Barry London went on to play in the Knoxville Girls and Jah Division to name a few and bass player replacement Brian Maryansky became the second guitar player in Jets To Brazil. The Van Pelt family tree owns many more branches into the modern day rock community but this what I can confirm with absolute certainty. If anybody has any updates on what those people or other members like Sean Greene are up to please post a comment.

Up until this summer I had no idea what Chris Leo was doing as of late but I ran into him across from CBGBs. Chris hasn’t retired from the arts and instead he has entered the world of fiction writing. He has been touring the world behind the release of his book
"White Pigeons" and I was most excited to discover chapter 7 is a cd recording of a fictitious band. It’s not exactly Native Nod, The Van Pelt or The Lapse but it is still VERY Chris.

Expect another book from Chris in the not so distant future and oddly enough while researching some of the above I found an essay about CBGBs recently written by Chris so it is
here I will end this coming full circle.

Excuse me while I now try to go back to bed and catch up on some much needed sleep.