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The Color Of Music

Charlotte's Snagglepuss leads a musical parade

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Imagine carrying a palette of carefully chosen colors down the street, headed to your already prepared canvas. Taking in the street sights, you eventually achieve a high of inspiration. You reach your destination, stop, and smash the palette against the canvas in a classic pie in the face move. It's unexpected, but it's art. You step back and adore your latest work, with its splotches and dripping paint, and simply smile. Now put a musical twist to the above episode and you've got the sound shenanigans of Charlotte's Snagglepuss. First of all, let's get the preparatory historical primer out of the way. The band consists of the stalwart musical duo Hope Nicholls and Aaron Pitkin, along with comrades Amy K. on guitar, John Morris (aka Johnny Rollerball) on the keys, Scott Weaver on vocals, Michael Anderson (aka Almond Joy) on sax and Darrin Grey on bass.

Anyone who has an ear for evocative musical stories has to have at least heard of the Hope and Aaron tag team. They've been together for 20 odd years, musically and personally, kicking it all off in the 80s with the legendary Fetchin' Bones, continuing with the oft-missed Sugarsmack and evolving into the multi-hued outfit called Snagglepuss.

In Snagglepuss, Nicholls shares vocal duties with Weaver while making a sax moan, groan and quiver when the mood suits her. She's a seasoned stage presence who can sing and let out orgasmic screams to wake the neighbors down the street. Sound bite instrumentation of whistles, bells, shakers and a box of other doodads lying on the stage enhance vocal intonations. Weaver's vocal style adds the rock layers while accentuating the dual front man/woman axis.

The clean slate attitude of the band goes back to its beginnings some four years ago. Amy K. picked up the guitar for Snagglepuss, literally. She started playing guitar when she joined the band as Pitkin was switching from bass to drums. Grey is drummer for Columbia's Scrubbies, but picked up bass when he joined Snagglepuss. "It's a great learning experience for all," says Amy of the camaraderie and musical experimentation within the outfit.

That type of musical adventurism has kept the band constantly experimenting with sound, rhythm and harmonies. They also have no pretenses or qualms about becoming rock stars or landing big record deals or any other related dilemmas bothering most rock bands, so the music takes a front seat and remains there.

"We've got stronger ideas about production and harmonies," says Weaver of the evolution of the band from their debut to the imminent release of the new record. The musical growth of the band, on record and especially live, is apparent within confines of the first few minutes of listening.

The recording session for the latest CD was like a "band camp," adds Morris, who lives in the same "hood as Hope and Aaron and strolled down to the sessions at the band's home-based subterranean studio.

Enter Don Dixon. The inimitable producer and musician has had a storied career behind him. He recorded the band's debut, Country Club Sessions, back in 2001 and also twisted the knobs at the sessions for the new recording, Parading About in the Altogether. The new disc continues the story with bits and bites of eclectic sounds brought to the party by a cast of independent characters. Word has it even Hope and Aaron's child, Bell (still yet to break the two-year-old barrier at the time of recording sessions), made guest appearances on the record, too.

Morris, also the band's webmaster (snagglebeat.com), elaborates further: "when we play together, the intuition gets more refined -- there's a psychic connection. The entities of Snagglepuss represent a zeitgeist of the times."

The crew of seasoned and recently awakened musicians have become so in tune with each other since the band began playing together, the initial admitted lack of prowess in the chosen instruments of several members has now turned into a stealthy groove. "We've just developed more craftsmanship," adds sax player Anderson.

Each member brings an agenda and adds to the communal rock & roll spirit while extending the definitions of punk, glam, garage, dance, jazz, and carnival music into a cohesive, eclectic package.

The new record protrudes with a sack full of rockers, jazz experimentation and sign of the times lyrical twists. The title track is the longest and probably the coolest tune starting off with a meditative-like dirge one might hear from Tibetan monks, then all parts slowly creep in and out. Morris isn't too far off the target when he calls it a "John Cage-inspired" tune.

As for the rest of the record -- add even more stylistic bends such as surf music and psychedelic wigouts to the aforementioned genres. Essentially, it's a passionate canvas of musical collectivism.

In addition to Grey, a few more members play in other bands including Tyre Fyre (Morris) and Babyshaker (Weaver). As a matter of fact, Pitkin is recording some new tunes for the Scrubbies that should turn into, according to Grey, at least an EP if not a full-length record in the near future. Babyshaker are also heading to the studio, and Pitkin will contribute to a couple of their tracks as well. For the Release Party, Grey will be pulling double-duty, as the Scrubbies are opening. On the upcoming show, Nicholls promises the usual plethora of guests and surprises. And what else might one expect?

Snagglepuss' CD Release Party will be held Saturday, August 16, at the Visulite Theatre. Cover is $12 and includes a CD. Call the club at 704-358-9200 for more info.

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