Eighth place in your face

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Lyons and Sodders met in Denton while both were students at the University of North Texas in 1990; Sodders would graduate from the school's department of psychology. Lyons originally studied music, but switched to architecture (he's working on his degree at the University of Texas at Arlington). "I was getting very cynical because it was such a labor studying music all the time and not doing what I wanted to do," he says, "which was to play drums for a band."

While they studied, the two jammed together and went through a variety of guitarists and singers, staying together throughout because they felt they formed the basis for a strong rhythm section. Sodders met Minyard when both worked at UPS; Minyard had taken "pretty much every" music course that was offered at North Lake College and worked gigs running sound for local bands at their shows. "Scott was very open to the direction that Mark and I were pursuing musically," Lyons says of Minyard.

And so the three, fronted by a different vocalist, had their first show at the Deep Ellum heavy metal bar R&R Revolution (now the Copper Tank Brewery). It was their first real gig, and a "real uncomfortable" one at that, as Lyons recalls. They couldn't even decide on a name for their band, so they went on stage without one. "That show was mainly done out of pure frustration--out of us not being able to play anywhere else," Sodders says. "It went well for what it was worth, but it's not something we like to recall."

"I didn't feel we were ready," Minyard says simply. There was also a creative conflict with the singer. "He was a good singer, but the style that we were shooting for was more on the edge," he says. "We tried to work with him, and he tried, but it didn't work out." After the amicable departure of the singer, their situation went unimproved until one night when Sodders recognized Thomas in Deep Ellum as the former singer of Last Rites. Even though both were studying psychology at UNT, neither knew the other. Sodders asked Thomas if he'd be interested in working with their unattached trio.

In the beginning, Thomas was uncertain. "I had no idea who these guys were. I never saw them hanging out [in the local music scene]," he admits. "And the stuff they played...it was early Pantera and Alice in Chains--stuff that was dated...but I stuck with it, mainly because of Aaron. He's fantastic, and I think it's very difficult to come across good drummers. Aaron gave me a good feeling.

"Because I was unsure of the band's material when we first started out," he adds, "I wanted to bring in an element that made it a little more unique." That element was a $10 "toy," the Radio Shack model T-200 electronic megaphone. Thomas admits that screaming into the mic with an electronic megaphone isn't original (Austin's Butthole Surfers and Milwaukee's Season to Risk have done the same thing), but he liked the effect.

"When he came in, he brought a whole different element," Sodders says. "It took some getting used to. Everything we had been doing before was kind of cliche." Things eventually worked out, thanks in part to their mutual affinity for sarcasm; a month later, the four landed their first gig at Rage, yet another hard rock club that no longer exists.

"God--talk about your pretentious, over-dramatic, bloated rock-star club," Thomas says. "Half the club was filled with long-haired, glam-boy musicians watching bands play and going, 'Yeah...I could do that.'

"But it actually went over pretty well," he concedes. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."

They went go on to gig at the Dogstar, Orbit Room, Trees, Galaxy Club, and other local venues. They also followed an unconventional route--doing shows inside local CD chain stores--where they caught the attention of teen audiences (and the police, who shut down one of their shows for excessive noise).

Back at the Dogstar on that rainy Saturday night, Thomas looks over the audience while his bandmates set up their equipment. Most of the people look to be in their mid-20s to 30s; outside, a trio of young folk approach Thomas and ask when his band will take the stage. They definitely look under the legal drinking age, and they dress like the older teens who cruise the sidewalks of Deep Ellum. Right before the show more kids file in, and Thomas points them out as Slow Roosevelt's principal audience, the 21-and-under set. Thomas says that playing for older crowds isn't as appealing to him--though not in these exact words.

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Howard Wen