Oh Captain, my captain

The story of Captain Audio begins at the end--two ends, in fact, the death of two bands whose life spans flamed out well before their potential. Even now it seems unfair to those of us who care about such things that Comet and UFOFU don't exist anymore; just when it seemed both were beginning to approach their peaks, they called it quits.

Comet, whose pop sounded like bright sun peeking through thick, gray clouds, ended so suddenly that half its members didn't even know there was no band anymore; it died somewhere out on the road, in the middle of a tour in the middle of the night. UFOFU, whose self-titled 1997 album was one of the best debuts and finales in rock history, dissolved like most bands, with disagreements and not a little bitterness. Perhaps the most poignant part of that band's story is that when the rhythm section disbanded, two brothers were sent their separate ways.

But right now, Josh Garza (once the drummer for Comet) and Brandon Curtis (UFOFU's bassist, co-vocalist, and co-songwriter) aren't wasting time eulogizing yesterday's echoes. Those have long since faded and been drowned out by the music they're making today with the woman who brought them together, singer-songwriter-guitarist Regina Chellew, whose resume to this point includes a handful of local bands she'd rather not mention (among them, Stone Culture and Neurotica) and a brief stint touring with Ruby, the band fronted by former Silverfish vocalist Lesley Rankine. Together, the three of them make up one of the best bands in town--new or old.

Captain Audio began inauspiciously enough: During the summer of 1996, Chellew joined Ruby, which is signed to Sony Music, for Lollapalooza and a handful of European shows. She was supposed to go out and tour behind the next record, but there was no next record (Ruby's still recording, and the world holds its breath). Looking for something to do, Chellew thought about starting her own band; better to drive your own new sports car than ride shotgun in somebody else's used sedan.

"I don't want to go out and be a hired gun for somebody else and take a year off of this, because it's not worth it," she says.

Chellew had long wanted to play with Garza, but he had been tied up with Comet, who released their debut, Chandelier Musings, in October 1996 on Dedicated. Both recall they had played together occasionally, and Garza had helped her out with some recording, but their timing was a little off.

"I knew her, and I liked what she had done, so it was like, 'Hey, I'll help you when I can, when I get the time,'" Garza says. "She wanted to record, so I was like, 'Hey, I'll do the drums.' So when Comet ended, I was like, 'Well, what do I do now?'"

Comet broke up last April--though perhaps broke up is hardly the right explanation. As Garza tells it, one night while on tour, singer-guitarist Jim Stone and his bass-playing brother, Neil, simply decided to return to Mesquite--without telling anyone else of their plans. Jim just felt it was time to quit the rock and roll lifestyle and settle down with his wife. And that, suddenly and inexplicably, was that. Garza spent the next month trying to figure out what came next, when Chellew contacted him about joining her new band.

"I watched Josh play with Comet for two years, and when I'd go to see Comet, I'd just stare at Josh the whole time," Chellew says. "I loved the way he played. He's got a lot of heart and soul, and it's real. When we got together, I think we both approached it the same way: no rules, no limitations. We can do anything we want. And Brandon came in with the same philosophy."

Curtis ran into Garza before one of Captain Audio's early shows; "UFOFU was on its way out," Curtis recalls, and soon enough, guitarist-singer Joe Butcher would be trying out for Radish and Brandon's brother Ben would be playing drums with Tripping Daisy. Sensing the end was near, Brandon had begun writing and recording some four-track demos with a handful of musicians, thinking perhaps the next step would be to form his own band. Curtis asked Garza if he'd be interested in playing with him, but Garza begged off, citing his commitment to Captain Audio. He told Curtis to stick around and listen to the band, and they'd talk afterward. Of course, they didn't.

Curtis and Chellew ran into each other a little later, at a Toadies show, and she asked him if he wanted to play with Captain Audio, at least temporarily. She and Garza had been looking for someone to play bass, keyboards, and guitar--and, they hoped, sing. Curtis, among this town's most valuable and versatile rock musicians, fit the bill and then some (he can be heard playing all over the astonishing solo record from former Funland frontman Peter Schmidt, which is due out this summer).

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky