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In 2000, The Color Guard unfurled their flag and pledged allegiance to imaginative, gutsy, and beautiful song-making. They've since woven tales of Eastern concubines, churning hurricanes, and imaginary lesbian lovers of Biblical heroines. They've spoken in tongues, seen fractal visions without the aid of drugs, and had titillating dreams...about you. From their debut EP through two fabulously entertaining albums and a sendoff EP/DVD set, New York's most inventive co-ed pop foursome has created a sound where spheres of prog, metal, psychedelia, and first-rate pop intersect.
Lalena Fissure pulled up her Texas roots in the late '90s to study art at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Leaving her year-old punk band Catbox (and its mascot Yo! Pussy) behind, she was left with a rock'n'roll-shaped hole in her heart. So she co-founded The Hissyfits, and they rehearsed on days Lalena wasn't at work in artist Matthew Barney's studio. After a solid three years singing, writing, and playing bass in the superb all-female pop band, Lalena's alternate personality began to ooze out. She'd inexplicably blurt out "Tull, dude!" at inappropriate moments; she appeared at Punk/Metal Karaoke singing Rush; she was spotted pumping her fist at Melvins. Lacuna Coil and Kittie concerts. So finally little Bilbo could contain her wanderlust no longer, so she added a six-string to her pack and ventured out on a new quest: one that would present excitement and wonder all along the way.
Lalena found a longtime travel companion in bassist Jeanne Gilliland. With a playing style that ventures into the baroque, and a supernatural ability to chat up any stranger, Midwesterner Jeanne works by day as one of the few female boom operators in Local 52, flexing her muscles for shows like Oz and Law & Order. When the two met, Lalena had started as a designer on the TV show Blue's Clues, so they had more than music in common.
With two friends on lead guitar and drums, they called their quest The Color Guard, for the unity, ceremony and vibrance of their vision. Their debut EP, which they packaged in a homemade colored vinyl sleeve, drew them comparisons to Throwing Muses and The Breeders. At their performances at local art spaces like Galapagos and Good/Bad, and clubs like Arlene's and Luna Lounge, they raffled off whole hams and eligible bachelors to raise funds for their first full-length release.
Their efforts paid off in 2002, when Speech For Heated Hearts landed The Color Guard in Entertainment Weekly and scored them four stars on Allmusic.com. With each new adventure came a partial changing of the guard and solidifying of the sound that they came to call "dark pop;" and the psychedelic, unfettered style of a new lead guitarist named Josh Zisman played a major role. Fresh from Berklee College of Music, jovial Josh layered in the jazz and Hendrix-inspired licks, and topped it all off with a trademark giggle.
By 2004 when their second album Dark Pop came out, the press was likening the band's music to artists as disparate as Evanescence, Queen, The Pixies, and Rasputina. They were playing shows up and down the East Coast, frequently at art spaces like AS220 in Providence and the Flywheel in Easthampton; and at bars such as Cafe Nine in New Haven and the Brighton Bar near the Jersey Shore. They toured the Midwest, covering all the major Ohio cities that start with "C." And of course, they performed their regular home gigs at Arlene's, Northsix, Albion/Batcave, and the Monday night goth-rock party that came to be their home base: Alchemy at CBGB's Gallery--where they shot their live DVD. A new personality shifts The Color Guard's hues on Cornucopia with the addition of Joe Salvati, a Chicago-born drummer who periodically retreats to Cuba for intensive Latin jazz clinics.
Four comrades in art, The Color Guard have become known for their thick madrigal harmonies, imaginative songwriting, and dash of melodrama within a pop framework. Oh yes, there's also Lalena's homemade stage garb, which includes lacy bat wings she flaps using metal rods; and a silk-flower-encrusted bra. Acting as the band's own Betsy Ross, she also created their silver and black flag which drapes behind them on stage.
Lalena also designs the packaging and promotional materials for Suziblade Music, the band's label, which releases all their work (in addition to the creative and oddity projects of friends). For the band's final project Cornucopia, the band recorded much of the music at Josh's home studio in Rockland County. After basic tracking at NYU's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, Josh engineered the guitar overdubs and all the vocals in his 1749 family house among the trees and wild turkeys. He mixed it all, with Lalena backseat driving a bit.
The resulting Cornucopia radiates with color, fragrance, and a multitude of shapes. A harp spreads angelic sweetness across the palate in "Heavenly Feeling." The song "Capture" unites an algebraic rhythm with a glorious pop verse that takes a snapshot of a perfect day. The garage walls shake during "Unloaded Gun" and "I Had a Dirty Dream About You." A new love affair becomes an "Experiencia Exotica" as Lalena rolls her tongue around the Spanish she learned while living in Mexico and Joe sprinkles in his salsa-inflected beats. Perhaps the most surprising dish, "Kick Ass Instrumental" loads hearty helpings of grinding rock trippiness onto the platter, in tribute to some of The Color Guard's noise-metal tour friends in Providence. Call it a six-course feast of fresh, succulent delicacies. You may never eat again.
Lalena . . . Jeanne . . . Josh . . . Joe