STROBE - 1993

The conventional  wisdom about getting popular in LA is to slog it out in clubs for years and cultivate a grounds-well of-A & R interest before getting signed. But conventional    wisdom holds little merit for Idaho, whose two members have bucked the usual path by carefully crafting their melancholy songs in their own demo studio for a decade.

They’ve finally released their first album, Year After Year, and have expanded their lineup to allow them to play live. Why didn’t they follow the usual pattern of development in LA.? “We didn’t even attempt it,” says singer/bassist Jeff Martin. “Why play here ? We were a studio group-there was no thought of playing live.” Guitarist John Berry comments, “We never had a band-it was always the two of us in the studio and we never thought anything would happen. We were just doing it for kicks.” Martin adds, “We didn’t think [what we were doing] would be an accepted thing. It was a little too heavy, a little too personal.”

Heavy, indeed. Idaho’s music is a dark, intoxicating brew of moody post-punk that owes as much to folkie poet Nick Drake as to New York gloomsters Codeine. Layers of Berry’s distorted guitars glide over a slow beat while Martin’s deep voice intones solemn lyrics more suggestive of emotions than descriptive of personal stories. Even the band’s moniker is a subtle metaphor, indicative of their perception of LA. as vapid. “A lot of people here aren’t going to get this,” says Martin. “We don’t fit in at all.”

Martin and Berry were happy with their leisurely collaboration until they began to get more serious about their music. “Then Caroline called us in October [of ‘92],” says Martin, “and things started happening, and we had to start recording faster than we were used to.” Caroline released an EP, The Palms, in the summer of ‘93, and recently followed that with Year After Year.

Thanks to their toy chest of sonic gadgets, their slow, dense sound is even more satisfying live than on record, as the guitarists’ psychedelic swirl becomes looser, riding dynamic waves of crests and calm. “He’s got the whole armory of effects going,” laughs Martin. “Yeah, everything’s on ten... Rrrrooowwww!” says Berry, imitating his guitar sound.

Success cannot come too soon for Idaho, as a lack of day jobs have left Martin and Berry “at the end of our ropes.” For now, they just hope their recent slew of positive reviews is indicative of a prosperous future.

Michael Kamensky

photos by Carol Sheridan