Just when it seemed that most bands from the late 1970s and early 1980s had been uncovered, the DIY reissue label, Floating Mill Records, announced Archeology by the Tampa, Florida-based band, The Stick Figures. The five-piece formed in the Sunshine State in 1979 by a group of University of South Florida students: Rachel Maready Evergreen and David Bowman (siblings), Robert and Sid Dansby (also siblings), and Bill Carey. As a team, they created raw, experimental post-punk with a tinge of no wave and gritty NYC punk that, when combined, sounded exciting then—and still sounds distinctive after so many decades.
Comparable to the arty B-52s or their heroes, Delta 5, The Stick Figures released one self-titled EP in 1981 before moving to New York City and disbanding soon after. Though their discography was minimal, their impact on the Florida post-punk scene was massive: they played a large role in nurturing the underground scene of artists and outsiders during that pivotal moment in music history. In their short period of time, the band managed to open for The Fall and The Lounge Lizards, receive praise (and airplay!) from John Peel, and be deemed “better than all the other Velvets/Television/Feelies-derived aggregations” by music journalist Gary Sperazza!
Archeology includes The Stick Figures EP, as well as previously unreleased tracks and live recordings of the band. We are happy to premiere one of the never-before-heard tracks, “Yesterday,” an upbeat and raucous song with Rachel’s endearing vocals. Listen below:
Additionally, members Bill Carey and Robert Dansby discussed the Florida post-punk and punk scene, their dream lineup (yes, it includes Joy Division and Siouxsie), as well as what it’s been like rediscovering The Stick Figures’ catalog 40 years on.
Bill Carey: I wouldn’t try to put our music in a single category. We had very diverse influences and liked to mix them up. As all five of us wrote lyrics and music, individually and in various combinations. We were influenced by 1st wave US and UK punk, but also by Beatles, Stones, Hendrix, Roxy, Eno, Bowie, The Who, Dolls, Stooges, VU, Parliament/Funkadelic, John Cage, Prog (…not me, but some of the others!), Stockhausen, James Joyce, John Waters, Buckminster Fuller, as well as our contemporaries such as the Athens Georgia bands, No Wave, The Mekons, Orange Juice, The Fall, etc. etc. etc.
Robert Dansby: I think we had so many interests and things going on it’s a little difficult to pin that down. I was an art major—so for me, in a sense, it was like an art project that wasn’t just visual. Before punk, I had sort of lost interest in “rock” music and was listening to a real mix of things ranging from U Roy, The Mighty Sparrow and I Roy to 20th Century composers to Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, plus I’d started going up to New York in ’78 and ’79 and was really thrilled by what I saw there. There was a Dolls influence from that, but also that transition into The Heartbreakers, the Voidoids, Television, Talking Heads. I was also interested in the art scene, film scene, disco and downtown composers and how they seemed to overlap a bit.
BC: I grew up in Naples, a couple of hours South of Tampa, and moved to Tampa in 1977 to attend the University of South Florida. Tampa was still an industrial city then—with working ship yards and phosphate plants. There are also a couple of universities. I met a couple of people early on who were interested in similar music to me, and we eventually found some bars where Punk bands played—mostly covers, some originals. I spent the summer of 1978 in London, and formed my first band The Art Holes when I returned. There were several bands that played in the few bars that would have us, usually for little or no money, and we “grew” a scene of about 100 people at it’s core. We all knew each other, the bands all supported each other, and we’d often play together. A couple who had recently graduated from college in Boston (Pam Wiener and John Dubrule) started a Punk/New Wave show on the local community radio station; we would all lend them our records, and they would also play live tapes and demo recordings by the local bands. Their show helped the local scene to grow. I was later part of the East Village scene in NYC in the early 80’s, and the C-86 scene in London, and the Tampa scene, while never becoming commercially successful, was very similar!
BC: This list would probably change weekly, but I’d love to have seen a show with The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants and Joy Division. This is somewhat slanted, as I have seen many of the groups that influenced me at the time: Iggy, Johnny Thunders, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, The Clash, The Jam, Suicide, The Specials, Television, The Velvet Underground (reunion tour), the Fall, John Cale, etc. etc. etc.
RD: Sure, but it was a tough time to survive in NYC. I’m not sure how I managed 9 years really …