In January 1985, in the college town of Chico, California, Gene Story decided he wanted to start a band, with the idea that they could sound like 4AD groups such as the Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil. He asked Lindsey Thrasher and Patricia Rowland to join. Being friends with all involved, Larry Crane offered to play bass (borrowed from roommate, Steve Valin) and the use of his house to practice. Lindsey owned a guitar and it wasn’t yet determined what Patricia would be doing. Basically Gene never made it to practice, but somehow friends Tim Smyth and Toni Smith dropped by for the first rehearsal with guitars, amps and percussion equipment. Patricia was conned into buying a drum machine, persuaded to set aside her viola and became the vocalist. Rehearsing a couple of times, the group was asked to play a house party and needed a name. Some time before this group had assembled, Lindsey and Doug Roberts drank a bunch of wine and created a list of possible band names for future use. Unfortunately among these names were Truckload of Fuckers, Fuckload of Truckers and Vomit Launch. Needing a name with a “gig” fast approaching, the band decided Vomit Launch would be a fantastic choice! The party was quite a success, according to those who remembered anything the next day. More shows for this 5-piece ensued during the next month or so. Tim and Toni headed off on a vacation to Europe, leaving the remaining three to carry on with their pal “Roland”. Soon the band was spotted and befriended by John McKinley – a recent Berkeley transplant and leader of the Heat Seekers, a rocking new band in town. John, claiming to be more than just a guitar player, offered to play drums. In April 1985 John had his first show with Vomit Launch – an opening gig for The Replacements and 28th Day (a wonderful Chico band, featuring their pals Barbara Manning, Cole Marquis and Mike Cloward). That summer, the band went into a local studio (On Trak) to lay down the songs they had been performing. This material, along with some live recordings, was released later that year on cassette as Fishbutt. Through a handy friendship with a record distributor it actually sold a few copies. The band continued to play around Chico, doing more shows with 28th Day plus opening for Camper Van Beethoven and punk legends the Dead Kennedys. In January 1986, Vomit Launch made its first foray to the Bay Area to play with friends Idiot (the) and punkers Social Unrest. Gigs in Chico and the Bay Area continued into April, when John, for personal reasons, decided to quit the group. A few ill-advised trio gigs occurred in May and June, culminating in a show at the renowned Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco where John temporarily helped out and pal Doug Roberts filled in on second drums and trumpet. During another disaster-laden trio show, UK immigrant and punk rock drummer Steve Bragg watched aghast. Taking pity on the group, he offered to try out on drums with them, despite the fact that he lived in Berkeley – three hours from Chico. Needless to say, from the first practice and on Steve proved to be an asset to the group, strengthening their arrangements and giving the band a bit of muscle that had been missing. In August 1986, Steve made his live debut with Vomit Launch, and by early October they headed into former Pell Mell/Call bassist Greg Freeman’s Lowdown Studios in San Francisco to track an album. The seven song release, Not Even Pretty, had a title based on some wonderful feedback the band received after ending up on the cover of the local weekly (Chico News & Review) earlier that year.
- Kathy Valentine
- Chawky Frenn