A band from Washington, DC (1989-1997)
High school friends Geoff Sanoff and Nick Pellicciotto met Sohrab Habibion in the Hung Jury Pub during a Lemonheads and Government Issue show in the spring of 1987. In the parking lot of a high school talent show that fall, the three first came across Steve Ward, whose band performed a particularly impressive rendition of “White Rabbit.” They all agreed that Happy Go Licky was the best band in Washington D.C., and thus their musical alliance was sealed. After helping Nick’s hardcore band, At Wits End, play their final shows, Sohrab joined Nick in forming a new group. Having been inspired by the DC hardcore scene and the classic British post-punk of Wire and Gang of Four, they asked Steve Ward to play bass guitar with them.
In 1989 Edsel started DeSoto Records to release their first 7” (“My Manacles”/”Wooden Floors”). The label was borrowed by their friends in Jawbox, whose members continue to run it quite successfully today. After a few more singles, including a contribution to the first Simple Machines release, Edsel went into the studio to work on their first album. The band recorded 10 songs during July 1990 at Inner Ear Studios and April 1991 at Oz Studios. This material would make up Strange Loop, released on Merkin Records in 1992. Over the course of the recording process Eli Janney (Girls Against Boys), who was engineering and mixing the sessions, joined the band to handle sampler duties. He subsequently left early in 1992 to pursue Girls Against Boys full-time.
Steve Raskin, a high school friend of Eli’s who had previously helped the band with artwork, was added to the band, giving Edsel a second guitar player and backing singer. Soon after that Steve Ward decided to leave, making room for bassist Geoff Sanoff, who had just graduated from college. In September of 1992 and throughout the spring and summer of 1993, the group recorded The Everlasting Belt Co. in Arlington, Virginia at Inner Ear with Don Zientara and WGNS Studios with Geoff Turner. This experimental and very ambitious project was their first of two albums for Grass Records, a subsidiary of Dutch East India and sister label to the highly-regarded Homestead Records. With several releases in their catalog, Edsel began touring regularly, sharing the stage with bands like Shudder To Think, Engine Kid, Scrawl and Eggs. They also released a split 7” with Jawbox the same year (“Savory”/”Penaluna”).
In 1994, the multitalented Nick Pellicciotto stepped out to pursue other creative projects. His spot was filled by their friend John Dugan, who was temporarily on leave from Chisel. This lineup traveled all over the country in 1994, playing with indie rock staples Velocity Girl, Pitchblende, Polvo, Rodan, and Brainiac. After extensive touring, Edsel returned to the studio in August — this time at a cabin owned by Sohrab’s parents in Shenandoah National Park. Dubbed “Humidity Lounge,” the cabin was uncomfortably hot and muggy, but the week spent there with engineer Steve Palmieri proved to be intensely creative. They finished up their work at Steve’s Baltimore studio, Oz, and the resulting album, Detroit Folly, was their last release for Grass.
When John Dugan returned to his fulltime drumming duties for Chisel, he was replaced by Bostonian Steven Albert, who had briefly played drums with Steve Raskin’s sisters’ band, Scarce. After touring the US with their new drummer, the group returned to DC and spent April of 1995 feverishly writing new material. Full of excitement and curiosity, the band flew to England to work with producer Anjali Dutt (My Bloody Valentine, Oasis) and engineer Andy Wilkinson (Stereolab, Spiritualized) in Liverpool to begin the Techniques Of Speed Hypnosis sessions at Parr Street Studios. After finishing the record Edsel played their only European show at the Bull & Gate in London.
In September of 1995, Relativity Records released the album to great success on college radio. Unfortunately, due to corporate reorganization, Relativity Records was dissolved on January 1st, 1996 and Sony, the company that owned and absorbed Relativity, chose to drop the band from their hip hop and commercial pop dominated roster. Edsel, like many other indie bands in the mid-90s who signed with major labels, suddenly found themselves without a home.
Though disappointed and slightly fractured, the band decided to carry on, recording a pair of songs with the help of studio wizard Geoff Turner at his new WGNS Studios location. These tracks became the Perched Like A Parasite 7” picture disc for Chicago’s Thick Records. Later that year Edsel took those tapes to the Place Studios in New York to continue working. With engineer/producer Andy Wilkinson and engineer Gary Maurer they remixed the 2 tracks from the single and added two others, including a multilingual atmospheric duet with Ivy’s Dominique Durand. This became the Extended Play EP on Radiopaque/Dischord Records, released in 1997. As the band members’ lives began to move in separate directions this would prove to be Edsel’s last official release.
A band from Washington, DC (1989-1997)
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