Having spent two decades on radio and watching shows in Boston, I have had countless unforgettable moments. Up there, however, is a 2019 coffee shop performance at Lowell’s The Town and the City Festival with Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw playing Come songs (“Recidivist” is one of the greatest songs ever written).
The band is known for its anti-pop aesthetic, deeply rooted among 90s indie rock legends, whose members are a revered presence on the music scene. Legends certified among Boston Rock’s distinguished mantle – my Music Hall of Fame, if you will, alongside bands like Mission of Burma, Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers, Morphine, The Cars, Pixies and The Neighborhoods (yes, there there are more we can talk about later).
Come formed in 1990, after being part of the bands Uzi, Live Skull, Codeine and Dangerous Birds. There was a short stint on guitar for Thalia in White Zombie, and this time Chris played with GG Allin. The group signed first with Sub Pop, then Matador, and toured with Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. Hole and Sugar. They’re playing again, there’s a meet in cambridge in September with a European tour later this fall in support of Fire Records reissues of Peeling sessions and Don’t ask, don’t tell.
We caught up with Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw of Venez before their appearance with the Music Club August 17 at 7 p.m. and discussed the band’s early days, their musical partnership, and their love of Boston.
The group was born in the 1990s, a beautiful era of Boston music with venues like The Rat, TT the Bear’s, Middle East, ManRay, Green Street. What was the music like at that time in the city?
Thalia Zedek: There was a real sense of community then, mostly centered around Central Square [Cambridge] for me. I remember coming back from a 6 week Come tour and going straight to the Middle East because I knew I would meet all my friends there!
Chris Brokaw: It was exciting, I felt very connected to “the scene” here (which I later came to recognize as one of many music scenes here). I hung out a lot in clubs, saw bands and met friends.
In February, Fire Records released Peeling sessions of two early 90s performances recorded on the late John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 programme. This release followed the reissue of Don’t ask, don’t tell – the group’s second release in 1994, described as “one of the greatest dissident records ever made”. – how does it feel to play these songs almost 30 years later?
TZ: It was a lot of fun revisiting those songs, but also a lot of work because I rarely played standard guitar chords and it can take me a long time to figure out what I was doing. However, when we play live, it’s always a great feeling and the time spent preparing is definitely worth it.
CB: It’s completely familiar and natural. But, I also feel powerful playing this music, in a way that I don’t normally feel. I think having heard and seen more music in the years since, I have a more nuanced appreciation of what we have done and continue to do. I recognized our chemistry then, but I have a richer sense of it now.
The two mainstays of Come are longtime collaborators Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw. What was the key to your lasting musical relationship?
TZ: For me, I really love Chris’ guitar playing and his sense of humor! I always learn new things playing with him and I always love to hear him play. We’ve known each other for a while at this point and been through a lot of ups and downs. Through it all, he has been a kind and trusted friend.
CB: Thalia and I have had a really unique and wonderful bond since the first time we played together. Truly electric and special. I’m still a fan of her, as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. We had a really supportive and evolving friendship over time. She continues to observe things in new, informative and inspiring ways for me. And, you know, we can laugh and we support each other.
The band and your individual members have the great pleasure of touring the world – what’s your favorite city to play?
TZ: I definitely have a few favourites, I don’t think I could choose just one. In the US, New York, San Francisco and Chicago are probably the most fun, and in Europe it would be Berlin, Paris and London.
CB: Oh man, so much. New York, Cambridge, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland (both Portlands!), Austin, New Orleans, Lausanne, Bologna, Rotterdam, Berlin, Dublin, Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona… currently Kingston NY is a favourite!
Although no one in the group is from Boston, you came here and stayed (except for a few short term moves to New York, Seattle). What is it about the city that makes you still call it home?
TZ: Size, ocean, and of course friends and family.
CB: I felt like home again after a long period of homelessness. I came back here five years ago and I’m really happy here. Friends, family and something indefinable… it feels good. It took time. I’m not from New England but I absolutely loved it.
I have to ask about GG Allin. Chris was the drummer? Give me an improvised description of a gig with GG Allin’s band.
CB: I only did one show with him and it was done quite discreetly, incognito. We were all picked up and played under an assumed name. It differed from his usual shows, he really wanted to sing a whole set of songs, rather than just attacking the audience. It got a bit wild but I think it wasn’t a typical show for him, which at that point was usually about two minutes long.
Angelelle Wood is a Boston Radio DJ known for her stints at local institutions WFNX, WBCN and WZLX. She is the host of the long-running show, Boston Showsand produces the annual report Rock & Roll Rumble music festival and showcase. You can reach Anngelle at [email protected].
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