Adults warned me, as I stumbled into adulthood in the ’90s, “Just you wait. Everything will change. You’ll have kids. You’ll grow up. The ideals and priorities you have now—you won’t even recognize them.” That kind of transition happens often, I learned, and I sure see why it would. But, other than maybe growing more patient and more confident, I’m still a lot like I was at 18. I still care about writing and photography, and I still think it’s a good idea to rearrange the rest of my life around them even though there’s a heap of other responsibilities on the plate now. When five guys approaching my age put on an Oasis album in a rehearsal studio this past weekend and nodded in solidarity at my eight-hole Doc Martens—the same style I started wearing at 18—I could tell they’d taken similar tracks.
Those five guys are the members of Acrylic. “We’ve been together since 1997,” said keyboardist/guitarist Christian Davis, as he and his band mates kicked back on couches beneath posters of the kings of brooding ’90s Brit pop and Goth—Travis, Depeche Mode, Morrissey and the Cure. That combination, along with the Oasis on the speakers, pretty much foreshadows their sound.
They jabbed at each other in good humor like brothers—two of them, guitarist Stephen Larkins and drummer Gabriel Larkins, actually are brothers—and told stories about the early days. During their teens, they enjoyed the good life, playing gigs, charging covers and being served alcohol in long-ago Reno venues. They played at the Blue Lamp, Fallout Shelter and the Vault coffee shop.
They gathered a local following and played a few shows in Sacramento. They developed fan bases in Australia, where they were reviewed in a music magazine, and South Korea, where an appreciative banker thought to send them “cupcake shots in negligees.” They heard from record labels Beggars Banquet, 4AD and Sony.
They never did form relationships with those labels, though. The band recorded a CD in 1997. That was pre-Bandcamp, pre-Myspace and before MP3s were easily distributable. “Back in those days, you had a CD—it was a different story,” said Stephen Larkins. “You had to record. It took some money.”
“That was my college fund, by the way” singer Bill Conran laughed.
Conran moved to Nashville. Others started families. Davis became a music teacher. Bass player Robb Russo began playing with the Asphalt Socialites—which he described as a more electronic version of Acrylic—and still does.
Conran flew in from Nashville last week, and band members have been rehearsing daily for a show this week at The Saint—their first in a decade. It’s not exactly a reunion or a comeback, they’re quick to clarify, because they never actually broke up. Life just got in the way a bit.
Their taste hasn’t changed, they said, but they now approach their trademark shoegaze-to-Goth Brit-pop as more mature musicians.
“I think it sounds better than ever,” said Stephen Larkins, who’s played locally in Jambalaya Blue and Big Remote. “All of us [have been] developing and listening to each other as we play, rather than being so fresh and young and kind of self-centered.”
“I wish I could go back and write a song about it,” said Conran, one that would magically speak to his younger self. “Honestly, if you could really do shit when you were a kid and have the lack of ego, it would just be crazy.”