A mess of fun

The Bananas began life as a one-shot, but never bothered to split up

The deliberately obscure Bananas plus two, a touring van, suburbia.

The deliberately obscure Bananas plus two, a touring van, suburbia.

It all started in 1992 when a local show, featuring Tiger Trap and Nar, was booked. The club owner asked Scott Miller, who fronted Nar, to find another band for the bill. Miller knew Mike Cinciripino, who’d written some songs. Cinciripino taught Lisa Branum how to play them on bass, and Miller played drums. Thus, the Bananas became a band and played the show. It wasn’t intended to last.

However, there must have been a spark—or at least some sort of a connection—made that night. Not only have the Bananas remained together, but they’ve also methodically built up a following of diehard fans. Example: a recent show at legendary North Berkeley punk club 924 Gilman Street had fans come from as far away as Southern California to pack the place and see this band put on a great live performance—fun and natural, with lots of genuine enthusiasm.

The Bananas’ first full-length CD, Forbidden Fruit, came out a couple of years ago. It’s a quality product that not only exceeds the standards of your average punk band, but trumps albums released in nearly any other category. Its surprisingly sophisticated songs go from fast and hectic to slow, with driving, anthem-like melodies that make it hard to avoid singing along. And now, the Bananas have released a new album-length CD, A Slippery Subject, which surpasses their debut. The new album’s more consistent, with even stronger songs—ones that don’t sound too much alike, but still retain a common feel.

And, as with its predecessor, A Slippery Subject was recorded by Chris Woodhouse, quite possibly the only person in town capable of putting the Bananas’ music to disc while keeping its lively and spontaneous attributes intact. Few producer-engineers can maintain the quality levels of an expensive studio while operating in a mobile fashion out of suitcases. Woodhouse can.

Exactly what kind of music do the Bananas create? Not quite pure pop, and definitely not rock. “Punk by people who don’t listen to punk anymore,” Cinciripino quips. All three Bananas were dialed into punk when they were young, after realizing how badly radio sucked. Of course, the reality is that, musically, there isn’t all that much great punk music out there, either. Nevertheless, punk’s spirit and energy helped inspire bands such as the Bananas to approach music-making in a freer way, with nothing to risk.

Cinciripino has a knack for throwing strange parts together to make songs that flow well and are infectious and catchy—while still maintaining a manic energy and high level of pure fun. It’s a recipe that places the Bananas in a category that’s, well, indescribable. Cinciripino says that people come up to him all of the time and say, “You’re not punk.”

To which he replies: “Yeah, I’ll agree with that.”

Somehow, when you mention the Bananas around town, most people in the Sacramento music scene aren’t aware of them. How can that happen? How can a band have two strong albums and great live shows, a diehard fan base and still remain virtually unknown in their own town?

The answer lies in the Bananas’ approach. While they started out a punk band just for fun, they ended up slipping into making music for all the right reasons—no wasting their time on self-promotion, following current popular trends in music or anything that attracts attention. What the Bananas do with their time, instead, is write songs, obsess over what good music is and try to make it.

The Bananas have become the type of band that doesn’t bring the music to you. Instead, you must seek them. If you’re looking for quality music, it’s well worth the trouble.