One last hurrah
Beloved garage band FM Knives reemerge from hiding for a day
Lounging in a downtown basement post-practice, the four longtime friends who make up the Sacramento garage-slash-punk band FM Knives betray no nerves about preparing for their biggest gig yet: the Oakland music festival Burger Boogaloo. Drummer Ed Carroll jokes that he’s not familiar with headliner Iggy Pop’s oeuvre, and all members agree that they’re most excited to share a stage with legendary live band NRBQ.
Aside from a couple of gigs last summer, one in Sac and one in San Francisco, the Knives have been dormant since 2003 and have no plans for future shows—the Boogaloo might just be it. Bass player Marie Davenport, who has replaced founding member Zack Olson, quips that she’s always wanted to be on the reunion circuit and that the “key is to keep announcing that you’re never going to play again,” so who knows?
The band formed in a quintessentially Sacramento way: as an outgrowth of an Undertones cover band hastily assembled for the 2001 edition of the long-running Halloween Show. Carroll, Olson and Jason Patrone were part of the lineup, and fellow performer Chris Woodhouse pulled Patrone aside and said, “Hey, you should sing in a band.”
Soon after, a band was born, composed of “the two talented guys [Woodhouse and Olson] and the two enthusiastic guys [Carroll and Patrone],” as Patrone puts it.
These days, Woodhouse makes his living as a producer and sound engineer for artists such as Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall and Sleater-Kinney side project Wild Flag. But back then, he rolled with a mobile recording studio “packed into two suitcases like those charlatan snake oil guys,” and he started recording FM Knives’ tracks.
Patrone gives Woodhouse credit for teaching him to sing, laughing as he recalls that the lessons occurred at the Mercantile Saloon. It was a race against time to impart any information before the stiff drinks took effect.
“It should be a brainless band that focuses more on drinking, and then there are records,” Woodhouse says.
The resulting album, Useless & Modern, has a combination of earworm hooks and a sloppy urgency that has stood the test of time.
They have a stalwart fan in Marc Ribak, the impresario of the Burger Boogaloo. He’s chuffed to have the Knives performing.
“I’m not saying the old gigs weren’t good, but Jason became a better frontperson since then,” Ribak says. “He has this almost punk-rock, Morrissey kind of swagger to him now.”
The FM Knives existed only as a going concern for a brief, two-year period, during which they packed in a full-length LP, two singles, a couple of Northwest tours and one nationwide tour. Things fell apart due to some personal conflicts and Olson’s move to the Bay Area. Looking back on it now, they seem to have no regrets.
Summing it up, Patrone says, to nods all around, “We had one great album, one great single and one OK single. After that it would have been diluted. … Those are the kinds of songs you’re supposed to be playing for two years and that’s it.”