About The Pandoras
One of the leading acts on the Los Angeles garage punk scene of the '80s, the Pandoras were also one of the few all-female acts on the fuzztone and Farfisa circuit, though they were more stylistically diverse than most of their peers.
The Pandoras were formed in 1982 by Paula Pierce, a guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who led the mod-revival band the Direct Hits (later Action Now) but was interested in exploring raw '60s-influenced sounds. Pierce posted flyers looking for other women into garage punk, and Deborah Mendoza, who played guitar and bass, answered the ad. Mendoza persuaded her friend Casey Gomez to play drums in the new group, while Pierce recruited keyboard player Gwynne Kelly, and the first lineup of the Pandoras was complete. In 1983, the band issued their debut EP, I'm Here I'm Gone, on local label Moxie Records, but by the time it was released, Mendoza was out of the group, with Bambi Conway taking over on bass.
The Pandoras struck a deal with Bomp Records' garage-centric side label Voxx and cut an album, It's About Time, with Bomp founder Greg Shaw as producer. Just as the album was ready for release in 1984, the band exploded, with Conway quitting the group, followed by the acrimonious departures of Kelly and Gomez. As Pierce was assembling a new Pandoras, Conway and Kelly began playing out with a group they called the Pandoras, and even struck a deal with Enigma Records; they cut a tune, "Worm Boy," that appeared on the compilation The Enigma Variations. In time, Enigma insisted that Conway and Kelly rename their group, which soon fizzled out.
Meanwhile, Pierce had rounded up a new band of Pandoras, with keyboardist Melanie Vammen, bassist Julie Patchouli, and drummer Karen Blankfeld. This edition of the group released a single for Bomp, "Hot Generation" b/w "You Don't Satisfy," and hit the road for a tour that included a handful of dates with the Fuzztones. In the spring of 1985, Julie Patchouli dropped out, and after playing a pair of shows with Gayle Morency filling in, Kim Shattuck took over on bass. In 1986, Rhino Records issued the second Pandoras album, Stop Pretending, which displayed a harder edge than their first long-player. The group once again hit the road, sharing bills with the likes of the Beat Farmers, the Cramps, and Iggy Pop.
Pierce began writing material that pushed the Pandoras into hard rock territory, and Elektra Records A&R man Steve Pross (who was also dating Pierce at the time) arranged for the band to sign with the label. As the Pandoras began work on their Elektra debut, Blankfield became disenchanted with the group's management, and Kelly Dillard took over as drummer. While Dillard appeared in the photo shoots for the album's artwork, after two months she was replaced by Sheri Kaplan. The album was completed, but when Pross was fired by Elektra, they opted to drop the Pandoras and shelved the album, though demos from the sessions would circulate on bootlegs.
Undaunted, the Pandoras added guitarist Rita D'Albert and cut an EP for Restless Records, 1988's Rock Hard, that documented their newer, tougher sound. Once the disc was released, D'Albert quit, and the band hit the road as a four-piece, adding Billie Jo Hash on guitar for a string of mid-1989 dates. A Dallas concert from the Rock Hard tour was issued as an album, Live Nymphomania, in 1989. In July 1990, Pierce fired Vammen, deciding she wanted to rework the Pandoras' sound without keyboards. Kim Shattuck and Sheri Kaplan were displeased with Vammen's departure, and after a number of overseas bookings were canceled, Shattuck turned in her notice, forming the Muffs with Vammen.
In 1991, Pierce was working out material for a new edition of the Pandoras with guitarist Lissa Beltri when she began complaining of severe headaches. On August 9, 1991, Pierce suffered a fatal aneurysm. Despite Pierce's sometimes volatile relationship with her bandmates, many of them turned out for a memorial show staged shortly after her death, and in 2014, several Pandoras veterans -- Susan Hyatt, Lisa Rae Black, Gwynne Kelly, Bambi Conway, and Casey Gomez -- issued a pair of digital singles under the moniker the 21st Century Pandoras. Another lineup of former members -- Kim Shattuck, Melanie Vammen, Karen Blankfeld, and Sheri Kaplan -- performed at the 2015 Burger Boogaloo Festival as the Pandoras, and the group continued to play live dates.
Shattuck and Vammen took their version of the Pandoras -- now featuring Karen Basset on bass and Hillary Burton on drums -- into the studio to cut an EP, 2018's Hey! It's the Pandoras, which featured five Paula Pierce compositions. It was Shattuck's final project with the Pandoras; she died on October 2, 2019, following a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ~ Mark Deming