The Squires of the Subterrain

About The Squires of the Subterrain

The Squires of the Subterrain springs from the do-it-yourself, lo-fi (but certainly not low-quality) pop ingenuity of a single man, Christopher Earl (born Christopher Earl Zajkowski), a fixture on the 1990s underground pop scene of Rochester, NY. Throughout the decade, while playing in numerous combos and side projects, Earl was creating some quirky and brilliant pop informed by the most far-out '60s work of the Beatles, Zombies, Kinks, and particularly Brian Wilson, on the sly in his basement (hence the derivation on "subterranean") lair and releasing it on a series of acclaimed cassettes as the Squires of the Subterrain, the name itself an homage to XTC's brilliant psychedelic side project the Dukes of Stratosphear. Earl began playing drums in 1979 with a group of high school friends that eventually morphed over the course of the next decade into the Essentials, and then, by 1992, into five-piece dance-rock band the Salamanders; the other primary members were guitarist Gregory Townson and bassist Todd Bradley, with Earl's younger brother and two of Bradley's siblings joining at various times. The Salamanders developed a sizable local following and even had the opportunity to play with some members of James Brown's great '60s band. They released a debut full-length, Livestock in the Living Room, in 1992 on After Hours before ultimately dissolving in 1997 when a couple of members quit and Townson went off to tour Europe with soul singer John Ellison. Earl (playing the spoons!) and Bradley teamed up in the more-hillbilly-than-rock duo the Rosey Beats over the next year or so, and they released the six-song cassette-only EP Life Is Rosey on Rocket Racket Records, a label that Earl had originally started in 1989 to release the first Squires of the Subterrain cassette, Shell Beach. In 1998 Townson returned and the trio reformed as rootsy rock & roll trio the Hi-Risers (an album, Panic!, was later released on Rocket Racket). On the side Earl was also playing in both the '60s garage-type outfit the Riviera Playboys and the Sunnyside Ups, a duo with fellow songwriter Scott Coblio (who also made solo recordings as Koo Koo Boy). In 1998 he emerged relatively aboveground for the first time with the release of his first Squires CD, Pop in a CD, culled from a decade's worth of underground cassette releases, among them Royal Slumber, Cowboys and Indians, Electric Blanket, Admiral Albert's Apparition, Live on the Radio, Liquid Sundays, Super-Plexi Automatic, Hello Good Morning, and Scrapbook. A year later he left both the Playboys and the Hi-Risers to focus on his work as the Squires of the Subterrain. In 2000 Earl was approached by fellow pop eccentric and British psychedelic legend Pete Miller (aka Big Boy Pete) with a tape of songs that Miller had originally demoed back in 1966. Miller suggested the Squires do the songs up full-blown and also expressed an interest in collaborating and reworking lyrics. The project was recorded at the end of 2000 and mixing of the sessions took place at the beginning of 2001. ~ Stanton Swihart

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