Ezy Reading: True Tales from the Pub Rock Circuit #392
The Lost Art of Rock Theatre' The Story of Grover Jones and the Art of Siegecraft
Evan Kanarakis

Halfway through their first show, the lead singer of Grover Jones and the Art of Siegecraft leaned across to one of his fellow musicians and offered, 'This is great, I think we're offending them.' And thus they began. From 1999-2001 the band rocked the Melbourne and Geelong circuit. It was a band that had probably spent more time working on their stage and band names than any musicianship. As evidence, they were comprised of musicians called 'Necrosavalis' (vocals), 'Professor Camshafton' (drums), 'Dr Phu' (guitars and bass), 'Good times Larry' (Rhodes and harmonica) and 'Barry Manifold' (bass and guitars). Fittingly, the title of their first demo CD was 'Solos Are More Important Than Ambiguity'.

This all set the tone for the next few years and the band soon developed a fairly 'specific' reputation. Crowds happily flocked to gigs expecting to witness loose musicianship, broken guitar strings and tangled leads. Inevitably they'd hear more feedback than notes, see plenty of blue singlets and enjoy a performance guaranteed to get louder and louder every song as each member tried to drown one another out. If the keyboardist wasn't asking for an extra forty'eight bars for his solo so that he could have more time to 'Wang Out', the drummer was querying whether or not they might incorporate a gong into his solo. Solos were definitely important to the lads. (Incidentally, the band's reply was 'See if you can track down a gong... then you can have your solo'.)

Helped along by a drummer that felt most comfortable playing in nothing more than Doc Martins with duct tape crossed over his nipples, the rest of the group soon followed suit as well and perfected their own 'looks'. Necrosavalis in particular went through a period of wearing gauntlets on stage that he had tailor'made from a bondage shop in Brunswick Street.

That they only ever wrote somewhere in the realm of ten or so songs during their three year career is testament to the fact that the show was always more important for Grover Jones than any serious music. A typical exchange in the practice room was:

'I think we should work out a three-part harmony for the chorus.'

Two hours later...

'Fuck it, we'll just sing it in unison.'
And, on another occasion:
'Can you hear that sound?'
'Yeah, where's that buzzing coming from?'
'I think it's the PA.'
'Was it there when we started?'
'I hope so.'
'No, it always does that. It's just the electricity.'
'Do you think it's safe?'
'I dunno, but I've been getting zapped in the lip from my microphone, I think mine might be live...'

In their meteoric career, highlights included a runner-up placing in a folk festival (a considerable feat given they only had about two clean songs in their repertoire), and an appearance on a live radio show in Melton, Victoria. It was called 'Know Your Rock Gods' and aired at 3 a.m-the 3 a.m. listener was perhaps exactly the kind of audience the band was targeting, and so it was perfect publicity.

Though the money and fame weren't ever there, the crowds always came to see Grover Jones and the Art of Siegecraft during their time. It was certainly satisfying for the band to see that others, like them, appreciated and understood that 'aesthetics is everything'.

Note: Portions of this piece were originally prepared as part of the book Sex, Drugs & Mum In The Front Row in 2003.

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