The story of Isle of Q is a long one beginning fifteen years ago. Although it is a rock and roll cliché the band has certainly paid their dues. After reading this you may agree with me that their story would make a pretty good "Behind the Music" special minus the drug addictions, band member deaths, or home pornos with Baywatch stars. That being said please read on.
Isle of Q's origins can be traced back to the mid-eighties whenWilliamsport, Pennsylvania native Beau Bodine, Johnstown, Pennsylvania native David Ringler, and Ridgewood, New Jersey native Douglas Kennedy met while attending Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. Bodine ('85), Ringler ('87) and Kennedy ('89) played in different bands together there and kept in touch after college life started breaking up the trio.
Beau Bodine, the senior member, was the first to leave school. He moved to San Francisco and tried to put a group together. David later followed Beau to California but the two never really got anything going. David returned east and moved into a house in the Logan section of Philadelphia previously inhabited by his sister. The house was located on Marvine Street, a street that would be the subject for a couple of songs later including "One Good Reason" and "See What Tomorrow Brings." Once in Philadelphia he auditioned for bands, got some offers and took none of them. It was during this period that David called Beau and convinced him to leave California to try and make a go of it in Philadelphia. David also called Doug and convinced him to move to Philadelphia. Doug, who was in the process of graduating college had already accepted a job at a radio station in upstate Pennsylvania but decided to forsake the position and move to Philadelphia to join David and Beau. It is 1989 and The Greenhouse is born.
The guys called themselves The Greenhouse after an old off-campus green-colored house in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania in which they practiced in college. The name The Greenhouse had nothing to do with the Greenhouse effect as some may have thought. They played the local bar scene for a time as an acoustic act, doing mostly cover tunes. They began to write their own compositions and soon enlisted drummer Jim Bowman, a Philadelphia native who had earlier played with a popular local group, About Face. The band began to develop a following. They placed second in MAPP's (Musicians, Artists, Poets and Performers) "From Stage To Video & Vinyl" contest. Ironically it was Bowman's former band mates that beat them. During this time they were playing the cabarets (Chesnut, Ambler, 23 East) The Barbary and other area clubs. In 1990 the band released a demo tape containing "Raindance", "Why Can't I Have You", "For What It's Worth", and "Toy." "Raindance" also made it onto a MAPP compilation CD that was getting heavy airplay by Cyndi Drue during her Street Beat show on WMMR.
The band's profile was getting bigger but they felt that their sound was growing stagnant and that a personnel change was needed. That person would be Jim Bowman. At the time the decision to fire Bowman was a difficult one indeed. The band was gaining momentum and any personnel change would obviously compromise that momentum and possibly even set them back.
With the firing of Bowman the search for a replacement began. It took about six to nine months to finally find the right replacement in the form of Philadelphia native Darren Keith. Darren answered an advertisement placed by the band in The East Coast Rocker. The band auditioned many drummers but when Darren came over to audition he kept dropping his drums down the stairs without caring. The band liked the fact that Darren didn't care about the condition of his drums rather that he just wanted to play. With such a rock-n-roll attitude Darren was in. With the addition of Darren Keith The Greenhouse was ready to take back the momentum they had lost. It was February 1991.
Later in the year Beau's mother sent him an application for a contest sponsored by Yamaha. The contest was called Soundcheck, The Yamaha Rock Music Showcase. The deadline for submitting the application was about two days away. Beau sent back the application with a tape that included "Raindance" and a newer song, "Sex and Violence," by overnight mail. A few weeks later Yamaha called the band. Out of 2600 bands across the country they had been selected as a top twenty finalist. Five of the top twenty finalists would be flown out to Los Angeles to perform in the finals. The final five would be selected from a videotaped performance to be taped by Yamaha. Yamaha dispatched a camera crew to film the band at a local club. After an admittedly lackluster first set, the camera crew arrived in time for the second set at the Bridgeview in Northeast Philadelphia. They taped the first song of the second set, "Toy." Three weeks later the band was informed that they made the cut.
In September 1991 the band flew to Los Angeles. They spent about four or five days catching the sights all the while getting ready for a two song performance. The finals were to be a tape delayed televised event hosted by Philadelphia native Holly Robinson-Peete (of Hanging with Mr. Cooper and 21 Jump Street fame) and Dweezil Zapppa (famous for his father and being an Eddie Van Halen want-a-be). The band competed against Houston's Beat Temple, Atlanta's Skin Deep, Rochester's Exploding Boy and Portland's Harder! Faster! at the Third Encore club in North Hollywood, California.
The band played two songs, "Crazy" and "Raindance" before judges Jeff "Skunk" Baxter (of Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers fame), John Entwistle (Who bass player), Chris Lord-Alge (Producer of Madonna, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, etc.), Randy Jackson (A&R guy and former bass player of Journey), Barry Squire (A&R guy), and Robin Zander (Cheap Trick). After an agonizing wait backstage the band was introduced as the winners of the contest. The band won a $10,000 grand prize rather than opt for the equivalent in Yamaha equipment (unless you are Firehouse's Bill Leverty you would take the cash too). The Yamaha equipment the band would later play was "given" to the band by Yamaha before the contest in hopes that they would endorse the equipment. David, Beau and Doug each took home an additional $1,000 for winning individual awards for the best player of their respective instruments. The band also won the opportunity to record a demo tape under the direction of a "top-drawer" producer and consultations with "industry experts." It was September 6, 1991 and the world seemed ready for them to conquer.
On October 27, 1991 the band was on stage at the Budokan in Tokyo, Japan performing before 8,000 people as the U.S. representative in the world finals for the $25,000 grand prize. The band performed ninth and played "Raindance." When all was said and done the band did not win, but came away with the experience of a lifetime. In November 1991 the band was playing New York showcases under the direction of Yamaha. In December they recorded their demo with the alleged "top-drawer" producer but it turned out to be some guy who demoed their digital eight-tracks and who had no clue how to record a band. The band recorded "Raindance", "Sex & Violence", and "Dark Eyed Woman." The demo came back sounding like it was recorded off of a "Mr. Microphone." The band had already created better demos in their basement. The band blew off the Yamaha demo, now relegated to a collector's item for the truly devoted.
On Friday, January 10, 1992 the Yamaha Soundcheck contest television special from Los Angeles was shown in the Philadelphia area on WPHL at 10:00 p.m. On Tuesday, January 21, 1992 the band performed a three song mini-set during the third annual WMMR Street Beat Music Awards at the Chestnut Cabaret in which they were nominated for best Unsigned Artist of the Year (eventually losing to Bricklin). David was also nominated for best Unsigned Singer of the Year (eventually losing to Gypsy Rose's Tom Toones). Thus began a pattern of non-appreciation by the fickle Philadelphia music fan.
Shortly after the Yamaha contest the band was picked up by an opportunist manager, who shall remain nameless; who mislead the band for about a year with false promises essentially wasting a year of their time. After all the momentum of the Soundcheck contest the band still had nothing out on the market. The band watched as their peers put out CDs and tapes while they still had nothing to market their almost three sets of material. Just two years prior the world seemed ready for them to conquer. Now the band was having to live up to failed potential and false promises, themes that would later resurface in songs "Dime a Dozen" and "Shrink Wrap." Although disillusioned by the recording industry the band remained undaunted and persevered on. Where other bands may have called it quits, The Greenhouse stayed true to themselves always remembering why they chose to do this in the first place, to play music.
It was time for a change. First to go, the name. "Greenhouse" was a name taken by a few bands just in the Mid-Atlantic states alone. It was time to pick a more unique name. This part I am just speculating about, but the band had now been around for a few years with nothing to show for their early success. It would be too easy to label the band as losers for being the best unsigned band in the U.S. and then still not having a recording contract two years later. A name change might further remove them from any stigma associated with the Soundcheck contest. The new name, what else, Isle of Q. They selected Isle of Q taking the name from the isle located in Snyder County, Pennsylvania on the Susquehanna River just outside of Selinsgrove. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Isle of Q was the host of many vicious battles between the Native Americans and the pioneers. The Isle of Q can tell the tale of Native American attacks, camps, and burial grounds. The Isle of Q was also a place where Beau, David and Doug had played gigs while Susquehanna students.
With their new name the boys began work on their first album released in 1994. The self-titled album was recorded in Dave and Beauís apartment in Roxborough. Although it was self-produced the album sounds better than most of the recordings made by bands in professional studios. Lacking a manufacturing and distribution deal from a record company the band literally sold the album out of the trunks of their cars at shows.
Drummer Darren Keith left Isle of Q to play with Jade Starling's (ex. Pretty Poison) short lived band "Sex In Violets." Springfield, PA native, Mike Leavy replaced Darren on drums. Darren was the only drummer to be in both The Greenhouse and Isle of Q, and he also has his picture on the Isle of Q self-titled album. The boys continued to establish themselves on the local music scene by playing and writing constantly. Not limited to the Philadelphia area, Isle of Q soon found outlets for their music in New York and Wilmington, Delaware. Isle of Q made a return to television performing "Howl" and "Big Fish" in 1996 for a local show called "Sessions." However, it being the nineties, the band still had difficulty gaining radio and television exposure due to their "heavier" sound. A local music program on the cable network PRISM refused to showcase the band. Meanwhile their contemporary's Mercy River (the two bands frequently shared the same stage) became the darling of local radio station Y100.
Ironically, Mike Leavy left Isle of Q for the greener pastures of Mercy River albeit briefly. An ad was placed in the City Paper and the search for yet another drummer began. Mike Leavy was replaced by West Philadelphia native Dave Ramani a more "metal" drummer complete with big kit and John Bonham stylings. It is interesting to note that Dave previously auditioned for the band after Darren Keith left, but lost out in the finals to Mike Leavy. Dave was playing in the cover band Life Without Joe when he accepted the position in the drum seat for Isle of Q. Dave Ramaniís stay in the drummer's seat was short lived, although he was around when the band cut "Sweet Potato" in the fall of 1997 for release on the 94 WYSP compilation album "Loud -N- Local, The CD Ė Vol. 1". The band submitted three songs ("Big Fish", "Howl" and "Sweet Potato") to Loud -N- Local host Mel Toxic. Mel was an old acquaintance of Dave Ramani since his days at Drexel University. Mel selected "Sweet Potato" for the compilation album and the song began airing during Mel's midday show and the Load -N- Local show on Sunday nights. Isle of Q shared the CD with signed local acts Bugzy, Love Revolution, Rudy + Blitz, Kenneth Keith Kallenbach and Thorazine but showed them all up again with their self-produced recording.
Dave Ramani was let go by the band in late 1997 due to musical and stylistic differences and was quickly replaced by ex-Mercy River drummer Josh Cedar. Josh, who had recorded an album with Mercy River was no stranger to the local music scene and filled in very quickly for the departed Ramani.
In the spring of 1999 the band began negotiations with Universal Records and finalized a production deal in late August 1999. After fifteen years of "paying their dues" the band was beginning to see some dividends. Universal Records is also home to such acts as Godsmack and Oleander. They began recording in Nassau, Bahamas in late September 1999 at the famous Compass Point Studios. Their producer was Terry Manning who just completed producing John Popper's first solo album, "Zygot" and engineering Lenny Kravitz' album "5." His other credits included George Thorogood, Led Zeppelin, Joe Walsh, ZZ Top, James Taylor, Crash Test Dummies, Colin James, Joe Cocker, Fabulous Thunderbirds and various Stax artists like Isaac Hayes.
Their album is slated to be released in the spring of 2000 but that can certainly change as it is up to the will of "the brass" when they will manufacture and distribute the album. Going into the studio the band had no idea what songs were going to make the final cut for the album. They submitted all of their demos to Terry Manning before they left so that he would have a good idea of what they sounded like and what they were capable of. Word has it that the band recorded fourteen songs but "the brass" is keeping a tight lip as to what the actual songs are. I for one do not want to know until I go to the CD store to buy the album. What will the future hold for the band? I guess we will see what tomorrow brings.
Copyrightã 1999, 2000 John A. Walker, Esquire, All Rights Reserved