Saturday, July 3, 2010

Aviation Blondes

Aviation Blondes photo by Steve Dwyer Enright

Steve Morrison made quite a name for himself around the region in the 1980's as the guitarist for both The Affordable Floors and Fusebox. But after a fire burned down his Bloomfield pad, he moved to New Orleans in the late '90s.

Morrison scored a gig with the guys that produce the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival while also working on a solo project. But as so often happens, you can take the kid out of Pittsburgh, but can't take the Pittsburgh out of the kid.

Hurricane Katrina, even though it caused him no personal damage, provided him with the perfect excuse to head back north in 2005 and hook up with his old buds.

His homecoming coincided nicely with a reunion gig with the Floors, playing on the bill of a show put together to honor the late New Wave station WXXP at the Rex.

Morrison got back into the swing of things quickly, and successfully entered a track to qualify for the Graffiti Rock Challenge. The problem was that he didn't have a band or any more new music.

So he called on a few musical pals whom he had run across at the XX show.

Lexi Rebert (vocals) and Jen Fisher (vocals, keyboard) performed sexy cocktail-lounge music with Salena Catalina, a jazz-influenced quartet. The two began helping Morrison with his solo CD project and some material for the Rock Challenge.

To join the singers, he added bassist Rod Schwartz (The 11th Hour), British-born guitarist/vocalist Daryl Cross (The Joyce Brothers) and drummer Troy Cramer (Ritual Space Travel Agency), who would be replaced later by Dave Klug (SPUDS, Hector in Paris, 11th Hour).

There was no trouble bonding as a group; Morrison, Schwartz, Cross and Klug had played together in the 80's for the cover band Saturday's Kids.

While Morrison's record never came to be (and he was eliminated in the first round of the Rock Challenge), the outfit did come up with a backlog of new songs, and came together in 2006 as the Aviation Blondes.

They went through a variety of styles at the start, but one thing became obvious to Morrison; he'd leave the lead singing and frontman scene to the ladies; Rebert is a show unto herself. They settled on a bright, poppy sound with plenty of harmony and hooks to go with solid guitar and rhythm work.

After a couple or three years of honing their act on stage, the AB's released their first CD (and at seven tracks and under a half-hour, probably closer to an EP) called "Edge of Forever" (GH-1155CD) in November of 2009.

The band's label was local indie Get Hip Recordings, run by Gregg Kostelich of the Cynics. Get Hip is a pretty solid outfit for an area imprest; it landed the CD on iTunes, Bomp, Amazon, CD Baby, DigStation, Rhapsody, and Napster, along with getting some college station airplay.

The band earned itself a little extra local love too, thanks to the Pittsburgh Pirates, sad sacks on the field but top guns at marketing.

The team runs a promotion called the Local Music Inning, where they play a song by a Pittsburgh artist during the sixth-inning break. It's a throwback to an old 1990's idea, and was revived when a Pirate PR guy saw the AB's performing at the Three Rivers Arts Festival last year.

So PNC blasted "Catch and Release" on opening day and "Crash and Burn" later in the season, both off the CD, while the band and a vid are displayed on the Jumbotron. Hey, maybe not as good as heavy rotation on DVE, but still a nice intro to the home folks and all the young fans in the outfield.

In kind of an oddity, the Aviation Blondes didn't tour like madmen to support their release; in fact, they did the opposite, concentrating on a new set of songs for their follow-up CD.

So hey, get ready. The AB's are out of the studio and should popping up all over town this summer, and another CD is on the way. And if your iPod is on the blink, just buy a cheap seat to the ballgame - odds are you may catch their playlist there.

"Pretend" - Aviation Blondes

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