“Our first guitarist, Eric Rad, died onstage mid-song at the Mabuhay Gardens from an apparent heart attack,” says saxophonist Bob Bartosik of his long-defunct punk band Housecoat Project. The group’s unreleased 1988 album Girlfiend comes out this week on Subterranean Records, the SF label known for launching Flipper and the Dead Kennedys. “We recorded the album immediately after a national tour that had the band on the verge of breaking up. Our first album, Wide Eye Doo Dat, had been successful on the indie charts, but the next recording sessions killed the band. After the tour, we should have just taken time off.”
After not playing for 20 years, Bartosik and Housecoat Project reconciled for a July 2009 reunion show in San Francisco that included singer Meri St. Mary (sister of Matt Resovich, of Black Heart Procession and the Album Leaf) and guitarist Jay Crawford, who had replaced the late Eric Rad (best known for manufacturing ZZ Top’s custom guitars). “Meri, Jay, and I hadn’t played together since 1988, but I had built a MySpace page for the band, and that got Meri and I back in touch. She had become clean and sober...the main issue that caused our breakup was her...” The singer brought Jay Crawford back into the fold, the reunion gig happened, and now, 22 years after it was recorded, Girlfiend hits the street on Saturday, October 23.
“It’s very strange for me to have such an old recording being released now,” says the 2008 SDMA Best Jazz Album nominee. “I play so much better now, but I can hear my first inklings of my jazz-playing coming out on this album, like a very rough Coltrane quote in one tune.”
Bartosik says that if Girlfiend does well, “I would like to do new stuff with Housecoat Project, but there are no plans to do so now. We used to write new material very quickly, and Jay Crawford and I always had a kind of intuitive way of playing ideas off of each other, so that would be fun. Meri always has tons of lyrics ready to go. There’s been talk of a West Coast tour to support the new album, but so far it’s just talk.”
Bob Bartosik appears October 27 at the AC Lounge, performing with the Cherries Jubilee Vintage Cabaret Jazz Show.