The Falsetto Basses
|The Falsetto Basses|
|Origin||Asheville, North Carolina, United States|
|Past members||Jenny Screech
The Falsetto Basses were an American indie pop band based in Asheville, North Carolina. They were noted for their unusual lineup, featuring two lead singers who often traded parts, and one member who played a wide variety of instruments. While they self-produced four albums, including one live performance (TFB: Live at The Seahorse), only two albums were released after their signing by Rounder Records.
A bluegrass version of "Stupid Questions" was later covered by Alison Krauss.
- Jenny Screech - lead vocals
- Jimmy Stolfutz - lead vocals
- Lenny North - Lead Guitar
- Ellen MacPherty - Bass
- James Lordenshire - Keyboard
- Randy Beers - Cello, Rhythm Guitar, drums, cowbell, Violin, Mandolin, and Dulcimer
Jenny Screech (not a stage name) and Jimmy Stolfutz were Asheville, NC natives and long-time next-door neighbors who began singing together in childhood. Both have described the concerts they staged for their families, pets, and toys. "There was never any question of what we were going to do with our lives," Stolfutz told NME in a 1990 interview. "We always knew we were going to make music together."
The pair began to pursue this more seriously in high school, when mutual friends Lenny North and Ellen MacPherty joined them in a group then called "The Pods." The Pods played many school dances and birthday parties, and became very popular in Asheville's Clyde A. Erwin High School. The Pods were almost exclusively a cover band, though their influences and song choices were eclectic. Asheville's Warren Haynes was an early supporter.
In 1982, the Pods broke up as North, MacPherty, Stolfutz, and Screech went to different colleges. Three years later, they returned to Asheville over the summer and started to play together again at local bars. During the separation, both Screech and Stolfutz had begun writing original material. Screech drew upon her own relationships while Stolfutz was influenced by literature, especially the novels of Asheville native Thomas Wolfe. Met with instant local success, the newly reunited Pods dropped out of college and began to play together full-time. Their first single, "Kissing Strangers," with both words and music by Screech, saw good airplay on local college radio stations. The band played college venues and small clubs in North Carolina and Tennessee. One particular hotspot was [The Old College Inn] in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Sometime in 1985 or 1986 the band chose a new name. Confusion with Knoxville-based punk band The Podds was limiting their bookings in Tennessee. Band members chose the name during a late night drive home from Johnson City, Tennessee, but they did not discuss the spelling. In the confusion that followed, some early fliers and posters listing the band as The Falsetto Basis have become collectors items.
Feeling there was something missing in their sound, in 1986, the newly renamed Falsetto Basses held auditions for a keyboardist. According to band lore, James Lordenshire stumbled in drunk, made a slurred pass at Screech, crawled to the keyboard, and gave a perfect audition. MacPherty was apprehensive, but Screech admired his spirit, and the band gave him a callback. He re-appeared sober, apologized, and was hired.
North's cousin, Randy Beers, brought a mandolin to one of the Falsetto Basses' shows and started to jam with them before the performance and shortly after joined the band as a full member, occasionally playing cello, rhythm guitar, drums, cowbell, violin, mandolin, and dulcimer.
The Falsetto Basses rose to recognition in 1988 with their music video for "Stupid Questions". Filmed in stop motion, the clip featured the band playing their song as pieces of fruit, with Screech portrayed by an apple; Stolfutz, a pear; North, a banana; MacPherty, a peach; Lordenshire, a bunch of grapes; and Beers, a mango. The three-minute twenty-second clip was briefly one of the most requested videos on MTV.
The band was never able to match this success. In 1990, they had a small hit with "Why Fly By," but were mostly forgotten outside of Asheville, where they maintained a devoted following.
In 1992, Stolfutz was diagnosed with a form of throat cancer. While given an excellent prognosis for recovery, he died from a hemorrhage following surgery, and the band broke up.
Most of the band members have returned to lives outside of music, but Jenny Screech maintains a MySpace page with her a few of her current compositions, many of which are dedicated to her deceased bandmate.
In 2006, undergraduate communications students at UNC-Asheville and Appalachian State University collaborated on a re-mastered CD of selected Falsetto Basses songs. Rights to the untitled work are contested and no public release is anticipated.