Scarce - @ Islington, Bar Academy
By DJ OLA
Scarce at Islington Bar Academy
“We want to be a sexy band. Not in the way we look, but in the way we sound. Sexy makes you want to shake your hips.”
Quoted from an interview with Everett True in 1995, Joyce Raskin sums up her band Scarce’s raison d'ętre in her book 'Aching To Be: A Girls True Rock N Roll Story'. At that time, Scarce was a hot band, poised on a grand wave of success. The music they played fell into a familiar 90’s brand of guitar based indie, but what they did with it with was incomparable to anybody else. It was fused with boy-girl harmonies to die for, raw with jagged edged, lead vocals from Chick Granning, and thrown in was head banging rock that could have challenged The Pixies musical crown. Their live shows were the stuff of legends, sweat soaked silk shirts, plectrums covered in blood and some of the most down and dirty physical manoeuvres possible in a guitar, bass, and drum combo. What happened next to put a halt to the band’s rising star was like something out of a Greek tragedy, akin to Icarus flying too close to the sun, Scarce got burned!
One day the lead singer, Chick didn’t make it to rehearsal. The rest of the band turned up at his apartment to find him suffering from a brain aneurysm. Ten percent of people survive this condition and most with serious side effects. Chick was a rare individual who regained his memory and was able to relearn the music. However the process was a long and harrowing affair that put an intense strain on the band. Chick lost his emotions; he described it as a flat-line when it came to feelings. The band’s original line up dissolved and their full potential never made it to the mainstream. Many years later Joyce began writing her book, got in touch with Chick and the emotional connection so necessary for the Scarce experience was revived. The musical reformation began.
So after a 14 year absence from the music scene, Scarce returned to London to play again. Previously, they had supported The Flaming Lips and Hole. This time, they were the support for Heather Nova, a musical mismatching of genres reminiscent of The Monkees and Jimi Hendrix tour, not conducive for a Scarce come back. Luckily, on the final date of the tour, Scarce were able to headline in London at the Islington Academy.
The 45 minute set was packed with soul, sound and intense passion. Chick’s gritty angst ridden vocals sizzled, twinged with some unknowable ache, but compellingly genuine. Joyce, bass slung in a sexy place between legs wide akimbo, strutted her stuff to a kind of intense skip hop dance. A great visual moment, had Joyce sidling up behind Chick, hips undulating, while playing bass, up and down in a manner associated with dirty dancing in a Brazilian favela rather than indie rock.
The boy-girl vocal dynamic kicked in to varied effects. There were some brief out of tune moments that curdled out of the comfort zone. When Joyce and Chick got it right, they cooed to each other, echoing the longing of unrequited lovers in their performance. ‘All Sideways,’ from their first album ‘Dead Sexy,’ was the pinnacle of the show, with the perfect interchange and a driving drumbeat, the audience chimed in, and fans from back in the day side by side with young kids who wouldn’t have seen them the first time, showed the love; negating some of the sterile atmosphere of the utilitarian Islington Academy. Unfortunately, time did not permit them to play their new track Wide, which I featured on my radio show. A fabulous song, perfect for a journey and gazing out the window, watching the scenery go by.
In a climate of Emo bands that produce the exact opposite of emotional, regurgitating the past to produce mediocrity, Scarce are a breath of fresh air much needed. Scarce bring fervour and the notion that “...Sexy makes you want to shake your hips,” back into guitar based indie. The future for Scarce includes an album in 2009, and hopefully a return to Europe for more shows. A banner from a fan at the gig quantified the sentiment with, “Welcome Back Scarce!” and I’d like to add, please save the world from Emo.
If you’d like to hear more from Scare the address is
And I will be interviewing Scarce for Radio 23
The podcast will be available at
Photography : Jessica Araque Martin