The seeds of the Stepford Husbands were first sown one sultry night in the Peppermint Lounge in NYC when Gary Thomas first shook the hand of Dave Amels, an introduction that was to spawn 5 singles, 1 album and countless live shows (well, 5 or 6 at least). Once they declared their mutual love of everything 60s, especially the music, they decided to put a band together. Dave with his extensive knowledge of 60's garage music and love of pure pop music of that era, and Gary, with his influences mainly from his native England and the swinging sounds that came out of that land in that decade, and his love of pure pop music of that era, soon realized that a merge of these influences would produce something incredibly exciting and perhaps extend anything that had previously been attempted in recorded music (of any era). They needed musicians to augment the sound of Dave's various combo organs and Gary's Hofner guitars and after a few failed attempts with various musicians (including a psychotic Cuban rockabilly-obsessed drummer) decided to go it alone and record a single under the name the Stepford Husbands.
So one rainy Autumn afternoon in 1983 they set up the 4-track in Dave's bedroom and laid down the basis of what was to become the legendary first Stepford Husbands single, "Why Aren't You There." Using primitive equipment and ingenious recording techniques they managed to produce what TimothyGassen described in his book "Echoes In Time" as "...one of those classic bits of garage psychedelia." The music was full enough to dispense with the need for a second guitar, but drums were needed and Cryptovision Record's label boss Mike Linn provided the missing back beat, recorded in Dave's garage for authenticity. The B-side "Yeah", is an instrumental recorded "live" in the rehearsal studio, and included a bass guitar (rare on Stepford Husbands recorded material) and a saxophone (even rarer!). This platter became an instant rave on the college stations when released on the Cryptovision label in Jan. '84, and was the top of the playlist on many college radio stations throughout the US. It also received a lot of attention in Europe, with Sweden and Germany being particularly captivated by this classic piece of 60's garage grunge rock, it even made number one on the Greek National radio station! It later found its way on the German Glitterhouse compilation "Declaration of Fuzz".
Despite this initial success, Gary returned to the UK. during the rest of '84 which made rehearsal difficult as Dave relocated to the sunnier climate of California -- a significant move in the story of the Stepford Husbands. For it was in the college town of Berkeley that Dave hooked up with guitarist Bill Harper and Drummer Rick Martinez. They too declared their love of 60's music, in fact Bill was lead singer for West Coast psychedelic band, Savage Resurrection. This alone was enough for Dave to offer them the prestigious titles of Stepford Husbands. So they set about rehearsing and Gary flew out to join them in CA. to record the follow up single "I'm Rode Out", cover of an obscure slice of British Mod-dom, coupled with a Bill Harper original, "Seeing is Believing". This CA. experience has given the Stepford Husbands a definite "tri-coastal" sound with the combination of CA., NY. and UK. influences. The quartet decided to further explore this unique blend of sounds and record an album in California in the latter part of 1986. This resulted in the first Stepford Husbands album "New Ways of Seeing" released on Cryptovision in 1987. This proved to be a departure from the "garage" sound that the Stepford Husbands had become known for -- for the first time they had recorded in a 24-track studio using modern 80's equipment. The result was a more "relaxed, polished sound", more commercial perhaps but not to the liking of many of the followers the Stepford Husbands had gained up until that time. Perhaps they'd spent too long in the Californian sun. Though the album contains many good songs, the production gave it a too smooth sound, the essential hard edged element was all too infrequent -- though the occasional gem can still be found, with "Will It Ever End" being a particular favorite of John Peel on his BBC radio show.
Just prior to recording the album the Stepford Husbands minus Gary recorded the basic tracks for two hot new songs "Seems Like Years," and the instrumental dedicated to their favorite diner in downtown Oakland "Kwik Way". These tracks were shipped to NY. where Gary had relocated and it was there he added his vocals and guitar tracks. This became the Stepford Husband's 3rd single and was hailed by NY. Native as "a return to form by the Stepford Husbands, they've thrown off the shackles of CA. hippie-trippy, flower-dour experience, they've once again licked the dirt off the New York sidewalks and spit it out with vengeance." This despite the majority of the tracks being recorded in CA. before the album, although the single wasn't released until 1987. This single nevertheless atoned the Stepford Husbands of any misdemeanors they may have committed with "New Ways of Seeing" and they were once again embraced by the college radio stations in the US. and the enthusiastic fan base in Europe. During this period the Stepford Husbands had performed two live shows on the West Coast, one in San Francisco and one in Oakland -- both were received enthusiastically, but unfortunately both venues soon closed down (one whilst the band was actually playing courtesy of the local police force keeping law and order). An occurrence all too regular at Stepford Husband gigs.
Once again Dave and Gary went their separate ways, Dave returned to NY. and Gary to England, but this never stopped them keeping the Stepford Husbands momentum going. Before departing CA. Dave had laid down, with Bill and Rick, the backing tracks to what was to become the Stepford Husband's 4th single, "Building Of Love For Sale". Dave brought the tapes out to NY. in the summer of '88 and Gary laid down the guitar and vocal tracks. They also added a bass, provided by Walter Schlipzer to give it an even fuller sound. This was also the first record to feature the Voce DMI-64 organ module that Dave had co-designed. This single was coupled with the classic Bill Harper song, "Tick Tock" and the live novelty instrumental "Bag Man", again featuring Mike Linn on drums (now playing in NY. lower East side favorites "Feel Fuzzy" and "Iron Prostrate"). Prior to the finishing of this recording the Stepford Husbands quartet gathered in NY. to play 2 live shows, Folk City and the Dive respectively, both clubs closed down soon after.
"Building of Love" was truly a return to form of the Stepford Husbands sound and further extended the borderlines of psychedelia. This was also the first single to be accompanied by a video shot in London and NY. by up and coming whiz-kid of the British video scene, Nick Wheeler.
The latest movement on the Stepford Husbands front is again a mixture of CA. / NY. recordings, culminating in the new single "We've Come A Long Way", which was recorded entirely in C.A. with Bill Harper, Damon Carman, and Tom Carne, coupled with a cover of the classic slice of 60s pop "Come And Take A Ride In My Boat", recorded in NY. in the Fall of '92 using Dave Woj from the Insomniacs and Ken Anderson from the Ultra Five helping Dave and Gary out admirably guesting as honorary Stepford Husbands for the first time. It was this line up along with Bill Harper that played the most recent Stepford Husbands gig in Nov. '92 at the Bang On club in NYC. A splendid time was had by all, this occasion being made ever more special by the fact it was the re-launch of the infamous Mind's Eye shows. Bang On has since closed down.
So this brings us straight up to date with the Stepford Husband's story. The future looks bight with new single "We've Come A Long Way" / "Come And Take A Ride In My Boat" being released on the indie "Get Hip" label in Feb. '93. Dave and Gary are once again united in NY. and Bill is awaiting the call in C.A., so don't be too surprised if a new Stepford Husbands album is unleashed on the unsuspecting public in the not too distant future.
The Stepford Husbands Discography
The Stepford Husbands Are: Gary Thomas, Dave Amels, Bill Harper, Rick Martinez, ...and many others