By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Bemis includes Nirvana, Queen, Fugazi, the Beatles, Weezer, Oasis, Archers of Loaf, Radiohead, Green Day and Pavement as some of his favorites and explains that coming to terms with some of the less appealing aspects of the music business may have played a role in his breakdown.
“The concept behind the album was being in a band, like mine, on an independent label at this time when all the majors are buying up the smaller labels. The independents preach against capitalism and conformity but then go to these majors. Part of that hypocrisy is being an artist and trying to rebel and be away from the mainstream, and you’re really just a tool. There is so much bullshit involved. I just went crazy. I had to come to terms with it to become sane again. You have to just love it, like, ‘This is life.’”
He has been navigating his way through the music business since Drive-Thru Records tried to sign him back when he was in eighth grade. His stay-at-home mom was adamant that he wait until he graduated high school. Bemis, who had always played with a band, was also put off when they asked to sign him solo.
After that, Say Anything continued to play as a band and record and sell self released CD-Rs. The labels kept making offers. The band started to build a grassroots following. The front rows were always made up of cute private-school girls, complete with pointy shoes, expensive bags and miniskirts.
Bemis, who went to Sarah Lawrence to study poetry for a semester while waiting for his drummer to graduate high school, says he’s not sure if he has been in love, but knows he had his heart broken. In fact, his first song, “Sappy,” which started all the buzz, was written for her.
His manager says he is a “ladies man.” He says he is “shy.” His mom calls him “a romantic.”
Since returning from the hospital in January, Bemis is back living at his parents’ house, a few blocks from the Grove, where he wakes up late and walks the family’s two dogs for money.
Their first show was in a soundproof room at Jorge’s mom’s house, where she runs a daycare center.
What do you mean, intense?
“I don’t know . . . what happens when you play music live? I think in Rainbow Blanket there is not a balance of being conscious and unconscious. We are not too aware of what’s going on when we play, it’s just like, an unconscious experience. Rainbow Blanket shows are improvised for the most part.”
Brothers Jeffrey Donald Witscher and Gregory William Witscher are Rainbow Blanket, a “harsh noise” band that has been together for about a year and a half. Their sound is an orchestra of feedback loops through distortion pedals, “circuit bent” keyboards, drum machines and delay boxes, dronelike single tones, audiotape loops of ambient sounds, live drums, and distorted vocals that come through a contact mike rigged up to a kid’s radio/walkie-talkie. Their friend, My Little Red Toe’s drummer Susan Estrada, describes the brothers’ sound as “just a lot of energy.”
Crawling around the carpeted floor of a Lankershim Boulevard rehearsal space, maneuvering their pile of wires and custom-made “instruments,” the Japanese/ German brothers are more audio-science geeks than rock gods. Their live shows can go as long as five to 15 minutes. Jeff, who is 20, says he wouldn’t mind playing a “super-short set if it was really intense.” Greg, 18, adds that they would end a set “if wasn’t sounding great”— like the time they played in the back yard of “some rich kid’s house” and “the sound went out and dissolved because there was no walls for it to bounce off.”
They consider themselves part of a good-size noise community in L.A., which includes such bands as The Cherry Point, John Weise and Pedestrian Deposit, all of whom they have played with, as well as Moth Drakula, with whom they self-released a split audio cassette last year.
They admit that noise shows are few and far between. “Once a month,” says Greg. “If you’re lucky.”
Up until recently they were a three-piece, but Greg’s boisterous 18-year-old friend, Jorge Sanchez, who played a reworked guitar with bass strings, decided last January to focus his attention on boogie boarding and karate instead of the band. Along with Jorge, gone too are the comical stuffed animal Kabuki costumes they were once known for.
“Their transition from having costumes to not having costumes, from being a three-piece to a two-piece, [has] thrust them into exploring new spaces, literally and conceptually,” says Brian Miller, who runs Deathbomb Arc and included Rainbow Blanket on their recent L.A. Bands 2004 7-inch compilation.