L-R: Jeff, Barrett, Abby, James. I made them pose awkwardly behind the counter of a bakery/restaurant.
You know those songs that you just absolutely have to dance to whenever they come on? Well, when I used to frequent them fog-fueled goth nights on the weekly – OK, so I still go once in a while – two of those songs were 80s cold wave band Eleven Pond’s “Watching Trees” and “Portugal." Last Thursday, the band’s original members bassist Jeff Gallea and singer James Tabbi reunited for a Brooklyn show at Glasslands, taking the stage for the first time in 24 years. Wait, let me re-emphasize that: TWENTY FOUR YEARS. To put things in perspective, they haven’t played together since Reagan was president. They were joined by temporary drummer Barrett and synth player Abby (who are also my friends I’M SO PROUD OF YOU GUYS) to play all the hits from their 1986 album Bas Relief. Here's one of my favorites, "Portugal":
Before the show, the band and I went out to dinner at some trendy new place called Mercado on Kent, where I juggled a voice recorder in one hand while stuffing Caesar salad into my mouth with the other. I was so nervous and excited that I had to be reminded twice, “Kristen, chew first, then swallow, then talk,” and Jeff had to finish my salad for me in the end. During the band’s long hiatus, I thought they might have settled down with boring, menial jobs. On the contrary, James has made a career of doing something really important and complicated involving jet engines while Jeff is, well, revolutionizing the celebrity sex and leather industry.
VICE: Eleven Pond started in 1986, correct?
James: Yes, it started in 1986 with Jeff and myself.
Jeff: Or maybe it was 1886.
Ah, that must have been really innovative music for the 19th century.
James: Very. Jeff has all the historical facts. Anyway, our temporary drummer Barrett and synth player Abby joined this year for our reunion show.
Both of whom are amazing. So when you guys got together in the 80s, did you just dive into the music scene or did you have to juggle jobs to make ends meet?
Jeff: I was a graphic designer. I went to art school with all the guys from the band except for James – I met him in the club scene. He was some pretty boy slaying girls in the clubs so I lured him into singing for the band. He was the meat and I was the muscle. Or maybe it was the other way around [laughs].
James: I was a full-time college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology studying computation and mathematics with a philosophy minor. I didn’t have a day job.
Barrett: And in 1986, I was age seven.
Aww! How was first grade?
Never got detention.
Did you have a day job?
Well, my mom put me to work, that’s for sure.
Jeff: Had you seen Star Wars by that time?
Barrett: Of course! All three of them at that point, absolutely.
Jeff: See, that’s why we wanted him to be our drummer.
What was your dream job as a first grader?
I actually really, really wanted to be an architect.
Abby: I’m not gonna tell you where I was in 1986.
This is Eleven Pond in 1986. Jeff is on the far left and James is second from the right.
Fast forward to 2012. What are you guys doing now?
Jeff: I’m a leather designer for the Hollywood celebrity fashion scene. I once made a leather guitar strap for Sheryl Crow that had “NO WAR” written on it. That project kind of launched the line.
Do you have your own brand?
Yes! You can find my designs at jeffgalleabelts.com. Sometimes, I make sex harnesses and sex beds.
James: Jeff used to own a club in Rochester while we had a band and the night club was pretty typical but in the upstairs area there was a centerpiece: a crazy big sex chair. There was nothing else up there except for this sex chair – made in leather, of course.
Hold up. What the shit is a sex chair??
Jeff: It’s this chair that’s spring-loaded with arm clamps and you can adjust how wide the arms go. Once the girl’s strapped in you can get the machine bouncing at a certain speed – rapid spring, slow spring...
Get out of here!
I’m not kidding! And then there’s a platform where the guy stands.
James: That’s how you got into leather.
Jeff: Yes, actually.
James, earlier tonight Jeff told me that you are the CEO of a large and evil corporation involving magnets.
James: No, no, no…
He also said that you’re a Republican.
Hey, I’m just telling you what I heard.
My name is Magneto! No, but I am the COO of a small company called RAF Tabtronics that does electronics manufacturing for all types of different industries – medical, commercial, industrial, aerospace. We make little parts that help planes fly.
That sounds complicated.
You’ll find our parts in every single jet engine.
Barrett: Now that I’m not seven years old anymore, I stumbled into an engineer career in television broadcasting. Basically, when you’re at home watching TV, it’s because I said so. I control automation, sending the signals out to the satellites, anything associated with television I help make happen.
Abby: Aside from being a student, I work in information technology at NYU and I do sound for Le Baron. I also intern at two places: Harvestworks, where I do audio and events, and the other internship is for a certain famous musician.
James and Jeff playing together for the first time in 24 years at Glasslands. Photo by Joshua Chang.
What’s a job you would never want to go back to?
Jeff: I worked at Kodak in the chemical film coating department. I worked in pitch black but every once in a while the red lights would come on and when I looked down, everything was covered in cockroaches.
Ew! I just got chills.
They like the gelatin coating. When the lights were off, they would come out of the cracks and when the lights came back on, they would hide again. I pulled cockroaches off all day long. It was a horrible job. My dad got me that job, probably as punishment.
Ha, I hope you didn’t do anything to deserve that. You’ve had some horrible roaches to deal with but have you ever had to deal with horrible people at a job?
Yes, when I owned a club I had to babysit drunks all the time. They threw up on me, they threw lawsuits at me... I had go to jail because I served drinks after 2 AM. One time I went to jail because a girl got beer cracked over her head even though I wasn’t involved in that at all. I got arrested and sued all the time in the late 80s.
James: I never had a bad job but I was a sound engineer for a professor who was studying deaf audiology. It was bizarre because it was just sitting in front of a computer for hours, breaking things into micro pieces, and analyzing them. But the job got me into sampling and I was starting to get into electronic music at the time so it all kind of worked out.
Have you had any bad bosses?
Never, but maybe I’m a horrible boss [laughs].
Abby: The hardest gig I had to do was rebuilding a patchbay. Soldering is tedious but mindless. It took a long time and I got kind of high on the resin that’s in the solder.
What happens when you’re high on that stuff?
I left my cell phone at work, I lost my credit card, and I fell asleep. It’s not recreational in any sense. I think I was poisoned. Also, at the studio I work at, the pipes burst and it was infested with feces.
Barrett: My worst job might be my first job. My brother used to work at a toy store called Kiddie City and you know how Toys R Us has Geoffrey the Giraffe as its mascot? Well, Kiddie City’s was a kangaroo. I used to dress up as that kangaroo and walk around the store saying hello to kids. I also accidentally tripped a lot of people with my tail.
That’s a pretty cute worst job. How old were you?
I was ten at the time. I was just going there to hang out with my brother but they were like “hey since you’re here, why don’t you put on this costume?” I give a lot of credit to those mascots because it’s so hot inside. The best part of the job was getting a lot of hugs from a cute girls. Of course I was ten so I didn’t really appreciate that at the time.
What’s happening now that you guys are reunited?
Jeff: Well, we’ve been working on some solo projects. There is talk of re-releases on Wierd Records and Dark Entries. Eleven Pond was pretty short-lived in the 80s.
Did your passion for leather get in the way?
It’s kind of funny because I started making guitar straps for musicians – Ron Wood, Lenny Kravitz – then I did some leatherwork for Brad Pitt in Troy. For some reason doing that stuff made me want to go back to music.
Do you get to meet the celebrities you make them for?
What’s the weirdest leather request you got?
The sex stuff was bizarre. I made a weird leather belt slash cell phone holder slash vulva spreader for a certain famous heiress. Here’s a picture of her wearing it…
[Chokes] Do you want the rest of my salad?
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