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Camper Van Beethoven

Back in the day, before alternative rock was invented and indie rock was still shy of roots music and other folk elements, Camper Van Beethoven's merging of punk, folk, ska, and world music was truly a revelation. Singer/songwriter David Lowery's smart-aleck lyrics, delivered in laid-back California style, combined with Jonathan Segel's violin as lead instrument, were the band's instant trademarks. Decades after their inception, CVB's sound is still remarkably fresh and their influence on alternative music undeniable and resounding.

Self-described as "surrealist absurdist folk," the group had its beginnings in the summer of 1983 when Lowery and boyhood friend Victor Krummenacher (bass) started playing music together around Riverside and Redlands, California. Upon relocating to the Northern California college town of Santa Cruz, they enlisted friends Chris Pedersen (drums) and Chris Molla (guitar) to join the fold; Greg Lisher (guitar) and Jonathan Segel (violins, keyboards, mandolin) were added in 1985, and collectively they created a repertoire built on acoustic and electric, traditional and punky aesthetics. The band released their 1985 debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, on their own Pitch-A-Tent label; it was soon reissued by Independent Project Records, and thanks in part to the college radio success of the song "Take the Skinheads Bowling," it made the Top Ten in the 1986 Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll, as did their second album, the confusingly titled II & III, along with their self-titled third album, both released in 1986. In addition to punk and ska, II & III dabbled in lo-fi sounds, with touches of country (as in the original "Sad Lovers Waltz" and the twangy cover of Sonic Youth's "I Love Her All the Time"). The band's forte was its ability to switch styles, from Balkan folk to psychedelic rock on alternate takes and sometimes even within the same song.

The third album, Camper Van Beethoven, continued the thread, as blueprint CVB tracks like "Joe Stalin's Cadillac" and "Good Guys and Bad Guys" fused punk-inspired looseness with more sophisticated melody and rhythm patterns. At the same time, they were blowing minds and ears with their prog rock leanings (check their nearly note-perfect version of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive"). By the time of their Virgin Records debut (coinciding with the label's U.S. relaunch in 1988), the band took a more serious tack for its fourth album, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. With Molla gone by then, the group was officially a five-piece, though a cadre of friends assisted them at recording sessions, including producer Dennis Herring (eventually, touring guitarist David Immerglück, later of Counting Crows, became an honorary sixth member). Stretching out in larger studio facilities and experimenting with sound, Sweetheart was the first CVB release met with mixed critical response. Following the elegiac Key Lime Pie and amid creative and personal strife, the band (then featuring female fiddler Morgan Fichter in place of Segel) called it a night in 1989.

In the '90s, Krummenacher, Pedersen, and Lisher (with Immerglück) continued to play together in Monks of Doom, a mostly instrumental prog rock concern, as well as in other formations that sometimes included Segel. Segel released three albums as Hieronymous Firebrain from 1990-1994, and two with Jack & Jill for the Magnetic label. In 2005 he collaborated with Dina Emerson in Chaos Butterfly. Krummenacher has released six solo albums and has collaborated with Eugene Chadbourne, Bruce Kaphan, and members of Tarnation, among others, also released through Magnetic. Lisher has two self-released solo albums to his credit. In the wake of the band's dissolution, Lowery formed Cracker, by far the most successful of the post-Camper ventures; it served as a vehicle to keep him on the road as well as a way to keep Camper's name in circulation, though he kept a distance from his bandmates and left California for Richmond, Virginia.

By 1999, Krummenacher, Segel, and Lowery were reunited while compiling an unorthodox rarities collection, Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead: Long Live Camper Van Beethoven, a mash-up of rare cuts utilizing the band's back catalog. In 2002, they officially issued their song-for-song version of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, recorded on a lark in 1987. In the process of reissuing and archiving, the original members (sans Pedersen) quietly reunited for a handful of live shows and began work on a new batch of songs. In 2004 they released New Roman Times (a concept album about a Texas teen who joins the military, then leaves the ranks to join an anti-government militia), featuring all-original members including Pedersen on drums and original guitarist Molla sitting in. In 2008 Cooking Vinyl released Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty, a collection of fan favorites, followed by an all-new studio album, a concept album about Northern California titled La Costa Perdida, in 2013. Its sister release, El Camino Real, which focused on Southern California life, appeared a few months later in 2014. CVB continue to tour, often in support of alternative acts that have followed in their groundbreaking indie rock footprints. ~ Denise Sullivan
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: La Costa Perdida

1. Come Down The Coast

2. Too High For The Love-In

3. You Got To Roll

4. Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out

5. Peaches In The Summertime

6. Northern California Girls

7. Summer Days

8. La Costa Perdida

9. Aged In Wood

10. A Love For All Time

x

Track List: Popular Songs Of Great Enduring Strength And Beauty

1. The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon

2. Border Ska

3. Take The Skinheads Bowling

4. Pictures Of Matchstick Men

5. Skinhead Stomp

6. Opie Rides Again/Club Med Sucks

7. Eye Of Fatima Parts 1 & 2

8. Zztop Goes Egypt

9. Sad Lovers' Waltz

10. When I Win The Lottery

11. The History Of Utah

12. Seven Languages

13. All Her Favortie Fruit

14. Good Guys And Bad Guys

15. Circles

16. One Of These Days

17. Aimbiguity Song

18. Shut Us Down

x

Track List: New Roman Times

1. Prelude

2. Sons Of The New Golden West

3. 51-7

4. White Fluffy Clouds

5. That Gum You Like Is Back In Style

6. Might Makes Right

7. Militia Song

8. R 'n R Uzbekistan

9. Sons Of The New Golden West (Reprise)

10. New Roman Times

11. The Poppies Of Balmorhea

12. The Long Plastic Hallway

13. I Am Talking To This Flower

14. Come Out

15. Los Tigres Traficantes

16. I Hate This Part Of Texas

17. Hippy Chix

18. Civil Disobedience

19. Discotheque CVB

20. Hey Brother

x

Track List: Tusk

Disc 1

1. Over And Over

2. The Ledge

3. Think About Me

4. Save Me A Place

5. Sara

6. What Makes You Think You're The One

7. Storms

8. That's All For Everyone

9. Not That Funny

10. Sisters Of The Moon

Disc 2

1. Angel

2. That's Enough For Me

3. Brown Eyes

4. Never Make Me Cry

5. I Know I'm Not Wrong

6. Honey Hi

7. Beautiful Child

8. Walk A Thin Line

9. Tusk

10. Never Forget

x

Track List: Camper Vantiquities (2004 Remaster)

1. Heart

2. Never Go Back

3. Seven Languages

4. Axe Murderer Song

5. Sp37597

6. Crossing Over

7. Guardian Angels

8. I'm Not Like Everybody Else

9. A.C. Cover

14. Silent Monster

15. Porpoise Mouth

16. We Workers Do Not Understand Modern Art

17. We Eat Your Children

18. Six More Miles (To The Graveyard)

19. Ice Cream Everyday

20. Processional

21. Photograph

x

Track List: Key Lime Pie

1. Opening Theme

2. Jack Ruby

3. Sweethearts

4. When I Win The Lottery

5. (I Was Born In A) Laundromat

6. Borderline

7. The Light From A Cake

8. June

9. All Her Favorite Fruit

10. Interlude

11. Flowers

12. The Humid Press Of Days

13. Pictures Of Matchstick Men

14. Come On Darkness

x

Track List: Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart

1. Eye Of Fatima, Pt. 1

2. Eye Of Fatima, Pt. 2

3. O Death

4. She Divines Water

5. Devil Song

6. One Of These Days

7. Turquoise Jewelry

8. Waka

9. Change Your Mind

10. My Path Belated

11. Never Go Back

12. The Fool

13. Tania

14. Life Is Grand

x

Track List: Camper Van Beethoven

1. Good Guys & Bad Guys

2. Joe Stalin's Cadillac

3. Five Sticks

4. Lulu Land

5. Une Fois

6. We Saw Jerry's Daughter

7. Surprise Truck

8. Stairway To Heavan (Sic)

9. Pope Festival

10. Love The Witch (Camper Van Beethoven Version)

11. Pictures Of Matchstick Men (Fox Studio Version)

12. The History Of Utah

13. Still Wishing To Course

14. We Love You

15. Duex Foises

16. Hoe Yourself Down

17. Peace & Love

18. Folly

19. Intersteller Overdrive

20. Shut Us Down

x

Track List: Ii& Iii (Remastered)

1. Abundance

2. Cowboys From Hollywood

3. Sad Lovers Waltz

4. Turtlehead

5. I Love Her All The Time

6. No Flies On Us

7. Down And Out

8. No Krugerrands For David

10. Four Year Plan

12. Vampire Club

13. (We're A) Bad Trip

14. Circles

15. Dustpan

16. Sometimes

18. Zz Top Goes To Egypt

19. Cattle (Reversed)

21. Circles Dub

23. No More Bullshit

x

Track List: Telephone Free Landslide Victory (Remastered)

1. The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon

2. Border Ska

3. Wasted

4. Yanqui Go Home

5. Oh No

6. Nine Of Disks

7. Payed Vacation: Greece

8. Where The Hell Is Bill?

9. Wasting All Your Time

12. Epigram #2

14. Colonel Enrique Adolfo Bermudez

15. Vladivostock

16. Skinhead Stomp

17. Tina

18. Take The Skinheads Bowling

19. Mao Reminisces About His Days In Southern China

20. I Don't See You

21. Balalaika Gap

22. Opi Rides Again

23. Club Med Sucks

24. Ambiguity Song

x

Track List: El Camino Real

1. The Ultimate Solution

2. It Was Like That When We Got Here

3. Classy Dames And Able Gents

4. Camp Pendleton

5. Dockweiler Beach

6. Sugartown

7. I Live In LA

8. Out Like A Lion

9. Goldbase

10. Darken Your Door

11. Grasshopper

12. City Of Industry (Out Take)

13. Camp Pendleton (Demo)

14. Summer Days

Comments

Report as inappropriate
TIS THE SEASON TO TAKE THE SKINHEADS BOWLING!!!!! ! ! !
Report as inappropriate
bobonnitwit. . . . . . . . . . P F F F F F F F T !!!
Report as inappropriate
spamaway3
I still have their 1987 t-shirt Monterey Pope Festival from when John Paul came to Cali. Classic.
Report as inappropriate
It's just pretentious noise
Report as inappropriate
LETS GROW!!
Report as inappropriate
Might Makes right...they say that god is on our side, I don'y beleive them,
Report as inappropriate
where's jonathan?
Report as inappropriate
Criminally underrated
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joe.kalb
the self titled album is one of my all time favorites.
Report as inappropriate
Pictures of Matchstick Men is one of my favorite tunes of all time. I fell in love with the violin on that one.
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matt.mikkels e n
I'm not sure how widely publicized the admission was, but I believe they revealed a few years after Tusk was released that it was actually recorded in the early 2000. (The back story that it was recorded in the 80s when they were snowed in at a cabin in the mountains with their drummer nursing a broken arm was a joke.)
Report as inappropriate
This band will never get the credit they diserve. They are so fantastic.
Report as inappropriate
I like their music.
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im seeing them some time soon @ the mistic theator in petaluma california its a 18an up show, idk how much it is an when all i know for shure is that there playing!!!
Report as inappropriate
jsegel4
this bio and photo come from the allmusicguid e . c o m
they really need to update some stuff...
Report as inappropriate
"Just remember," she says. "I'm holding you responsible for all this"
Report as inappropriate
don1983
One of the best bands before Grunge ruined it all.
Report as inappropriate
Thanks
Report as inappropriate
Ah, you picked a bio picture without Jonathan in it? Urrrrr ...

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