The off-kilter indie pop band Heavy Vegetable was the inaugural vehicle of Rob Crow, a prolific singer, guitarist, and songwriter who went on to form a dizzying array of alternate projects. Crow was a longtime devotee of rock eccentrics ranging back to Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, as well as Can, the Residents, and Devo, among others. In practice, Heavy Vegetable's music sounded more punkish, with a fractured pop aesthetic that brought the likes of Guided by Voices or the Archers of Loaf to the minds of some critics; early on, their music also bore the unmistakable influence of prog-punk outfits like Slint and Drive Like Jehu. Crow's surrealist lyrics and fragmented melodic gifts earned Heavy Vegetable an enthusiastic cult following in the mid-‘90s. However, in the first indication of the creative restlessness that would mark his career, he soon chose to move on, fronting a succession of bands that more or less followed the Heavy Vegetable aesthetic.
Heavy Vegetable was formed in Encinitas, California (near San Diego) by guitarist/singer Crow, lead singer Eléa Tenuta, bassist Travis Nelson, and drummer Manolo Turner. After a few split singles and compilation appearances, the band debuted in 1993 with the four-song EP A Bunch of Stuff by Heavy Vegetable, released by The Way Out Sound. Their style truly blossomed on their first full-length album, 1994's The Amazing Undersea Adventures of Aqua Kitty and Friends (on Headhunter/Cargo), whose brief, catchy songs wedded progressive, even jazzy musicianship (odd time signatures, complex harmonies, etc.) to geeky lyrics reminiscent of They Might Be Giants. The follow-up, Frisbie, appeared in 1995 and consolidated the strengths of its predecessor while moving farther away from the band's punk roots. Frisbie in particular won the band considerable critical acclaim, but unfortunately, they split up during the supporting tour.
Crow issued some solo material as one-half of a split LP with Lesser, also in 1995, and quickly formed a new band called Thingy in partnership with Tenuta. Thingy was Crow's main vehicle for the next few years, but he also recorded as part of the punky Fantasy Mission Force, the one-off solo project Snotnose, the kitschy indie-pop duo Optiganally Yours, synth minimalists Physics, and more straightforward indie rockers Pinback. In 2000, Headhunter/Cargo released a posthumous collection of singles and rarities called Mondo Aqua Kitty: A Collection of the Further and Final Unabashed Adventures of Heavy Vegetable. ~ Steve Huey