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Lisa Mychols

For an artist without a great many credits to her name, Lisa Mychols made an impressive splash on the Los Angeles pop underground of the 1990s, especially with her band the Masticators. Once the new millennium had dawned and that vibrant musical community had begun to emerge aboveground, Mychols had developed into one of its most accomplished songwriters, taking an obsession with the 1960s and 1970s AM dial and updating the sound for a new generation of pop/rock addicts.

Aside from tapping out Gene Pitney songs on her junior high school desk, Lisa Mychols didn't pick up an instrument until she was in her early teens, teaching herself to play the bass guitar by parking herself in front of MTV. Her new skill soon led to a spot in the all-girl band the Mozells, which landed a gig playing on popular cable-access show It's Happening, a dance program on which Mychols, now going by starry-eyed pseudonym Jasmine Wilde, also spent some time as a dancer. (It's Happening was created by Domenic Priore, writer and critic of later Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! fame, and featured obscure '60s tunes and combos out of the city's Paisley Underground.) Through the show, Mychols also met Darian Sahanaja, and the two became friends over the next few years, occasionally making home recordings together (some of which would eventually end up on Mychols' first solo album).

While it would be a several years before she would put all her energies into a musical career, Mychols, now proficient on guitar as well, began teaching herself to write songs. This led directly to her entry into the world of recording via Lost Winter's Dream, a collection of Christmas songs inspired by the old-fashion seasonal pop albums put out by artists like Peggy Lee and Lou Rawls. With help from Sahanaja and Nick Walusko, both then in a nascent version of the Wondermints, the songwriter circulated the album on a limited basis toward the end of 1991. It gradually became, by word-of-mouth, a buzz album on the L.A. scene, even earning a brief release in Japan.

As the Mozells were on their last legs, Mychols joined another all-girl band, the Beatbirds, which in turn led to a role in Dreamworld (she contributed to their self-titled 1995 album), before she left in 1997 intent on starting her own band. After brief spells playing drums for Not Lame band Receiver and in the Sparkle*Jets UK, Mychols began churning out songs again, and taking whatever solo gigs she could score to help expose them, while also setting out in search of potential bandmates. With help from popaholic-about-town Robbie Rist -- at the time leader of local sensations Wonderboy and a member of the Andersons -- Mychols found bassist Severo, who hopped on board immediately. She quickly went through drummer Thom Sullivan of the Exies and ex-Plimsouls guitarist Eddie Munoz -- both forced to leave due to other band obligations -- before finally enlisting Patrick McGrath, guitarist from the recently dissolved Wonderboy, and convincing Rist to help out behind the trap kit. Newly christened the Masticators, the band began playing around Los Angeles to universal plaudits, earning fans in producer Steve Refling (Cockeyed Ghost, the Negro Problem, Natalie Merchant), who would eventually help to record their debut album, Masticate!, with Rist. They soon met esteemed critic David Bash, who invited the young band to play the annual International Pop Overthrow festival, and Gary Pig Gold and Shane Faubert, who introduced the band's music through the Unsound series on their label, To M'Lou, and would ultimately release Masticate! on the same in 2000.

Recording of a second Masticators album began in earnest the next year, but by the summer of 2001, the band had started to come apart with only half a record completed. They decided to lay low for the rest of the year, thereby canceling an East Coast tour. In the meantime, Mychols joined the band the Waking Hours on bass, while also assembling a shifting group of backing musicians and putting into effect a solo career. She contributed recordings to a plethora of tribute albums (Stiff Records, George Harrison) as well as working on the re-release of Lost Winter's Dream with Sahanaja. In the autumn of 2002, Mychols put out a split CD sampler with Gail George, a backup singer in her new band, as a teaser for an upcoming full-length platter, Sweet Sinsations. ~ Stanton Swihart
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