Paradise Vendors - "Prozac" (a.k.a. "Proloft")
(self-released [Spartie Records], 2003 / 2005)
Paradise Vendors were a short-lived New Orleans band, or dare I say supergroup, named after the fictitious hot dog company for which Ignatius J. Reilly worked in the novel A Confederacy Of Dunces. I read that book over 20 years ago and later unknowingly went to the same university (Loyola) as its author. The book has always annoyed me a bit, but it's undeniably a classic of Southern literature.
I first heard this song on WTUL in late 2003, under its original title of "Prozac." I was driving and had no cell phone yet, so when I got home I immediately called the station to ask what the song was. I knew it'd go down as a local classic. (This mp3 is from the impossibly-rare Music 1... demo EP CD-R.) In 2004 PV played around town a lot and in early 2005 put out their one and only album, Candy. It included "Prozac," but under the name "Proloft," presumably to avoid lawsuits, though the second name seems more likely stir up two lawsuits, if you ask me. The semi-rapped ending verse of the song reminds of me of the surrealist "eatin' cars" part in Blondie's "Rapture," and the song in general has a playfully quirky, genre-busting feel like that of "Rapture."
|Live in the crimson confines of Circle Bar on Oct. 26, 2004; photo by Jason Songe|
I saw a subtly brilliant performance by a local band called the Vivid Prawns in March 1998 at the Mermaid Lounge, with fellow locals Sage Maas (proggy alt-metal) and Zoom (lame retro power pop). The Prawns were basically a clone of The Sea And Cake (one of my favorite bands ever), and I was sure they'd get signed to Thrill Jockey Records, but they never released any official music, to my knowledge, and kinda faded away. If anyone has any Vivid Prawns music or info to send my way, please do so. They morphed into Veloka in the early '00s or perhaps late '90s. So if you know about the two bands that made up PV, you'll understand how they got their hybrid sound: smooth tropical stylings from the Vivid Prawns, and burlesque-y edge from Veloka. Paradise Vendors' bassist Dave Baker and drummer Elzy Lindsey were each in the Vivid Prawns and Veloka, as well as some band called Nuclear Choir.) I'm sure I'm making this sound way too confusing... So I'll put it this way: The bassist and drummer in any band comprise what is known as the rhythm section. The following three NOLA bands had the same rhythm section: The Vivid Prawns, Veloka, Paradise Vendors. And the synth guru from Electrical Spectacle, Anton Gussoni, was PV's secret weapon. Add the dynamic vocal stylings and fashion sense of Jeanne Stallworth and you have the final piece in the Paradise puzzle.
I don't have any clips of the Vivid Prawns, but here's one of Veloka at the Howlin' Wolf (now called Republic) in glorious 144p:
Since I think it's rude to embed more than one video per page, see another super-psychedelic clip of Veloka here.
Hidden under a "Read More" tab at CD Baby is a great trove of info about Paradise Vendors, so I will simply cut and paste some of it over here, in case that page ever disappears.
First is a bio, presumably written by the band members themselves:
"If the illegitimate children of Martin Denny and Nancy Sinatra grew up in New Orleans and they formed a band... or you played turntables with LPs by Brasil 66, Dick Dale, The Pixies, and Burt Bacharach simultaneously and all the tunes were in E minor... or punks play bossa nova in the Irish Channel... or The Cramps fell in love with Doris Day... You might have pop exotica space rock.
When bassist Dave Baker (Veloka [alternative rock], The Vivid Prawns [Asian pop rock fusion], Nuclear Choir [new wave punk]) and drummer Elzy Lindsey (Veloka, The Vivid Prawns, Nuclear Choir, Fucus and way too many more bands to mention...) met thespian and chanteuse Jeanne Stallworth, (The Foxy HooHoos), guitarist Robert Vicknair (Veloka, Frank [digital garage], Merkins [post punk]) and last but not least, Anton Gussoni (Electrical Spectacle) on Moog and Rhodes piano... the eclectic collaboration of Paradise Vendors was born."
Here are excerpts from some local reviews:
Bunny Matthews (OffBeat magazine) describes our music as "excellent."
Anthony DelRosario (Turducken Productions) says "Paradise Vendors blends gypsy, surf, new wave, moog stuff, cabaret, world percussion, trashy girl rock & spacey instrumentals into an otherworldly hybrid too eclectic to readily classify."
Steve Perrin (rock journalist) says "P.J. Harvey meets Marlene Dietrich."
Jason Songe (liveneworleans.com) says "The music was a soundtrack to an underbelly... The band's music exposed what was under the city's black veil."
Keith Spera (Lagniappe / Times-Picayune) describes Candy as "eclectic, adventurous and artful modern pop..."
Alex Rawls (Gambit) says Paradise Vendors' music "evokes the luxuriousness of artists like Les Baxter or John Barry."
Songe is the affable booker at the Circle Bar, and he used to run the aforementioned site liveneworleans.com, which was an invaluable resource for reviewing under-the-radar local bands in the pre-MySpace/Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter era. It has what are probably the only two detailed gig reviews that Paradise Vendors ever received, replete with photos:
Cafe Brasil (April 11, 2004)
Circle Bar (Oct. 26, 2004)
Last month I finally(!) got the original 2003 demo EP, Music 1..., whilst enjoying an in-store performance by What Moon Things at Euclid Records. Afterwards, I convinced the band to snag a used copy of Candy for a few bucks after I had a Euclid employee play "Prozac" on the stereo.
Planets with similar climates: Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra - "Some Velvet Morning" (1967), Moonshake - "Exotic Siren Song" (1996), Blondie - "Rapture" (1980), Bleach - "Surround" (1991), The Cardigans - "Carnival" (1994), Furry Things - "Burn For" (1997).