The Loud Family
The Loud Family
The Loud Family was originally a side project of Game Theory, cult heroes of the 1980s college music scene and the brainchild of frontman Scott Miller. The group released several critically acclaimed albums before calling it quits after their final release in 1990. Miller’s music has a baroque flavor similar to the psychedelic music that began to appear in the mid 1960s from bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Byrds. The psychedelic sound was a result of early pop-rock musicians experimenting with electrónica and a variety of world instruments like the sitar. Michael Querico, of Three O’Clock and Jupiter Effect, coined the term “Paisley Underground” to describe this retro sound. Game Theory was among the three major groups playing this neo-psychedelic music in the ’80s; the others were Three O’Clock and Robyn Hitchock. Miller continues to push the boundaries and keep his music fresh with his latest releases with The Loud Family.
Miller was born in Sacramento, California, in 1960. His interest in music began at a young age. His first big performance occurred in 1972 when his junior high school chorus sang Christmas carols for then California Governor Ronald Reagan at the state capital. Miller’s next big moment in music came when he played guitar for his junior high stage band during the half-time of a Warriors game at the Oakland Coliseum. Miller describes his early musical influence as 90 percent Beatles and 10 percent Monkees. He explained the Monkees’ influence to Jud Cost of Magnet “They were an effective introduction to the blues.
That’s a really alien concept for a little white kid to grasp. When I was seven years old, I couldn’t understand gospel-based shouts like ‘What’d I Say’ by Ray Charles…. Those songs by Neil Diamond and Carole King translated blues ideology for me in a fluffy watered-down way—like what Pat Boone had done for Fats Domino in the previous generation.”
Miller formed his first band, Lobster Quadrille, in the late 1970s. Lobster Quadrille never released an album and was quickly followed by his second band, Alternative Learning, which lasted from 1979 to 1981. Alternative Learning issued two self-released records: the ALRN EP in 1979, and the full-length album Painted Windows in 1981. Alternative Learning’s original lineup included Miller’s long time drummer Joe Becker who later played in Game Theory and The Loud Family.
Miller formed his next band, Game Theory, in 1982 while attending the University of California at Davis. Miller explained the backwoods music scene to Gina Arnold of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Davis is the kind of place where being in a band means,’ Let’s all get together at the coffeehouse and jam….’ At any given time, there’s only like eight people there interested in rock and they’ll all be in two bands.” Steve Wynn of Dream Syndicate, Miller’s fellow Davis alum, was in the other band, Fifteen Minutes. The band’s name was derived from a theory developed by military strategists and was used in large scale ’war games’ conducted by the United States military.
Game Theory’s debut LP Real Nighttime was released on Enigma in 1984. The album earned some notice and picked up air time on college radio between the many punk and New Wave groups that were regular fair at the time. The album revealed the Beatlesque melodies that would mark most of Miller’s later work and begin his tradition of using somewhat vague lyrical references which were challenging to identify.
After Miller graduated from Davis with a degree in electrical engineering in 1986, he moved Game Theory north to the larger musical setting of San Francisco. The often overlooked Game Theory masterpiece, Lolita Nation, was released on Enigma in 1987. The album was an expansive two-record set that featured songs as short as 21 seconds and others that ran over six minutes. The album was a more experimental departure for the group fhap their previous releases. The album incorporated a variety of world instruments and some of Miller’s oddest lyrics to date. The album also contained Game Theory’s break-out single “Char-donnay, “which was on top of the college play charts. Game Theory released seven albums, two EPs, and one single, from 1984 to 1990. Critics of the group found Miller’s more obscure references in his lyrics and song titles to be pretentious. Critics also used the cliché ’too smart for his own good’ to describe their dislike of his albums that veered into a more experimental
Members include Joseph Becker (left group 1997), drums; Kenny Kessel (joined group 1995), bass, vocals; Alison Faith Levy (joined group 1997), keyboards, vocals; Scott Miller (born in 1960 in Sacramento, CA), guitar, vocals; Gil Ray (joined group 1997), drums; Zachary Smith (left group 1997), guitar; Paul Wieneke (left group 1997), keyboards.
Miller formed band originally as a side project to his band Game Theory; turned Loud Family into a full-time band when Game Theory dissolved, 1990; signed with Alias Records, released debut album Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things, 1993; released Attractive Nuisance, 2000; have released a total of six full-length albums and 17 EPs and singles on the Alias label.
Addresses: Record company —Alias Records, 10153 1/2 Riverside Drive Suite 115, Toluca Lake, CA 91602. Website —Loud Family Home Page: http://www.loudfamily.com.
sound that was less approachable than the established progressive pop music of the time.
When Game Theory fizzled out, Miller’s The Loud Family rose from its ashes. The Loud Family is an allusion to the amazing mid-1970s Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television documentary series The American Family. The Loud Family’s original lineup consisted of Miller on guitar and vocals, former Game Theory members Jozef Becker (of Thin White Rope) on drums, Gil Ray on recorder and temple blocks, new comers Zachary Smith on guitar, Paul Wieneke on keyboards, and R. Dunbar Poor on bass. The music was much the same as Game Theory but much wider in scope. Game Theory’s album Lolita Nation provided the clearest hint of the sound that was to emerge from The Loud Family.
The Loud Family debuted in 1993 with their first full-length album, Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things on Alias Records. The album’s name was taken from America’s song “Horse With No Name.” The album featured such hilariously titled works as “Ballad Of How You Can All Shut Up.” The album was produced by Mitch Easter who previously produced for Game Theory as well as early R.E.M. records.
The Family’s second full-length release on the Alias label was The Tape of Only Linda in 1994. The album showed Miller continuing to forge ahead into an imaginative sounds driven by loud guitars and rich Beat-lesque melodies. The tracks were more conventional than on the group’s debut album, featuring more individual and complete songs with a distinct beginning and end. Easter again took the production controls. Overall the sound was less studio session and more road seasoned like a band laying down tracks between live performances. There was a lot of raw energy, beautiful melodies, and intelligent lyrics that combined to help The Tape of Only Linda land at the top of many indie rock lists for 1994.
Issued in 1996, Interbabe Concern was The Loud Family’s next full-length release for Alias. Bass player Poor was replaced by Kenny Kessel, who joined the band in 1995, and Miller replaced Mitch Easter. Miller’s living room was used as a recording studio to cut production costs, but the album showed no ill effects from this cost-saving measure. In fact, the sublime pop melodies and raw edge are focused and perfected on Interbabe Concern. Full of challenging references, Miller’s quick and intelligent lyrics fill 19 tracks of raw power-pop that move in and out of his psychedelic world. The Alternative Press called the album “sprawling and ambitious, The Loud Family’s third full-length is damn near a masterpiece of beautiful pop.” Interbabe Concern received much critical acclaim and is considered Miller’s most accomplished work to date.
The Loud Family’s next release, Days for Days, continued to highlight Miller’s pop genius. Additional changes in the lineup saw the return of Gil Ray and keyboard player Paul Wieneke replaced by Shelly LaFreneire. Ray previously played drums for Miller in various lineups of Alternative Learning and Game Theory and again took the drums for Miller when Becker left the band.
Identifying Miller’s references had become a trivia game for fans and critics. “The title alone of ‘Cortex The Killer, ’ the first full-fledged song on Days for Days, is as good a way as any to divide intents and obsessions of Loud Family leader Scott Miller—classic-rock references plus a bit of Nabokovian-word golf… equals the pithy description of a mind turned against itself,” stated Franklin Bruno of the L.A. New Times about Miller’s lyrical range.
In 2000, The Loud Family released their fifth album on Alias, Attractive Nuisance. The release continued to show Miller’s ability to remain fresh and creative after three decades of music. Attractive Nuisance contains the poppy heart of Days for Days and the more experimental and edgy sound of Interbabe Concern. Miller allows his relatively new stable of musicians to be more involved than in past works. Alison Faith shows her vocal abilities on “Years of Wrong Impressions,” the song perhaps the least edgy of the bunch and possibly the best track on the album. All band members are credited with many of the compositions on Attractive Nuisance. Miller has found strength and talent with this current lineup which should help move his music from obscurity into the mainstream.
The Loud Family
Plants And Birds And Rocks And Things, Alias, 1993.
The Tape Of Only Linda, Alias, 1994.
Interbabe Concern, Alias, 1996.
Days for Days, Alias, 1998.
Attractive Nuisance, Alias, 2000.
Blaze Of Glory, Rational, 1982.
Dead Center, Lolita, 1984.
Real Nighttime, Enigma, 1985.
The Big Shot Chronicles, Enigma, 1986.
Lolita Nation, Enigma, 1987.
Two Steps From The Middle Ages, Enigma, 1988.
Tinker To Evers To Chance, Enigma, 1990.
Alternative Press, November 1996.
L.A New Times, June 18, 1998.
Magnet, October/November 1996; July/August 1998.
Melody Maker, April 3, 1993.
Musician, February 1988.
Option, March/April 1995.
Rolling Stone, May 13, 1993; July 8, 1993.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 1988.
Stereo Review, March 1995.
Washington Post, March 26, 2000.
Ink Blot, http://www.inkblotmagazine.com (December 30, 2000).
The Loud Family website, http://www.loudfamily.com (December 30, 2000).
Milk, http://www.milkmag.com (December 30, 2000).
Pop Matters, http://www.popmatters.com (December30, 2000).
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