Feature Band: Bohemia


With the exuberant youth and passion of the artist, Bohemia put forth their rhythmic, sensual array of aural stimulus with professional ease and sincerity. Local to the Salt Lake scene, this tenacious group of individuals has been creating musical imagery since the band’s inception in the summer of 1987. Having performed in nearly 20 clubs and several area benefits, Bohemia are clearly a popular and influential band here in the land of Zion.

Russ Eastland—vocalist, guitarist and poetic visionary—is the prime mover of the band. His expressive imagery, through lyrical resonances, is at once emotional and eruditious, fusing various elements of poetry and symbolism. Eastland uses his voice as an instrument in itself, dreamily harmonizing with his colorful, powerful and, at times, experimental style of guitar work, which incorporates moving, melodic passages, colorful chord voicing and harmonics based on no other method than the ear of an artist and psychological ability. Soft spoken, yet clever and intelligent, Eastland carries his years profoundly. His lyrics and poetry speak of pleasure and pain and are an ambiguous, thoughtful reflection of the mind of their creator. Various illuminations shine through in perfect synergy with the musical flow.

In addition to contemporary influences, classical music and jazz have found their way into Eastland’s psyche. His poetical interests are diversified, as well. He cites Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and Jim Morrison as some of his favorite poets. Words are of the utmost importance to Eastland, insofar as accurately expressing thought. The psychological conditioning process, which we are all (arguably) subjected to, is one of communication. At the core of this, the written word lies, as a key of sorts to the inner world of consciousness.

The depth of Eastland’s thought is evident in the Oedipal relationship of the Blessed Virgin Mother and the Holy Infant, Jesus (a rendition of which is found on the cover of Bohemia’s first release). I asked Russ what he thought of the notion that art is, in essence, the desire to recreate the “oceanic” experience of being in the womb. He went on to comment on the direct relation of the mother’s heartbeat and the use of percussion as rhythm as the basis for music in virtually all cultures. 

Comprising Bohemia’s rhythm section are drummer Van Christensen and bassist Blair Sutherland, who lend their definitive styles to Eastland’s compositions. Christensen’s solid, grooving percussion bristles with primal rapture and syncopated off-beat in an explosion of expressive creativity. Considering that he also plays in the Colour Theory and Shadowplay, one can quickly reduce that Christensen really enjoys playing the drums. 

Sutherland plays with style and energy, complementary to Christensen’s and Eastland’s and his jazzy, liquid phrasing completes the Bohemia sound. As a trio, Bohemia perform with a presence that is both authoritative and friendly. Their music has the feel of high energy jazz; funky and melodic with interesting tonal coloring.

The band played, most recently, at the Sabbathon, which is where I had the good fortune of experiencing their show and later meeting Eastland, henceforth I proceeded to interview him. It was more like a philosophical potpourri than a music interview. We talked not only about his musical direction but also many other topics such as politics, religion, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. (This portion of the interview has, however, been censored). Since we were at the Sabbathon, I asked him what his feelings were about racism. He replied, “We are all part of the human condition.” We then talked about the negative effects of discrimination and prejudice. Russ also made a comment about the positive side of the issue. What could be positive about racism? It had occurred to me that much creativity of born of suffering, but Russ stated it very pointedly by saying, “The trinity of muses are agony, agony, and agony. The most divine poets will exist in hell.” Amen.

Bohemia will be releasing a CD shortly, and we can all expect the best from this unique phenomenon.

For more from the SLUG Archives:

Fugazi: The Second Coming

Tape Reviews July 1990