Figures On A Beach
Figures on a Beach list that Utah is a “Perry Como kind-of-place.” “The kids are so unjaded here,” says singer Anthony Kaczynski. “They’re not a bunch of skate punks.”
Apparently, most of Utah’s unjaded and skate punks missed Figures on a Beach when the band signed albums at Imagine Music, 107 N. Main, Bountiful, on September 18. The hundred or so who did make it found out the band members are quite unjaded. Indeed, Figures on a Beach is a polite band. “May we look at your record store?” guitarist John Richard Rolski asked the store owner. Keyboardist Perry Tell remarked on how beautiful the scenery is in this state and said he would love to go skiing here. Geez, these guys should be politicians.
Figures on a Beach’s self-titled second album for Sire Records certainly has a political bent. “Accidentally 4th St. (Gloria),” their current hit on Billboard’s Modern Music chart (number one on the KJQ playlist), is a blast at middle-class hypocrisy in dealing with the homeless. Other cuts on the album address abortion, drugs, unemployment, the environment and even the national debt. “We’re trying to write intelligent songs,” says vocalist Anthony Kaczynski. “We don’t want people to think techno-pop is a dirty word,” adds Rolski. But sometimes the message gets lost in the medium underneath the sheen of synthesizers. Drummer Michael J.F. Smith sums up the band’s approach this way, “You can play intelligent rock and roll and have people like it too.”
The night FOAB played at the Bar and Grill, no one seemed concerned about getting the message,but they did like what they were hearing. Most of the audience was on its feet during the entire night. The crowd was there to dance, and FOAB proved to be able messengers of high-energy dance music. Rolski’s guitar finesse gives the FOAB “techno-pop” sound a lot more muscle when they play live.
But a question lingers: Why would an “intelligent” band like Figures on a Beach cover a worn chestnut like “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet?” Kaczynski sets the record straight. “We didn’t do it to go top 10,” the singer says defensively. “We did it as a joke. But no one has gotten the joke. It’s a send back to the sexual revolution. [Randy] Bachman likes it. He’s probably wondering where all these royalty checks are coming from.” The song was originally going to go on a Sire compilation album featuring covers by up and coming bands on the label’s roster. “It was definitely done tongue in cheek,” says Kaczynski. “But too many people take it seriously.”
Those taking it seriously include hard rock stations across the country who love to play old songs by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Consequently, after seven years of paying their dues, the members of Figures on a Beach are finally being heard beyond the northeast. Figures on the Beach is currently on a 30-city tour of the country, which brought them to Utah. Why did FOAB stop in Salt Lake City? “It’s on the way to Reno,” says bassist Perry Tell.
Next question: Where did they get the name Figures on a Beach? “We got it from a Picasso painting,” says Kaczynski. “Three of the people in the painting look a lot like members of our group.” But the members of FOAB all look quite different. Singer Kaczynski resembles a lifeguard from a ‘50s beach movie. Rolski looks like a guitar hero from the ‘70s–ala Rick Derringer. Bassist Tell is a dead-ringer for Elvis Costello. Chris Ewen on keyboards resembles Phil Collins with more hair. And then there’s drummer Michael Smith. Dressed in his black leather cap and jacket, Smith could have easily been one of the thugs from “The Wild Ones.” Smith jokingly cites Ernest Tubbs and Andrew Ridgley as his major influences.
On stage, Kaczynski works up a sweat by the gallons. Wearing the jacket he got married in, the singer is aiming to be the hardest working man in show business (the other one is in jail). If there is any critique of the band’s live sound, it is a problem of sameness. Even catchy songs like “Accidentally 4th St. (Gloria)” and “No Stars” (from the band’s first Sire album) sound a lot like the rest of their tunes at the show. Missing is the subtleness of their song “Green.” At the Salt Lake City gig, FOAB played songs from their two Sire albums as well as some great stuff from their independent albums on Metro (the Metro records are now out of print and very hard to find). Still, if pump-up-volume dance music is what you want, FOAB delivers.