My very first band that recorded and released an album, Yellow #1, gave the world our debut album, Bottle of Rain, 21 years ago this month.
I was in a thrash metal band called Vertical Smile for about a year (we only played 1 show and recorded a 2-song demo cassette), and I was way more into industrial and avant-garde music than thrash at the time. I was the drummer of Vertical Smile and really just wanted to be a singer, front man, and write quirky electronic music with a drum machine and synthesizer, with bits of real instruments thrown in here and there, accompanied by angst-driven lyrics and vocals. So, I quit Vertical Smile after our one and only show at Swampscott High School in Massachusetts in 1995 and bought about $2,000 worth of gear.
I didn't have a name yet for the band or even band members. I was at a Maids of Gravity concert in Boston, telling the singer, Ed Ruscha, about my nameless band while we were playing pool, and he hit the yellow #1 billiard ball into a pocket, stood, and said, "How about Yellow #1?" My first real band now had a name.
I started writing songs in my bedroom on an acoustic guitar and a drum machine (a Roland DR-5), while furiously writing lyrics. I wanted the music of the band to sound like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and Mr. Bungle, with lyrics inspired by Korn and Quicksand.
Over the course of almost a year, I wrote 14 songs for the album, playing every instrument myself, except for the guitars on "A Summer Dream." That was written and played by the guitarist for the band Enuresis Burn, Matthew Diglio.
Yellow #1 was offered our first show in 1996: the Middle East downstairs in Cambridge, MA opening for Turkish Delight; probably my favorite local band at the time. We were only getting a 10-minute slot. But here was the real problem: I didn't have a live band! Yellow #1 had been 100% me for the past year, writing and playing every instrument in my bedroom.
So, I put together the first live incarnation of Yellow #1: Christine Kelley (keyboards), Mark Sieczkowski (drums), and Dave Ouellette (known as Dogboy in my novel, Dreams Are Unfinished Thoughts, on percussion.) I played guitar and sang. My brother Paul was our first roadie.
After the show, I moved the band into a rehearsal space so we could practice like a real band, learning all 14 songs I had written for the album. Mark was also the singer of a local band called Tension and couldn't commit to drums fulltime, so after the first show, he left the band, and I recruited Dann Paciulan for drums, additional guitar, and additional keyboards. Dann became my multi-instrumentalist on stage. This lineup of Yellow #1 would continue throughout the next year.
After a handful of more shows, I felt the songs were ready to be recorded for the album. We recorded the album over the course of 4 months at Zigmo Studio, produced by Dan Tarlow. Dave and Christine wound up writing their own lyrics to 2 of the songs on the album, and everyone had vocal duties. Other guest vocalists included my mother; my stepsister, Lauren Sullivan; and the singer of Enuresis Burn, Mike Viccione. Because of how long it took to record the album, the studio was an open invite. We had friends and family in and out during the entire process.
The artwork was designed by Sean Carmichael (who also designed the front cover of my second novel, Welcome to Parkview), and Bottle of Rain was released in April, 1997. It received some interesting reviews in some national and local music magazines, and the song "Broken Eyes" was played on Boston radio station, WAAF.
Christine Kelley and Dann Paciulan left the band simultaneously, both being replaced by Jason Paul, who took over all the keyboard & synthesizer duties. We opted to eliminate live drums from the shows, so Yellow #1's new lineup was Dave Ouellette, Jason Paul, and myself.
Then we were asked to open for Godsmack. Dann was going to be in the area that weekend, so he returned to the band just for that one show, which allowed us to add live drums back into the set.
Eventually, Jason Paul left the band in 1998, and Yellow #1 was just myself and Dave Ouellette. We stopped playing shows and focused on recording 3 new songs for compilations we had been asked to submit songs to:
1) A Christmas compilation called A Drive-By Christmas, which we submitted a song titled "Dirt Blue Star's Third Christmas." I recruited bass player, Eric Park (who I would later be in the bands Drop Kick Jesus and The Grave Machine with), and Eric wrote and played keyboards and harmonica on the song, and I sang and played keyboards, and Dave and my mother sang the "Silver Bells" outro.
2) A Faith No More tribute CD called Tribute of the Year, which we submitted our cover of "As the Worm Turns." The incarnation of Yellow #1 on this recording was myself, Dave Ouellette, and Jenny Applebaum, who played electric guitar. (This would be the final thing Dave ever did with Yellow #1; he left the band shortly after recording this song. And this song was the only thing Jenny ever did as a member of Yellow #1.)
3) We were asked to record an instrumental piece for a compilation, and I wrote and recorded a song called "Peaceful Night." This incarnation of Yellow #1 was just myself playing a sequencer.
These 17 songs are what I consider to be the Bottle of Rain era of Yellow #1. Especially since our second album wasn't recorded for another 19 years in 2016.