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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Guppyboy -> The Essex Green - Chapter I

This is the beginning of a multi-part post on the history of Burlington's Guppyboy and the bands that it spawned. Each post will focus on a different musical piece of the puzzle, starting with Guppyboy, then exploring The Essex Green, Sixth Great Lake, Ladybug Transistor, Finishing School, and Mike Barrett's solo project. The intention is that we'll finish the puzzle in time for the release of The Essex Green's third full length - Cannibal Sea on March 21st. We'll see how many twists and turns there are to travel before we get to that final destination. Many many thanks to Bradley's Almanac and Mike D. for helping me get the history together.

Follow a direct line from the Velvet Underground, steer it through Palace Brothers and Cowboy Junkies, throw in a little psychedelia, a little yee-haw along the way, and you'll arrive at Burlington's Guppyboy. - SEVEN DAYS 7/30/97

Guppyboy was formed in late 1991 in Burlington, VT out of a friendship that started between Essex Junction high school buddies Mike Barrett and Chris Ziter. Guppyboy took shape during Mike and Chris' senior year at UVM with the help of fellow classmates Zach Ward and Jeff Baron. The main songwriting and vocal duties were shared between Chris (guitar), Jeff (guitar), and Zach (bass). Mike kept the beat.

From its first inception Guppyboy had a sound and urgency that clicked for many. With classic harmonies and psychedelia ala The Shins (who would emerge much later), they were equally addictive, challenging, and accessible.

The band left the area for Chicago in 1993, which lasted 18 months, before three of the four returned to Burlington (Jeff made his way to NYC). While in the Windy City they created a furry of tapes (a final count of 22 tapes were completed during their tenure). At home a friend got a bunch of Burlington musicians together to create a tribute tape entitled "Guppylove." The album's six bands, Chin Ho!, Hover, Jedd Kettler, Jesse Sargent, Spray 9, and PYG Roast, pay homage to the hometown heroes that went out to make it big.

Back in Burlington Guppyboy was tagged "one of the most creative yet underrated bands Burlington, Vermont has ever seen." They played hard and became the area's favorite musician's band. Jeff was still tied to the band - traveling up for recordings - but had joined Ladybug Transistor with his sister Jennifer. While with Ladybug Transistor Jeff met Sasha Bell, who in turn started traveling with him to Vermont in 1996 to play keys and flute with Guppyboy.

In 1997 the band started recording at Zach's house in Jeffersonville, VT. The scene was something akin to The Band's Big Pink sessions. Each of the band members wrote and sang lead on at least two songs, giving the final result, Jeffersonville, quite the varied but coherent sound.

Soon after Jeffersonville's release Mike and Chris decided to chase the dream again, this time moving to New York City with Jeff and Sasha. Knowing that Guppyboy wasn't Guppyboy without Zach, they started playing as the Essex Green with the addition of Silver Jews drummer Tim Barnes.

Click here for the Guppyboy website.

Click here to purchase Guppyboy 7" singles.

Big Heavy World lists Guppyboy's Jeffersonville available for purchase here. The Elephant Six related blog Optical Atlas has mentioned that despite the album's listing at many online cd stores, most places don't appear to have copies. To remedy this E6 Townhall's Lou2ser has made the entire album available for free download. Download the Jeffersonville zip file via Rapidshare here.

Click here for 16 Guppboy mp3s, sort of a greatest hits collection (but not the best quality).

Next up...Chapter II - the Essex Green.

Rani cassette tape -1992
Guppyboy - Fall.mp3

Guppylove tribute cassette tape - 1993
Hover - North Hyde Park.mp3 (Guppyboy cover)

Haci Baba cassette tape - 1994
Guppyboy - Fool.mp3
Guppyboy - Musician Mentor.mp3

Jeffersonville LP- 1997
Guppyboy - Wendy.m4a Link Removed
Guppyboy - Ball in the Sky.m4a Link Removed
Guppyboy - Snow Song.m4a Link Removed


  • At 7:47 AM, Anonymous MerchMikey said…

    Ah I see, The Essex Green and The VIllage Green ARE NOT the same act. I dunno could be a theme.
    Is there a Towne Green or Essex Faire?

  • At 3:45 PM, Blogger Tmoore said…

    the essex green have been one of my favorite bands for years, knowing that they came out of this town makes me feel like good things actually are possible. i hope they play up here when they tour for the new album. great article man.

  • At 10:36 AM, Blogger Jeff said…

    Thanks for writing these articles, they're fantastic.

  • At 6:24 PM, Blogger Michael Barrett said…

    Tup Keewah Recordings


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