“Although Larry and Ersk were convinced that we could be a phenomenon, I think Michael and I just liked making neat noise. Larry did hit it on the head though, our music was escapist at times. I think that’s what made it attractive to us. ” -Nick DiMaria. Modest as this statement is, this was a band that, given a different climate in the music industry, could have been a phenomenon. Their sound and vocals formed a landscape and their charisma, an unforgettable presence.

Nick’s 2006 remix of “heavenly” (4.5MB)
Right Click and “Save Target As”

Late in 1990, Larry DiMaio and Michael Bolan were playing in a band called the Wayouts with Rob Cavanagh (guitar) and Chris (drums). Their cassette consisted of songs with titles like “Somewhere South of Passaic”, “Confessions of a Lousy Lover”, and “She Likes Pink”. The archly pop sensibilities of what would become schroeder are obvious, even on this crudely recorded 4 track demo. Michael had previously played in the Golliwogs with Mike Lenart (who would go on to form Caterpillar), Will Stack (who would form Love Seed Mama Jump), and Marcus Durant (who would form Zen Guerilla).

In the spring of 1991, the original line-up of schroeder coalesced with a pizza delivery (ham and pineapple) by Brian Erskine aka Ersk. He had played drums for a short time with Carnal Ghia, but his job as a delivery driver put him on the doorstep of the 15 E. Cleveland Avenue house where Larry DiMaio (vocals) and Michael Bolan (bass) lived and rehearsed. Along with Jerry Neill (guitar), the first line up of schroeder was set. A self titled cassette was released with four songs on it including “helena handbasket” and “la la love”, and the band played a few gigs, including an unofficial one on the steps of Old College. The band was hoping that they would be shut down by the university police (so they could make some headlines), but it didn’t happen. Shortly after that, Jerry left the band and they were in search of a guitar player to replace him. One evening in the late spring of 1991, at the Deer Park, they saw Nick DiMaria playing guitar in Jungle Juice with Ang Arena and Joe (who would go on to form the Nazarites). They asked him to join the band and that lead to, what is considered by all involved to be the quintessential line up of schroeder. They recorded a three song cassette which included “la la love”, “meltdown”, and “snow”. Nick remembers, “I credit the fact that we just seemed to play anywhere at any time. I guess our shows were very different than the punk shows or hippy festivals people were doing. We didn’t fit into any camp that was prevalent at the time. We kind of played pretty stuff, but loud with enough anger in live shows that all types responded to it. The anger was probably derived from different issues all of us had and were working out individually outside of the band. I also remember Larry being very very engaging at the performances between songs.”

They had started to play out and had won their round of the Chestnut Cabaret battle of the bands in Philadelphia. About this time a waitress and fan in the restaurant where Michael worked passed the tape to Rick Neidig (who became the bands quasi-manager), saying, “You have to listen to this!”, she also made him go see the finals of the battle of the bands at the Chestnut (which schroeder lost to a Scorpions cover band). Rick had recently moved back from New York City and had produced some demos in the area including one for a band called Document with players that eventually formed Boy Sets Fire and Grinch. He liked what he heard on the schroeder tape but noticed some issues with the recording. He offered to take the 16 track master tape and tweak the mix a little. The cassette was re-released and started moving copies at Rainbow Records and Wonderland. In December of 1991, Rick saw them play a show at the Deer Park. It was the first time he heard the song “Blue” and when the 150 people in the back room became 75 couples and slow danced to a local bands original tune, he knew he had to get them into the studio and record an album.

In January and February of 1992, the band recorded what would be their first CD. Sometimes called “butt shakin’ starlet”, the CD was eponymously titled and garnered notice from national trade magazines including the Harvey Report and CMJ. Only 1000 copies were made and the band considers it more of a demo than a fully realized album. Neidig started booking them at local venues in the region and they even played the Stone Balloon on a regular basis, which is truly saying something considering the cover band fare that was de rigeur at the Balloon. They pulled over a thousand people on the opening night of the Stone Balloon’s “Original Music Monday”, and even opened for the Knack there. For the next year or so, Dave Thomas joined the band on keyboards to help recreate live what Nick had added in the studio.

After the first CD was finished, Nick was hired at Sound Lab Studios as an engineer, which allowed him to bring the band in off hours and begin recording the tracks for what would eventually become “moonboy” (which sold over 3000 copies locally). While continuing to play out farther afield (The Metro in Richmond, VA; The Chameleon in Lancaster, PA,; and the Lion’s Den in NYC), an early tape of 6 songs from “moonboy” got into the hands of the President of IRS records and also TVT Records. Both labels came to Newark to see the band play live and had them up to NY to play in their offices for other label execs. The bands mix of influences (Mercyful Fate, Sisters of Mercy, The Monkees, The Association, and The Stone Roses), along with their ability to maintain a pop mentality had led to a live show that appealed to the serious musician as well as the pure pop fan.

“moonboy” was released as were two 7″ vinyl singles from the CD. They charted in CMJ weekly throughout 1992 (as high as number 1!). The band moved to Staten Island (it was either there or the UK) in 1993, to be closer to the labels and the NYC clubs that started booking them. The climate in the music scene, starting in 1992, however, was “Who is the next Nirvana?” and that mentality kept many labels wondering just how the “British sounding” schroeder fit into the bigger picture.

In early 1994, the band recorded “the popular nitro sessions” primarily at Clay Creek Studios. The album continued the progression of schroeder’s stylistic journey of pure pop and beautiful music but the beginning of the end was approaching for schroeder. The band moved back to Newark, but Nick chose to stay in NYC, traveling to Newark to work with the band. He had begun to follow his passion for club and dance music and NYC was the place to be. The distance and new focus of Dimaria caused tension within the band – eventually he left and was replaced for a few shows by Jason Kreuter (formerly of the Absurd and Freakshow) before schroeder officially disbanded in 1995.

After schroeder’s dissolution, Nick worked with Eric Teather in 1997 on what became Petland’s first EP , “Salad Days” with elements of it also on the first CD, “Antenna” . Michael and Larry worked on a demo for Big Girl in late 1999. “Wavy” Dave Thomas did a project a few years ago called “Dodecahedron” in which he did a version of “Blue”. Until very recently Ersk played drums in the Punky Brewsters and is currently a high school administrator. Michael has continued to play in Petland who is finishing up the 3rd Petland “top secret” album to be released in 2006. Larry currently works as a graphic artist/web designer; he worked on the official Speed Racer web site. Nick works for Columbia University in NYC as an interactive classroom designer.

Special thanks to: Rick, Nick, Michael, and Larry for contributions to this article as well as Gregor Alligator, Tom Dougherty, and Monika Bullette.

(l to r):Michael Bolan, Nick DiMaria, Larry DiMaio, Brian “Ersk” Erskine

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