< Tossing It Up with Angry Salad

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Tossing It Up with Angry Salad

By Brian L. Knight

The band Angry Salad did not receive their name after eliminating the other choices of "Irate Greens" or "Pissed Off Caesar", but after an incident that guitarist/songwriter Bob Whelan experienced while his family was on vacation in the Virgin islands in the late 1980s. Whelan was drinking in the bar (underage, I may add) with his brother, discussing potential band names for Whelan’s high school band. After reaching a dead end, a voice from across the bar said: "How about Angry Salad". The source of the suggestion came from Queen singer Freddie Mercury who Whelan describes as the "man with the unmistakable overbite of the greatest frontman of all of the time."

Years alter, Whelan’s Carribean experience has persevered and the name has stuck for his present outfit. In addition to Whelan, Angry Salad consists of drummer Hale Pulsifer, bassist Brian Vesco and guitarist Alex Grossi. The band first came together in 1993 at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and they have been nurturing a slow yet steady rise to popularity and success ever since. Their latest single, "The Milkshake Song", has received favorable radio play up and down the Eastern Seaboard. As a result, Angry Salad has been busing playing concerts and radio shows, which amount to 200-250 appearances in a given year.

The Vermont Review spoke to guitarist/songwriter Bob Whelan who was deep down in Charleston, South Carolina, where Angry Salad has been playing radio shows with the likes of Better than Ezra and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. "Radio has definitely been really good to us – certainly not MTV yet," Whelan commented from a cellular phone, "but even more than radio though, we have a pretty strong grass roots network of people who spread the word on our behalf. This is an invaluable thing - for a baby band to have people who will step over their own mothers to tell somebody about the band." Despite the radio shows, Angry Salad really misses playing the live gigs. Whelan comments "We miss it. Sometimes I feel that the hour that we our on stage is we are productive members of society."

Although receiving steady radio play with the "The Milkshake Song", the boys are taking their popularity ascent with modesty. "The whole thing has been a great learning experience for us in that before we were signed, there were a wholes series of Catch-22’s: ‘It would be great if we could do this or that, but you can’t do that unless you are signed.’ Then we got signed and all of a sudden a lot of doors were open for us." These doors came in the form of preferred producers, radio play and shows. Even with these significant improvements, the level of intensity increased as Angry Salad went from competing for performance slots at local Boston clubs to competing for slots on major nationwide radio stations. "There definitely is a bit of a challenge and as an unknown entity in the commercial music world, we have a lot of work ahead of us."

Whelan continues with his appreciation, "It is very flattering to see that people are going out and buying the albums. It kind of blows our minds every week to see that somebody is willing to part with ten bucks." The album that Whelan is referring to is Bizarre Gardening Accident ( taken from the movie Spinal Tap. It was better then Choking on Someone Else’s Vomit) which is the band’s third release but their first on a major label. Since their first release, the EP Guinea Pig, Angry Salad has evolved tremendously. "We started to play our instruments better and we became better songwriters…….there is definitely more depth to the music. A lot of that just came from seasoning and doing things on the road and developing as artists."

Whelan works on the song at home and brings into the studio where each band member works on his individual part. An average Angry Salad tune takes a long time before it reaches a developed stage. The first song that Angry Salad ever worked out together as a unit – "Empty Radio", exemplifies this lengthy process. Despite its status as being the band’s inaugural composition, it made its first album appearance on Bizarre Gardening Accident – three studio sessions later! Whelan discusses the meaning of the song: "It speaks to us pretty well from a couple of different angles. In terms of the business that were are now in and it is a good way us to express ourselves musically." The band already has 1/3 of an album worked out for the next recording session.

Whelan grew up listening to the Beatles and the Mama’ and the Papas and the pop musical style never left his mind. Just like their 1960s predecessors, Angry Salad’s music possesses catchy melodies and hooks that appeal to just about any type of listener. "It is always a nice compliment when someone says ‘I cannot get "The Milkshake Song" out of my head, which is probably torture for them as a human being. But for us, it is nice to hear that the music sticking around with people. That is what we do it for, " Whelan adds, " we are playing music so we can share it."

"The Milkshake Song" is a story of a lost of love of Whelan’s who not only left him but also left him for the "other team". "It is kind of thing where you could write a triple album if that kind of thing happened to you. " Another song, "Coming to Grips", is loosely based on the same theme. "It is just lucky that it had any hook whatsoever. I think if I waited any longer, it would have probably become a dark brooding ballad about a spurned lover and an unrequited love song. But at the time, things were on the upswing."

One of Whelan's (and just about anybody’s) pet peeves is the phenomenon known as "one hit wonders." There are two many bands today that record one good song, but the rest of the album is crap. That is not the case of Bizarre Gardening Act "It is a complete body of work………We wanted to make a record that is solid all the way through." In addition to the a aforementioned tunes of "The Milkshake Song", "Coming to Grips", and "Empty Radio", Bizarre Gardening accident contains a version of Nena’s "99 Luftballoons." Besides the obvious nostalgic benefits of the song, Angry Salad likes the song for its Germanic qualities– "(we love) any opportunity to get the throw in the names of the members of the Scorpions." Other Angry Salad covers have ranged from the Jackson 5 to Charlie Daniels.

In addition to their radio shows, Angry Salad spent al lot of this summer playing with one of Vermont’s favorite bands – The Samples, who Angry Salad just loved playing with. "Fantastic guys. To us, they were real inspiration. Talk about grassroots," Whelan continued, "they have been able to, without the luxury of radio airplay or MTV love, arrive into a city and sell rooms out. Just by virtue of a grass roots network of people who are passionate for the band – real music lovers. Those are great people tour to play for our inaugural tour of the West Coast. They are not people who are attached to a disposable hit single, they are people who come out to see the band because they love them."

Even with 250 shows a year, the boys in Angry Salad do manage to make it home to Boston every now and then. It takes a while for the band to re-acclimate themselves to their home lives. Although the boys in the band miss Boston pizza, "sometimes my own kitchen table is one of my favorite places to eat." Whelan adds, "it usually takes me a couple of days of staring at the walls in my apartment to realize that I am not in a van surrounding by the same guys that I am around 24 hours a day – It usually takes a little adjustment."

Check out Bizarre Gardening Act on Blackbird Records and try to catch the band in one of its 200+ shows. Until then, keep on requesting "The Milkshake Song" so these guys can enjoy their steady rise to the top.  Find out more about Angry Salad at http://www.angrysalad.com