by Bill Lynch, Staff Writer
Under Surveillance has a new record out, “Savannah Moon,” a show Friday night at The Empty Glass and new hopes for rock ‘n’ roll success. The band is (from left): Phillip Hatfield, Randy Brown, Eve Marcum-Atkinson and Phil “X” Crace.
WANT TO GO? Under Surveillance with Of The Dell and Under Social
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday, March 11th
WHERE: The Empty Glass
INFO: 304-345-3914 or www.emptyglass.com
Singer Eve Marcum-Atkinson held up a bag of earplugs and said, “You might want these. It gets a little loud in here.”
It was good advice. Thirty seconds later, Under Surveillance tore into “99 Reasons,” the first track from the band’s new release, “Savannah Moon.”
In the cramped confines of drummer Randy Brown’s garage in Cross Lanes, the sound pushed against the sides of the room like the inside of a biscuit can. You could feel it gnawing on your bones as the band punched out the song and then went into another.
They probably won’t be so loud at their show Friday night at The Empty Glass, but it’s a bigger room.
A couple of decades past their teenage years, they look a little old to be a garage band, but they’re young enough to still be a good one.
Under Surveillance began almost thirty years ago with Brown, bassist Phil “X” Crace and Phillip Hatfield.
“We were friends in high school,” Hatfield said, “and we did the usual high school thing: We started a band.”
They were in the ninth grade, but the band didn’t last, and it reformed later as The Score, which was more of a punk outfit.
The Score did pretty well for a local band with some ambition. They even released a single LP on vinyl.
“That thing is a collector’s item,” Hatfield said. “We saw a copy on eBay going for $500. It’s not a month that goes by that we don’t get some kind of email or Facebook message from someone who wants to find a copy of that.”
They’re proud of the record, but they don’t have some secret stockpile of albums somewhere.
The album was enough to interest IRS Records, if briefly.
In the early 1980s, IRS was home to a lot of early independent bands, including REM, The Go-Gos and The Cramps.
Hatfield said, “They wanted to hear more from us. We had a recording, but they wanted a better one.”
The second recording never happened, and then the band’s singer left abruptly.
“We never heard from him again,” Hatfield said.
Eventually, the group disbanded. Brown, Crace and Hatfield all got on with their adult lives. They got jobs. Crace worked at a local auto dealership. Brown went to work for Bayer.
Hatfield did stage tech work at concerts and worked in the music industry for a few years.
“I got just deep enough into that to realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he laughed.
They didn’t keep in touch.
Eventually, Hatfield went back to school, got a doctorate in psychology and wrote a couple of books. There were marriages and children.
“But none of us was really playing much,” Hatfield said. “I did a lot of writing — song writing, that was my outlet for a long time.”
Finally, in 2012, Hatfield decided he needed to play again, but he didn’t know Brown’s number.
“So I showed up at his house,” he said.
The two began playing together that very night. Not long after, they got in touch with Crace, put an ad out for a singer and began rehearsing as Under Surveillance. They had a singer, but he didn’t stay.
“It was too much of an investment of time,” Brown said.
Not long after, they were approached by Marcum-Atkinson. She’d seen their ad for a singer.
Hatfield said, “Eve had mostly done blues, had been in different blues bands.”
But her voice really fit in with the vintage rock sound of the band.
They rehearsed, performed and recorded. Some of the record has been picked up by Factory Fast Records, out of New York, which included “99 Reasons” on a compilation CD that’s being distributed worldwide.
The band has an offer from the company to do more, including putting out another record.
“We already have the songs,” Hatfield said.
It’s not going to be superstardom, probably, but they think they can maybe find something good enough. They’re booking shows, many of them out of the area, and are even trying to check off a few boxes on a much ignored to-do list — places they’ve always wanted to play.
“We’re looking at booking a show at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia,” he said. “It’s the same place REM played, back in the day.”
They have a friendly local band in Georgia that will maybe share the bill.
“The main thing we’re trying to do is just get ourselves in position to open for larger acts,” he said. “That’s a good place for us.”
“We’d love to get on for Live on the Levee,” Brown said, “but how does anyone do that?”
Hatfield said, “We heard we don’t play local enough.”
They’re working on that, too.
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com, 304-348-5195, follow @LostHwys on Twitter or visit Bill’s blog: blogs.wvgazettemail.com/onemonth.
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