The Tryfles, along with the Mosquitos and the Fuzztones, were prime New York-based examplars of a phenomenon that came to be known as the paisley underground. In the early '80s, a small but aggressive…
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The Tryfles Biography

by Bruce Eder

The Tryfles, along with the Mosquitos and the Fuzztones, were prime New York-based examplars of a phenomenon that came to be known as the paisley underground. In the early '80s, a small but aggressive (and aggressively talented) cadre of young musicians and enthusiasts for '60s psychedelic punk music began making the music themselves, rather than just trading in the vinyl. The operant sound could be traced to a multitude of bands, including the 13th Floor Elevators, the Shadows of Knight, the Chocolate Watch Band, the Standells, the Electric Prunes, the Outsiders, and Count Five. It also turned out that there was an audience for this stuff, an almost even divide between teens and younger 20-somethings eager to experience a glimpse of the first conscious youth rebellion, as embodied in movies like Riot on Sunset Strip and multiple episodes of the 1960s version of Dragnet, and older hangers on seeking a whiff of '60s-style freedom in the increasingly sterile and depressing 1980s. Clubs like the Dive gave over many of their bookings to these bands and even the Bitter End and Folk City in New York began booking these acts. The Tryfles were a quartet of musicians/record collectors, sort of the Canned Heat of the psychedelic punk revival, except that they were more fun and no member of the Tryfles ever got as overweight as Bob Hite. Peter Stuart handled the bass and vocals and most of the musicological chores and musical archeology. Lesya Karpilov played a mean-sounding Vox guitar (hooked up to an amplifier that went up to "11"), she and John Fay alternated the lead guitar parts and both sang. Karpilov provided the punk sex appeal; Fay the comic relief; and Ellen O'Neil, a sometime model, played the drums. On-stage, their repertory was a mix of razor-sharp reconsiderations of songs made famous (or at least originally done) by the Pleasure Seekers, the Shadows of Knight, the early Rolling Stones, and the Monkees, among others, interspersed with originals that got better over the course of the band's history. Overall, the Tryfles sounded like a psychedelic punk melding of Goldie & the Gingerbreads and the Monkees, and they were nearly as funny as they were exciting to watch, their stage ornamented by the presence of their lucky stuffed bear "Gastric"; they were inventive musically as well (Stuart and Karpilov knew their music well beyond punk and psychedelia, with Fay not far behind), which led to their brilliant single (on the Midnight Records label), "Gloria in Excelsis Deo"/ "G-L-O-R-I-A," which turned more than a few heads in its original release and when it was included on the vinyl compilation A Midnight Christmas Mess. The members each had their signature tunes, Karpilov with "What a Way to Die," Fay with "Gospel Zone," and Stuart (who owned several dozen classic basses at that time, making him the John Entwistle of the psychedelic revival) with the Monkees' "Circle Sky." Unfortunately, their one album lacked the excitement of their live performances and the group splintered in the late '80s as the members got interested in other sounds and directions. Stuart is still in the music business, having co-founded the Headless Horsemen and played toy guitar with Pianosaurus, and more recently performed with the re-formed Chocolate Watch Band and worked on Bibi Farber's debut CD, Firepop. Fay later joined the Freaks and got into speed metal, while O'Neil became a member of the all-girl group the Maneaters, while Karpilov left the music business.

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