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Chick Graning knows about luck. The Knoxville-born singer-guitarist spent the late 1980s as a member of alt-rockers Anastasia Screamed, whom he met by chance on a bus shortly after moving to Boston. When that group ran aground, he moved to nearby Providence, Rhode Island, and formed Scarce, named after a Knoxville girl who had drunkenly driven her car off a cliff, almost killing her passenger - Graning himself.

One of the finest groups to surface during the post-Nirvana gold rush for underground American guitar-rock, Scarce seduced with venomously melodic riffing, tenderly bruised lyricism, and the boy-girl vocal interplay of Graning and bassist Joyce Raskin. Fresh off a successful European tour supporting Hole, Scarce retreated to Providence in summer 1995 and prepared for the release of their darkly brilliant debut album, Deadsexy.

"And that's when I had the aneurysm," remembers Graning, matter of factly.

Scarce had been due to rehearse on June 12 1995. But when Graning didn't show up and failed to answer a number of increasingly panicked phonecalls from Raskin, she drove to his apartment with drummer Joe Propatier (who'd joined only two days previously), and found her bandmate lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood.

"I woke up in hospital 18 days later," Graning says. "The nurses said I had an AVM, an arteriovenous malformation. It's congenital - a vein and an artery in the brain share a common wall, and when that goes, generally, you die. I was lucky to be found when I was having the aneurysm; Joe and Joyce saved my life."

Scarce's label, A&M, postponed Deadsexy's release until a year later, scuppering the momentum they'd already built. Raskin and Propatier rallied around Graning, performing acoustic gigs and arranging benefit shows to buy him a computer. In the meantime, the recovering Graning discovered the aneurysm had scrubbed his lyrics from his memory, so he relearned them all from the album sleeve.

Six months after the AVM, Scarce were back on the road. "But I was kinda numb," sighs Graning. "I was an emotional flatline for a couple of years - that's what the brain stuff will do to you."

"When Chick came back," says Raskin, "everyone wanted to say 'Oh look, it's a miracle!' But nobody - myself included - remembered that he'd almost died, and maybe he needed some time off. The label wanted the album out as soon as possible. It was very hard, because Chick always made the group's decisions. All of a sudden, I had to grow up, and I couldn't handle the pressure. I was only 24! My best friend had almost died!"

The group split late in 1997, after a series of miserable tours "doing circles in the midwest, playing to no one". Graning spent the next 10 years pursuing a low-key solo career and working as a stagehand to make rent. Raskin suffered a breakdown and moved back home with her parents, where she began writing about her experience in Scarce and her struggles with self-confidence. Aching to Be, her emotional autobiography, was published last year.

"At first, the writing felt like vomiting," she laughs. "It made me ill to go through it all again. But once it was finished, I didn't feel desperate any more." Upon the book's completion, Raskin called Graning for the first time in several years "to apologise as much as anything else. And we picked up right where we left off."

Their friendship rekindled, Graning and Raskin have reformed Scarce with drummer Propatier, and have recorded a batch of songs every bit as hauntingly, brilliantly off-kilter as Deadsexy, which they intend to sell over the internet. It's a surprisingly happy ending for a group so cursed with bad luck.

"The disappointment of Scarce was something I had to chew on for a decade," admits Graning. "But what can you do when something like that happens? It's so awful that it's funny. Like Charlie Chaplin fallin' off a piano, out a window and bouncing off a buggy across the street-type funny. You can't give into self-pity. You just gotta keep on truckin'."

• Scarce play the Islington Academy, London, on Sat 18th Oct

"Pop Music: Scarce is reclaiming the band for themselves"

Scarce was going to rule the world. The union of guitarist-singer Chick Graning, bassist-singer Joyce Raskin and drummer Joe Propatier came out of Rhode Island with some of the best rock of the ’90s — it had the emotional immediacy of that era without the usual angst, or the reflexive color-by-numbers sunniness, or any comforting retro touches. They hit hard but relied on melody and voices. They put out the Red Sessions EP, they signed to A&M Records, they recorded the killer album Deadsexy, and they couldn’t miss.

They missed.

They went through five drummers before finding Propatier, which set back their recording. Then there were legal problems with the label of Graning’s previous band, Anastasia Screamed. More delays.

And a week before Deadsexy came out, Graning suffered a brain hemorrhage that nearly killed him. He was in a coma for several weeks and in the hospital for longer. When he got out, the band struggled on for more than a year, but the stuffing had been taken out. The release of Deadsexy had been so star-crossed that the album flopped, and the group broke up in 1997.

They’ve been back together for a year now, their first reunion recording comes out next month, and Graning and Raskin both say that the reunited Scarce is in a better place than the old one.

The catalyst for the reunion was Raskin’s book about the whole experience, Aching to Be: A Girl’s True Rock and Roll Story, which came out last year.

Raskin, who lives in Braintree, Mass., with her husband and children and worked as a graphic designer, says she wrote the book because “I guess I couldn’t let go.” Not of the dreams of stardom that eluded Scarce, Raskin says, but the way things ended.

“Everything that happened with Chick, it was very difficult to make right decisions. I was really young — Chick was really young too, but I was really really young, and we had this record that had to come out, and all the decision-making was on me, and I guess I didn’t handle it too well.”

The popular story is that Graning had to learn to play guitar all over again; he says that’s not true. He had to look at the disc cover to remember his lyrics, but that was all. “I was only close to destroyed,” he says now; “I wasn’t totally destroyed.”

“He needed time to get his emotions back,” Raskin says. “It was amazing — his physical motor skills were all there, but he couldn’t feel anything. I guess that’s what the brain does to heal its body.”

Scarce was back on the road a month after Graning came out of the hospital. There was an album to promote, after all. It may have seemed courageous at the time, but Raskin sees it differently.

“I think it was courageous for Chick, but I think it was horrible. I know I treated him horribly, because I was angry and upset and confused. And he was confused. It was a mixture of things. But it just wasn’t right, and I knew it, but it took me about a year to act on it. In retrospect, I think I felt ill the whole time.”

Raskin describes her dilemma at the time: “ ‘If I walk away, am I destroying Chick’s dream? And if I stay, am I destroying where he is now?’ And it was tough, but in the end I wish I had said ‘Let’s just take a year off. Let Chick decide; it’s his decision.’ And it turns out, he needed more than a year — a couple of years really. Although he may tell you otherwise. But he’s so much the better for it, and I feel like I am, too.”

The band broke up in 1997 after Deadsexy didn’t light up the charts. “It barely came out,” Raskin says now.

“When I walked away, I realized that Chick needed time. And no one was giving it to him, including myself. And I think for a long time afterwards, it bothered me, the way I handled it. So the whole adventure of writing this book, I felt like I had to put it down to let it go. But it ended up taking me years.”

When she finished the manuscript, she called Graning. They hadn’t spoken for about five years.

“I called Chick and said, (in a tremulous voice) ‘I’m writing a book about us, and I want to make sure you’re OK with it.’ And I also said, ‘I wanted to call you and say that I’m sorry.’ I really wanted to say that to him, because, you know, he almost died. And nobody seemed to grasp that fact. And it was a miracle that he came back, but he couldn’t just jump back into that role that everyone was trying to put him in.

“I think there was a lot of hurt and anger there, but he was happy to talk.” She says he told her he would have made the same decisions. “There were a lot of factors,” she says, “and in the end I think I made the right decisions, but I think I could have handled it better and communicated better. “

It didn’t take long for Raskin and Graning to talk about getting back together. Graning, who lives in Allston and works in a metal shop, recalls thinking, “I never thought I’d get to play with this band again,” but says, “We both warmed to the idea of getting something together again.”

Raskin says she isn’t surprised that they clicked back together. “The band ended really because of his brain hemorrhage, not because we didn’t have more to do.”

They played their first reunion show last October at TT the Bear’s, in Allston, and their first new recording since Deadsexy comes out digitally next month. The five-song EP Heaven, Tattoos and Parades (parts of which can be heard online at scarcetheband) doesn’t exactly pick up where Scarce left off — it’s more like what they’d be doing now if they had never stopped.

The voices entwine as they always did, and there’s a renewed emphasis on melody and structure. Graning says that the new songs were written on acoustic guitars rather than in full-on electric mode, and they sound like it.

In between editions of Scarce, Graning says, his gigs included a weekly acoustic show in the French Quarter of New Orleans when he lived there, and “I kind of got into it. The fewer things you’ve got going on, the better the singing is.”

Raskin says, “We have this freedom that we probably wouldn’t have had if Deadsexy had done well, or even really come out at all. I feel like I was so insecure, I would have been like, ‘We have to keep it the same!,’ and everyone was like, ‘You have to do it exactly this way!’ Now we can experiment and we’re taking it in different directions. . . . It’s nice to not feel so desperate. I think we felt very desperate at times.”

While the massive tours are a thing of the past, Raskin adds that “we enjoy playing. And it’s definitely nice that it’s not our day job anymore.”

“It’s been neat,” Raskin says, “how this book has healed a lot of things. I’ve had a lot of people call me and say, ‘I didn’t know you were feeling that way.’ ”

As for whether the legendary onstage energy of Scarce’s live shows is still there, Graning says, “I don’t know; it’s about the same. I don’t even remember what I’ve done when I’m up there, so I couldn’t tell you really.”

That energy didn’t come from anger or repressed fear; it came from having fun. And Raskin and Graning say that that’s truer now than ever.

“It feels like it did in the beginning to me,” Raskin says, “which is why I wanted to do it and why I missed it. It’s fun, and we missed that toward the end.”

And they’re reclaiming the band for themselves.

“You have to,” Graning says. “Because it was a valuable thing to us all. And you have to find the things that are valuable to you and get them.”

Tomorrow night, Joyce Raskin reads from Aching to Be and Scarce plays an acoustic show at Books on the Square, 471 Angell St., Providence, at 7 p.m. Call (401) 331-9097. Then the band heads to The Blackstone, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket, for a show that begins at 10:30; call (401) 726-2181. - Providence Journal

"Born Again: The Return of Scarce"

When fondly remembered bands get back together, they usually say they're just playing a couple of shows and not thinking about the future. Not the case with Scarce, who play their first show in 11 years at T.T. the Bear's Place this Saturday. The band were close to a national breakthrough when they broke up in 1996, and they have every intention of getting there again.

We feel it's unfinished business, explains singer/bassist Joyce Raskin. Adds singer/guitarist Chick Graning, "This band deserves to put out a great record and to do some great shows, and we're going to make that happen. Why not? I'm never going to have another band like this one, and if we're going to get back together and do it, then we're going to really do it.

When fondly remembered bands get back together, they usually say they’re just playing a couple of shows and not thinking about the future. Not the case with Scarce, who play their first show in 11 years at T.T. the Bear’s Place this Saturday. The band were close to a national breakthrough when they broke up in 1996, and they have every intention of getting there again.

“We feel it’s unfinished business,” explains singer/bassist Joyce Raskin. Adds singer/guitarist Chick Graning, “This band deserves to put out a great record and to do some great shows, and we’re going to make that happen. Why not? I’m never going to have another band like this one, and if we’re going to get back together and do it, then we’re going to really do it.”

The pair are talking to me in the back yard of Raskin’s home in Braintree, where Graning — who recently moved back to his birthplace of Knoxville — has been crashing for the past few days. Joined by drummer Joe Propatier (the last of five drummers Scarce had in the ’90s), they’ve had their first rehearsal the previous night, and Graning reports, “It went a lot easier than it should have, and the harmonies were better than they used to be.”

Scarce had everything going for them in the early ’90s. Radio was opening up to punk-inspired rock with raw nerves and good hooks, and Scarce did it better than most. Graning brought a disheveled rock-star charisma and an underground following from his previous band, Anastasia Screamed. But what made Scarce was the palpable chemistry between Graning and Raskin. Only 20 when she joined, and a little in awe of her bandmate, Raskin threw herself into the live shows so hard that she had to put foam rubber on the underside of her bass to keep from throttling herself with it. On a lesser night Scare were a fine rock band; on a good night it they were a force of nature.

The band were invited to open the first leg of Hole’s Live Through This tour and were about to release their major-label debut (Deadsexy on A&M) when the bottom fell out. On June 12, 1995, Graning missed a rehearsal. His bandmates were concerned. They broke down the door of his Providence apartment and found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. He’d sustained a brain aneurysm, and they saved his life by showing up. Still, doctors gave him just a 10 percent chance of survival. “That was one time when my Jewish hypochondria paid off,” says Raskin. Deadpans Graning, “They were pissed that I missed rehearsal, and I’d better have a good excuse. I had a pretty good one.”

Scarce went right back to work after Graning’s three-month hospitalization, adding new songs to the delayed A&M album. Yet it wasn’t the happy ending they’d hoped for. “An experience like that kills your physical confidence and your confidence in the universe,” says Graning. He’s made a full recovery; as he points out, however, “The cognitive stuff comes back, but feeling like a human again — that’s difficult. So I was emotionally flat: I could see what I was doing, but I couldn’t feel anything — very much like being a robot. We’d be rehearsing, and the others would be looking for a reaction, and I’d be saying, ‘Sorry, I’m trying. Can’t feel it.’ We’d already had problems with lawsuits and changes of drummers, and the aneurysm was the cherry on top.”

“That period really broke my heart,” says Raskin. “For me the band was always an emotional thing. I fell in love with Chick’s music from the first practice we ever had. After the hemorrhage, it took years before he even felt like himself again, and the hardest part was to see him standing next to me but not relating to me. I got angry, which didn’t help, and it spun out after that.”

Neither did it help when the band played the usual no-glory showcases after Deadsexy’s belated release. Graning: “They weren’t mentioning my experience in the publicity, and I was thinking, ‘Go on, use it!’ They had us touring the Midwest playing to nobody. The last show was in Chicago, where we had 50 radio people standing there with their arms crossed. After that, I looked at Joyce and said, ‘You know what? I’m done.’ ” By the time they got a rave review in Rolling Stone, the band had already broken up. Graning says he never even read it.

Graning’s emotional recovery took a few more years. He says he cried for the first time when he saw Neil Young play a live version of “Powderfinger.” He moved to New York and formed a short-lived solo band, then made a solo album (Empty) that came out only in Germany. He drifted to New Orleans and played the streets in the French Quarter before returning to Tennessee, where he’d been doing stage construction. He’s been away from Boston long enough that he’s surprised when I tell him the Rat has closed.

Raskin took a different route. She wound up with a computer job, a husband, two kids, and a house in the suburbs. But her attachment to Scarce died hard, and this year she completed a self-published book, Aching To Be, about her time with the band. That led to her contacting Graning, and then to Scarce’s re-forming.

Songwriting is already under way for a new album. And the band hint that some of their pre-A&M demos may leak. Raskin is looking very much like someone who’s seeing her fondest dream some true. “For one thing, I’ve got my Chick back. And I’ve been away from this long enough that I feel like I did listening to the Ramones when I was 14 — just getting into it and having a ball. It feels like we don’t have to worry about making this what it was. Let’s just make it what it is right now.” - The Boston Phoenix


Tatoos & Parades EP (self-released through Tunecore)
Deadsexy (A&M Records)
RED EP (Big Cat)
Girl Through Me (self-released through Tunecore)



"Scarce sounded like all those parts of R.E.M. and Bowie no one is supposed to like. Scarce had such passion and self-belief it hurt."—Everett True/Live Through This—American Rock Music in the 90's

"On a lesser night Scare were a fine rock band; on a good night they were a force of nature".—Brett Milano/Boston Phoenix/10.07

Scarce released their major label debut, Deadsexy, on A&M Records in 1996 in followup to a domestic & international indie release, great press (they garnered a 3.5 star review in Rolling Stone) & extensive touring in the UK & US, culminating with an opening slot on Hole's '96 tour.

Scarce was poised for a national breakthrough in the late 90's when the lead singer sustained a brain injury a week before Deadsexy was to be released. Bassist Joyce Raskin wrote ACHING TO BE, a book about the experience that resulted in the band re-forming and playing their first-and sold out show in 11 years in Boston last year.

"Tattoos And Parades", Scarce's first reunion recording has just been completed; highlights include the melodically surrealistic pop waltz "Imagining It" and "Dust", a moving and jarring eulogy to their friend and highly regarded guitarist/songwriter Chris Whitely.

You can preview these selections and see/hear other Scarce music & videos at

RECENT PRESS: Providence Journal|The Guardian UK article |Boston Phoenix article |Boston Phoenix review of Aching To Be, Joyce�s book