The Banana Convention
Gig Seeker Pro

The Banana Convention

Saginaw, Michigan, United States | SELF

Saginaw, Michigan, United States | SELF
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"The Banana Convention: Six Years of Songs and Fun"

On Saturday, February 27th, the Banana Convention will take the stage at Bay City's Arlington, the same stage where they played their first show six years ago. The anniversary has given original member Monte Nothelfer the opportunity to reflect on all the band has faced, from a changing cast of band members to an East Coast tour to CD releases. In fact, he has recently taken to write a "History of the Banana Convention," which will tell the complete story in four parts, three of which are already written and available online.

Among his favorite moments, Nothelfer cites winning the Westown Battle of the Bands and getting to open for Foreigner at the Bay City River Roar in front of 10,000 people in 2005. He also mentions the two years they played on Warped Tour, in Pittsburgh in 2008 and in Detroit in 2009, plus their recent East Coast tour where they played Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia and NYC. He sums up his favorite times as "any time we go on the road," but quickly adds, "Really, just the fact that we still get to do this on a regular basis and that people still come out to watch us play is amazing."

The Banana Convention dates further back than their first show at the Arlington in February of 2004. In 1993, Nothelfer began playing in a band under the same moniker. "The band name came from an episode of The Brady Bunch," he explains. "It was the name of a band that Greg Brady joined in the 'smoking is bad' episode. It originally started as a gimmick, a complete joke, really. We were doing the '60s/'70s bubblegum pop thing in punk rock clubs in a sort of Andy Kaufman-esque bit. We did cover songs by bands like The Monkees, Ohio Express, and The Archies." Chris Howard, who plays drums and sings in the current band, was also a member of this original incarnation which lasted about a year.

In 2003, Nothelfer and Howard began discussing the possibility of doing a reunion show. Joining Nothelfer and Howard for the reunion shows were Bil Barrett on vocals, Jeff Cottrell on bass, Drew Sampson on guitar, and Aaron Haefele on keys. After playing three shows, the band broke up that December. However, the Banana Convention then came together as a whole new band with Nothelfer and Howard remaining, but now Josh Jekel was on guitar, Melissa May and Shar Molina shared vocals, and Matt Harvey was on bass. While still trying to stay true to the '70s bubblegum vibe, the band began to write their own songs. "Over time, the gimmick washed away," explains Nothelfer. "We did more and more originals, and we became a 'real' band."

The band has seen members come and go, and Nothelfer claims they've had 39 different members during the course of their entire existence, though he admits the number is a bit inflated since it includes a few people who just joined them on a single occasion to fill-in. When Jekel and May left the band in 2007, the Banana Convention made the conscious decision to move away from bubblegum pop and re-invent themselves as more of a rock outfit. However, it was important that the band maintain the fun and energy of what they had been doing for the previous three years. Anyone who has attended a Banana Convention show knows what kind of a high energy performance the band delivers.

The current line-up of the band has Sean Drysdale on bass and Jake Voisine on lead guitar joining Nothelfer, Howard, and Molina. Joe Balbaugh is a part-time member who joins the band on trombone and guitar from time to time. The band usually arrives dressed in all black and sporting bright yellow neckties. The stage show seems campily choreographed, with Nothelfer and Molina in constant motion, marching and bouncing around the stage. The shows are upbeat and polished. Covers of The Monkees and Ohio Express have been traded for covers of The Cure and Talking Heads, though the band does mostly original material now.

In 2005, the Banana Convention recorded a five track EP, Ghetto Diamonds. Then in 2007, shortly after guitarist Ray Torres joined the band, the Banana Convention recorded their first full-length album, Dirty Negatives, which they quickly followed up with Freeze Dried Eclectic Singles, a seven track EP. They also recorded a live album at White's Bar for Ray Torres' final show with the band, as he left to pursue his other projects and focus on his family. Once Voisine joined the band, they recorded Taking Back the Fun, which has sold out, but the other albums are available for sale through CD Baby, Amazon, and the band's website.

While the band is looking forward to returning to the Arlington and looking back at the past six years, they still have their sights on the future. This spring they will enter a studio to record a new album to be released this summer. "Once that's out, we will be focusing on a huge push of that and of us, trying anything we can to make that next step beyond a local/regional band and into a more national touring back. The American Dream, and all that," says Nothelfer. The main plans are to "continue to get out there and play, trying to get in front of as many new people as possible and get out music out there."

"Banana Convention Rocked the Hidden Camel!"

Some of the most talented musicians and performing artists are from right here in Michigan. From Motown to Madonna and Eminem, Michigan has cultivated some of the biggest industry-changing artists. The up-and-coming band from Saginaw, Banana Convention, is one to be sure to remember. They played for their first time in Lansing at Oade’s Hidden Camel in Reo Town. Banana Convention has performed all over the country, and played on the Van’s Warped Tour for three years. Consisting of five members, they have powerful energy on stage and play with youthful enthusiasm. They say they are a mix of No Doubt, B-52’s, and the Presidents of the United State of America, and I would have to agree with them. Their set was a mix of originals, and popular cover songs.

Over the years, Banana Convention has stayed consistent with their goal of featuring the best talents of all of their members, with Shar Molina, current lead vocalist, being the 40th unique member of the band. Their polished, professional and strong sound made me feel like I wasn’t listening to just an ordinary, out-of-tune band. The vocals were prominent, the instruments crisp, making Banana Convention a class-act. During sound check they made the proper adjustments quickly but not being satisfied until it was perfect.

I’m glad Monte Nothelfer, the percussionist, invited Lansing Rocks out to see them perform. I have never seen anyone shake a tambourine with such volcanic style as Monte. I could watch him for days. He even gave me some cowbell! Lead vocalist Shar Molina is absolutely stunning. Warm, with a vibrant personality, her vocals are amazing. She has an incredible range. Her energy is electric, jumping and dancing around the stage with each song. You have no choice but to just be in the moment, enjoying every single note put out by the band. Jake Voisine had me laughing from the moment I said hello to him. He’s got a great sense of humor, and his guitar skills are incredible. Sean Drysdale is a talented bassist, with some of the quickest fingers I’ve ever seen. It was mind-blowing to watch him play with such wild abandonment. Chris Howard had the whole crowd dancing to his complex beats on the drums.

When you go to see The Banana Convention, be sure to get their banana-shaped thumb drive with their four albums on it! There are live recordings on there as well! It’s a great way to keep the party going long after the final set is over.


"The Banana Convention: Still Growing After Four Years of Music"

The Banana Convention:
Still Growing After Four Years of Music

By Jay Taylor

Growing up, they say, is hard to do.

Growing up, and growth is difficult. Most transitions in life are difficult.

But as the recent 4th anniversary performances by The Banana Convention at the Empire Club on the 22nd and White's Bar on the 23rd attest, it can be worthwhile.

The Banana Convention is a band in transition. After the loss of two members and the addition of the inimitable Ray Torres, it is a band of talented individuals seeking to understand exactly who they are, and what it is that they are doing.

Which isn't to say they've stumbled or taken a step back. Instead, this transition is more of a thoughtful pause in the studio before taking the next step in an evolution. Any true growth is a degree of movement away from roots. This band does not deny their pop-bubblegum roots. In The Banana Convention's case, they embrace their past, and now, with a degree of openness regarding song material amongst the band-mates, the band finds itself reeling at the prospects of free will.

Some people don't like the prospect of unlimited horizons. They prefer the safe definition of walls, or, as Monte Notellfer would say, (in a phrase that came up repeatedly in our discussions) 'being pigeonholed'. It's comfortable. Easy. And also stagnant. So while not every song on the rough demo of the EP was an out-of-the-park home run, there is something new developing. Something organic.

And with a little luck, just maybe a few hits.

The Banana Convention, by their own admission, is a cast of characters. Chris Howard plays drums, and he does it well. You wouldn't really recognize him as a victim of social anxiety when you see him on stage as Fletch Bohanski. His partner on the bass in the rhythm section is Shawn Drysdale, otherwise known as Pooder.

Shawn is a nice guy with a dry sense of humor and excellent timing, which informs his wit and his musicianship well.

Ray Torres plays lead and rhythm guitar. Ray is a quiet sort - a perennial nice guy, who, although reserved, when he finally decides to open up, has a lot to say. Still waters run deep, and in those still waters is a man who truly cares about music and approaches it with fire and skill.

Then there is Shar Molina, the Mighty Afrodytee. Shar is an exotically attractive vocalist, a bit guarded; yet still a genuinely nice girl.

And finally we have Monte' Notellfer, Mr. Oily McBride, Jr. Monte is a thoughtful sort, definitely the taskmaster of the group, who adds vocals and percussion to the mix, as well as a boyish sensibility that balances out the band.

It's also worth noting that his dog bites, which I found out when I went to go sit down with the band to discover where their collective heads were at lately in a wide ranging interview that focused mainly on a new-found, hitherto unknown openness in the band regarding song-craft - a sort-of soul searching process of self identification which is producing their latest EP and album.

Review: Where do you see The Banana Convention in 2008?

Shar: Hopefully, everywhere [laughs]

Monte: That's a good question; actually, one we haven't discussed. I think we're going to be focusing on completing a few recording projects, the EP of course, a live album, and a new album. That's pretty ambitious just in the recording, then getting out, making a trip out east to New York and back...and just getting out and playing...

Review: Do you have a release date for your EP?

Shar: Its probably better that we left it open this time, because we set a release date for the album we have now, and it was rushed. It deserves time.

Monte: The EP should be done very shortly and it should have songs on it, I think. Then the next album, there's no date on that. We have a bunch of original songs. We're going to let this album grow on its own, rather than say it HAS TO BE DONE on this date

Chris: I know we have plans to shoot three videos...

Pooder: Where essentially they make fun of me.

Chris: Only in the one, right? Or are we going to do that in all of them. We're going to roller skate in one

Pooder: and I'm probably the *only* one that knows how to roller skate so...

Chris: so then you get to be the only one that DOESN'T get to, so you don't make us look bad!

Review: Do you have a title for the EP?

Monte: I believe the title is 'Freeze Dried Eclectic Singles'...I don't know if anyone but Chris knew that. It's a collection of songs that didn't make the album, or we finished right after the know, no flow, a collection of b sides and singles.

Review: How would you characterize the difference between your EP and the upcoming album and your previous work?

Monte: ...oooh, who wants to take that?

Chris: I think the EP is...for me, anyway, a wistful wave to where we were before, because its happier, more upbeat kind of stuff.

Pooder: Very pop oriented.

Chris: Very poppy, catchy, riff oriented stuff - very simple, stripped down songs, but they're good songs and they're the kind of stuff you wanna listen, and there's something on there for everyone to grab on to, but the album, is...its...a lot tone...

Chris: There's going to be a very big balance of light and shadow in this one, whereas its all been light before, and now we can do whatever we want, and it seems like everyone is going through a ridiculous amount of strife at the moment, so where better a place to get rid of it than in songs, pretty much half the stuff we have is...

Shar: Fierce.

Chris: Yeah, it's fierce, and its getting stuff off our chests we wouldn't normally talk about. You write in metaphor.

Pooder: There's a few songs that are starting to creep up that are...bubbly

Chris: Exactly, exactly...anybody can write an album that's all angry, or all sad, but when you throw in, the mix that we've got, happy songs, goofy songs, fast songs slow songs, its just trying to find a way to make an album 'listenable' from beginning to end as a cohesive piece of work.

Pooder: Not a cut after cut after fun song/sad song - all our songs do tend to mesh. Our material now is based on all of us working together, because we're all writers, we all have ideas, now that we're all throwing them into the arena its kind of an interesting period of hating each other for ideas you really like, but they don't, but also saying 'alright, your idea is better, I gotcha'...

Review: Sort of like an 'idea-cock fight'.

Pooder: That's where the best stuff comes from, because if everybody just agreed, it would be boring and flat. It would be very flat and there wouldn't be much to it. But right now everyone can come in, whether you have music written for it or not, and relay an idea. Like 'Fabrication', Shar came in with some lyrics, I wrote some music, and then Ray really drove it home by making us play it better.

Shar: It was practically an acoustic...a slow acoustic song, but it really turned a lot.

Monte: The song...the lyrics are kind of moody and depressive, and the music is...not.

Pooder: Its almost an early nineties kind of rock...its kind of like stone roses meet bad religion.

Review: Would you guys say you're moving away from the family friendly sound or...

Shar: No, I think we can still play shows for kids, and I'd love to, I haven't done it in awhile. It's a good feeling.

Monte: We still don't do anything offensive, we're still a fun band, we still keep the same vibe we had before, but we're just doing different things musically. Everybody is able to throw in their ideas, instead of being stuck in this one bubble gum pop framework, Now its wide open to do whatever we want to do.

Chris: We do have some filthy songs we haven't done anything with, like 'Do It Until We're Done Doing It'.

Shar: O GOD

Pooder: 'Blow Up In My Face'.

Chris: YEAH, 'BLOW UP IN MY FACE', that one, too, that's a break up song. Well, it started out as a break-up song...but it ended up as a metaphor for...

Review: Yeah, that's totally not going into the article. But that's cool.

Monte: Put that right after where we say we're still family friendly.

Review: It sounds like there' s enough creative tension to get some work done, and the vibe I get from you guys is positive energy and a group of people that genuinely like each other. There seems to be a lot of harmony in your group...
where does this come from?

Shar: I think we just work well together

Monte: I think it's the fact we're open to doing whatever anyone wants to do. If Shar shows up and wants to do this, we're not going to be turning it down because it's not in this certain field.

Shar: It also has to do with the fact that we spend a lot of time together.

Ray: We're not going to dodge any songs. We're going to keep it open and try to create something beautiful with it.

Pooder: Out of all of us, Ray has the most positive attitude, no matter how bad it is, he makes you feel better about it.

Chris: Ray is our den mother.

Review: So you might say that your sound has matured? Or you're taking yourself more seriously?

Ray: Sure it was always serious, but now its...more...a family...and we want to keep our options open, and become as diverse as possible. I want push Chris to do an Afro-Cubic drum rhythm.

Shar: And maybe I could learn to yodel.

Ray: The possibilities are endless. And we can make it happen.

Review: I noticed in the past you were militaristic about wearing the yellow ties and black shirts, whereas now you guys have seemed to have gotten away from that

Pooder: No, it turned into a joke.

Monte: It turned into the pigeonholing thing because we were a bubblegum band, and we were going for a certain sound, a certain feel, sort of like a cartoon band come to life. When Ray joined the band and when the lineup changed, we decided to drop that.

Ray: I did wear the tie once. Halloween.

Monte: And its still part of playing the part, getting into character, because we still do play characters. This is Shar, but on stage she's the Mighty AfrodyteeŠ there is a difference. And Fletch Bohanski is obviously a different character...

Chris: And also, for me, putting on Fletch Bohanski is a lot like the difference between Peter Parker and Spider-man. If I'm at a show, I'm Fletch Bohanski and that's all there is to it, and Chris Howard is not there, and that keeps the focus off of anything else. I've changed a lot since I joined the band. But in the beginning the altar ego was a way of dealing with social anxiety. You couldn't get me out of the house to save my life. I wouldn't go to the store, or to the movies unless I was with somebody. Like with playing shows, I had a reason to be there. It was like acting. I was playing a part, I'm the drummer. We all picked names, and I thought 'that's great; I can put on this persona of a person who likes being here and doing this. You get to be yourself, only bigger.

Monte: It's you turned up ten notches.

Shar: I think it's all really interesting, but at the same time, music should be pre-planned. Its a free form thing and has to simply happen, otherwise it doesn't feel organic.

Pooder: I just wanted to make Meatloaf jealous.

Shar: We finally figured out that didn't really work.

Monte: In a certain point of view it worked, we got our notoriety from that, the oldies covers, girl band, the sixties girl band.

Chris: And we were happy! We opened for metal bands. And we smiled the whole time.

Review: Would it be appropriate to say that your new album is drawing on you, the person, rather than you, the character?

All: Yeah. Definitely. Absolutely.

Monte: We're all going through our personal things, and drawing from personal experience. More than silly songs, that *I* write.

Chris: We're just evolving into something more, something better, something additional. It's like we grew gills. We can fly, and breathe underwater now.

Review: Tough question: I noticed you don't have a whole lot of shows coming up, any reason for that?

Monte: Right now we're working on new stuff and focusing on that. I'm booking March and May plus an east coast tour. We're finishing up the EP...we just want to have new stuff. We played at Whites, and we just want to have something new the next time we play there.

Chris: We have 15-17 new songs stewing right now, that we want to get out. Between all of us, there are at least 2 albums in us, right now.

Pooder: I want to do something where we have a large catalog of music, where every show is new and different, not just the same set list re-arranged
There's no slacking when Ray's around. But then again, Ray doesn't slack or rest on his laurels. When everyone takes a break, he's sitting down, figuring it out again.

Monte: We've had ray in the band a year now.
We've changed so much. The first two practices Ray came to, we were playing 'Rust-Belt', and he started playing his solo, and me and Chris looked at each other...'this is gonna' work'.

Review: So the change you guys have gone through has helped you open up and you're like Banana Convention 2.0?

Monte: We developed our name and got the notoriety from what we were doing before, and now we're just taking it to the next level. And once Ray came on board, it brought new people. What we were doing before...some people didn't like it, honestly, and it wasn't FOR everybody. And now its more open, and diverse, with a little something for everybody.

Review: Is the song lineup finalized for the EP?

Monte: Yeah, a bunch of b-sides that didn't make it, 'Oooh-lala', 'Han Solo', 'Grand Illusion', 'Crush', and Ray's song 'Eugene'. Oh, and 'She makes It Easy'. And then I wanted to record one of Shar's songs, just her and her guitar. And we've already got five songs lined up for the album. Come to our shows, and have a good time. People that haven't heard us, come out and give us a chance, check it out, because we are different.
How about this, I'll put out a guarantee that if anybody new comes out to the show, has not seen us in awhile and does NOT have a good time - maybe you won't like the music, but at least you'll have a good time, and if you tell me you didn't have a good time and you're honest about it, I'll buy you a drink. SO you get a free drink! Come to the show and you get a free drink if you are honest and if you tell me you didn't like it.

Pooder: Well, I hope you start making money.

Ray: Are band members are eligible?

Monte: Come out with an open mind and give us a chance, and if you HONESTLY do not like it, let me know - Review Magazine

"Mighty Meet You In Utmost Surprise"

The Banana Convention has defied all odds by shaking off its bubblegum image to become one of the most intriguing rock hard bands in mid-Michigan. Never mind the pretense of the un-hip, these cats are evolving anti-bourgeois bohemian warriors that create music that transcends three chords and 2/4 beat.

Led by ringmaster Monte Nothelfer, the BC sound is now enveloped by Shar Molina's soul-stirring vocals and Ray Torres iconic guitar work. You have to believe your eyes and ears. This band will take a hold of you and squeeze all the juice outta the juke joint and leave you beggin' for more. The motion in their music rocks you into cozy daisy chain of good vibes and hot lovin' that you can't resist…don't even try.

The Banana Convention is touring the region and are readying an outdoor Summer Fest A Go-Go scheduled for 2pm at White's Bar on June 21st. The show is a 12-hour marathon of the best original music in mid-Michigan featuring a diverse set of artists including Gust, The Cartridge Family, Debbie & the Formfitters, Appearance & Reality, Holy Gun, The Honky Tonk Zeros, Smiley Face, the Mongrels and the unbelievable Bazooka Jones – featuring Viagra and Bullethead Jones, the most alluring and talented rock couple since Jack and Meg White did the hokey pokey and left Robert Bradley on the dance floor with his whole self in at the Eastern Market.

The Banana Convention open and close the show and will feature songs from their new EP, "Freeze Dried Eclectic Singles".

It marks a detour around the predictable and features some unexpected treasures, such as the thunderous metal rocker "She Makes It Easy" (sung so well by resident genius Chris Howard), the white lightning machine gun heat of "Fabrication", as well as the quiet introspection of Shar Molina's "Great Divide", where she channels Janis Ian through Alanis Morrisette in a most delightful way.

"Grand Illusion" is an all-out group effort that sends out a relentless rockin' kiss-off to all the pop star pretensions from the Mick Jagger School of androgynous stage poses and spastic dance steps. They honed and fretted and toyed with the song for about 8 months and their live performance will no doubt offer a unique arrangement with fresh thematic variations.

Resident guitar genius Ray Torres switched gears when he wrote "Eugene" and has been playing it for several years with a number of different bands. The BC version is absolutely astonishing, a beautiful ballad with elusive lyrics that hint at an underlying message of redemption.

"Ooo La La" was written back in 2003 and is one of my personal favorites. It possesses a cool B 52's vibe with great energy and an upbeat caterwauling instrumental backdrop that recalls the best of the early sixties girl groups. It wins me over every time.

Molina wrote "Crush" as a joke but it's more than just a sugary pop confection 'cos it dives straight into the hot excitement of all that boy/girl stuff when the promise of love is new and mysterious.

Monte Nothelfer, the grand wizard of ID, indulges his interest in Speilberg science fiction with "I Wanna Be Han Solo", a rockin' tour-de-force that is an absolute gas and a hoot of the highest degree.

This is a document of a band becoming itself, bidding farewell to the past and embracing the future while celebrating and accepting all of its triumphs and occasional sorrows.

Don't miss their heat when BC unleashes the best music in mid-Michigan at the Summer Fest A Go-Go June 21st, in the year of our cultural renaissance.

Bo White - Review Magazine

""We Finally Got It Right""

Five years after it regrouped for a reunion, 39 members later, The Banana Convention is, well, the top banana in its game, said bassist Sean Drysdale.

Catch Drysdale and bandmates -- percussionist Monte Nothelfer, drummer Chris Howard, singer Shar Molina and guitarist Jake Voisine -- in action Saturday, April 4, in an all-ages show at Old Town Saginaw's Hancock Theatre. You also can give them a listen Saturday, April 11, at the Saginaw On Stage Music Festival at the Apple Mountain Resort.

Saturday, they play Bemo's in Bay City, and they return Friday, April 10, to an old haunt, White's Bar in Saginaw, for the release of their live album.

"We finally got it right," Nothelfer said of the recording, "mixed and ready and a lot of fun."

That's because no matter how much things change, he said, The Banana Convention always is about fun.

"We're not always playing the '60s bubble-gum music anymore, and it's not always a pop sound," Nothelfer said. "But we've evolved; we have a more mature sound now."

Despite the sudden spate of local dates, The Banana Convention stands on the brink of bigger things in its live performances, too. Playing on the musical network developed around the country, the band will head out this summer on a 10-day tour of 10 major cities along the East Coast. And they are waiting to hear if they have a spot again this year on the national Vans Warped Tour, hopefully in Detroit this time around.

Of the many bands that come to Saginaw at their invitation -- and host them in cities as diverse as Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. -- "We try to treat them well and hope they do the same in return," Nothelfer said, "We play with anybody, even if they're not exactly like what we do"

"I don't think that's possible," said Howard, who first joined forces with Nothelfer in 1993. On a more serious note, he added, "it's tough in this area. You have your metal bands, your punk bands, your acoustic bands -- it's all over the page ..."

But it is the '80s nostalgia bands finding most of the work, Drysdale said. That's why places such as Hancock Theatre and its openness is a welcome addition to the scene, Nothelfer said.

"Like Madonna, or Michael Jackson, we keep changing our faces," Molina said, and former band members such as Ray Torres leave their mark on the music The Banana Convention makes. Actually, Nothelfer said, many come back to join them for old time's sake.

"We're lucky to find the people we have as we turn a new page," he said. "Our focus today is more on areas outside of Saginaw, and recording our studio album."

"We want to be a national act," Molina said. "Who knows? It's not where we are now -- we've had our ups and downs -- but we keep coming back for more. We weren't so serious before, our music was not solid, but we developed a following that really digs us."

"Now we're just honing our craft. We're ready to make the personal sacrifices, and hope for a little luck."

Then there is Nothelfer's three-piece banana-yellow zoot suit, and Drysdale's Captain Morgan stance and Howard's ever-present lollipops as he kicks the smoking habit.

"People notice us for all of those reasons, and they come back to see what's happening," Molina said. "There's always at least one small group that shows up out of curiosity, and we grab a few new faces."

"We're a lot more approachable now. We know how to communicate. We're still here."

Sue White covers entertainment for The Saginaw News. You may reach her at 776-9601 or e-mail her at - The Saginaw News

"Dirty Negatives Review"

The Banana Convention’s been happening for awhile now and they have weathered more poundings than a catholic girl’s camel toe at high school band camp – it’s more than music being laid down in them woods, mother…
“No one will see us, c’mon over here…under the tree
But…ah…do you have any protection?
Umm…ah …no - but I’ll be careful
You sure?
I promise –I just need to be with you…I…ah…I loooove you
You do?
Ouch, put down yer flute, will ya
Ohh, I’m sorry…ok
Move your elbow
Ouch, that hurts!
How do you unbuckle that damn razzamfraszzzam
Here let me…
Ohh baby…
ohh baby…yes, oh YES
Oh baby…babybabybaby…OH YES…OOOOHHH - oops, sorry.
But the natural state of reality is change and BC has evolved with a series of events that unfolded and brought a welcome new energy into the band. Sometimes things get stale and this quality of stasis becomes a signal to another crossroad - an opportunity to let go and open up to the moment. It’s a state of mind that doesn’t disparage the past or idealize the future. Dirty Negatives is part of a dialectic of creativity and change. The music is edgier and rocks hard and heavy at points yet still retains elements of that early 60’s girl group sound that enamored so many of Banana Convention’s early fans.

The addition of one of Ray Torres, one Saginaw’s most innovative guitarists, no doubt boosted their musical capital and between Shar Molina’s husky soulful vocals, Monte Nothelfer’s excellent songwriting, the multiple talents of drummer Chris Howard and the surprisingly fluid and powerful basslines of Sean Drysdale the Banana Convention has a tight stripped down lineup that is ready to rock. The musical focus is no longer bubblegum – though that is always a worthy goal – it is an updated amalgam of styles and approaches that range from Motown to classic rock and experimental sounds. This is a time of possibilities…

The disc opens with Creed, a piece of ambient sound and fury that developed from a cool Sean Drysdale bass line and some heavy metal guitar slinging from inimitable Ray Torres. It recalls the tonal landscape of 7 O’Clock News/Silent Night, a mid-sixties effort by Simon & Garfunkel - though it seems closer aligned to Revolution #9, a Beatles’ experimental montage engineered by John Lennon. In the final analysis Creed is unlike either of its famous cousins, in that it speaks to BC’s self-doubting musical humility and its courage to observe itself as a good set-up band that can get the crowd moist and ready for the next act.

Cool Bus is a punked-up road trip song with a strangled lost-key vocal by Monte - and it’s just sloppy enough to make it real…Perfect! This is BC fulfilling the prophecy of the late/great B-52’s with just a touch of inspiration from the mods and rockers of the early-to-mid-sixties.

Friday is one of my favorites ‘cos it takes me back to the early days of rock n’ roll when I was listening to my mother’s Ronettes records. It hearkens back to a more innocent time that wasn’t innocent at all…it was just hidden - and every once in awhile when I heard Ronnie Spector moan ooh, oh, oh…I wanted to know more. Fridays’ updated girl group sound is sure to get people on the dance floor doin’ the bend it and shakin their groove thing. Shar Molina’s earthy singing takes the soda shop and varsity sweater to a more emotionally vulnerable hue and cry due to a lyrical theme of unrequited love. She sounds like a funkier Madonna circa Say a Little Prayer and has the pluck and pipes to make it real and break your heart..

Sugar Buzz combines a soulful Motown musical backdrop with red hot bubblegum leeeric that holds the lovin’ promise of Yummy Yummy. The buzz is more than just sexual release….it’s about love. And it’s irresistible.

The Telephone Song is a phenomenal 50’s style romp that recalls the theme of Billy J. Kramer’s modest hit, Little Children, that bemoans the presence of your best girl’s siblings ‘cos sometimes they’re in the way but if you play it smart and treat ‘em nice you just might win her heart and fulfill your wildest and sickest dreams. Every bubblegum song has a Sheila in it, right? But this one has a Danny too. There is a fine line between bubblegum and the West Side Story lovelorn juvenile delinquents. I love the verse - short and to the point- nothing else needs to be said:
“Danny let me talk to Sheila
Put your sister on the Line”

For Your Love is pure pop confection crafted by Graham Gouldman (of 10CC fame) back when he was just a wisp of a lad and it caught the ear of famed producer Giorgio Gomelsky who was working with the Yardbirds at the time. He took them kicking and screaming into the studio to record their first and most lackluster hit of their career. The Yardbirds hit version of the tune gave it legendary status as the reason Eric Clapton quit the band and created the musical impetus for him to form Cream. The rest is history…though Clapton would resurface years later with a version of I Shot the Sheriff so bereft of the energy and conviction of the original that it makes For Your Love sound like screamin’ EMO. The BC version gives it a new lease on life and a renewed sense of purpose. Shar and the boys take For Your Love from a place of shame to a rock n’ roll redemption. Molina’s soulful vocal anchors a sensual charm and gives it a warmed up groove that far surpasses the original.

She Makes it Easy is a rockin’ still-the-one love song that speaks to the everyday life of coffee and small conflicts that can rip at the seams of a long term relationship. You may get on each other’s nerves but you still hang on – there’s so many shared memories and deep affection and you still give it to each other. Licorice Whip begins with a pulsating bass riff, grinds up to breakneck speed-of-light rocker. This is raw and raucous bubblegum at its best like Alex Chilton doing a heavy metal take on Sugar Sugar - gives it a whole new meaning!

Prognosis is musically complex and has a minor chord vibe that is quite ominous. This is a difficult pill to swallow. The doctor lyric is somewhat of a cliché that serves to ease the raw pain and bitterness that’s underneath. The lyric may have been more authentic with a dose of misogyny and a whole lot of bad words.

Replan is a Ray Torres original. It’s a mid-tempo dance friendly arrangement belies the dark message in the song though Torres’ blistering guitar work underscores the cry of confusion and despair in the lyrics. The protagonist is in deep trouble, a downward spiral from which he feels no escape. He is immersed in misery and doesn’t know that the only way out of hell is acceptance. The chorus “Maybe I’ll pull up a chair and spin it through my replan” is a pre-contemplative stage that could prove hopeful or fatal depending on the level of denial - a heavy theme for BC and a signal of its deeper musical convictions.

Rust Belt Mama is a straight ahead up-tempo rocker with a marvelous bassline. The slowed-up 12 bar blues coda seems a fitting musical accompaniment to the metaphorical jab at the sad state of our community.

Anyway is a stone masterpiece that is both emotionally layered and lyrically complex. It’s an acoustic folk tune that tells a story about making peace with those things that you cannot change and finding meaning in suffering. Is it possible to let go? Shar’s mature vocal colors the lyrics in nuanced sepia tones reminiscent of Christine (Perfect) McVie prior to her soiree with Fleetwood Mac. This could be a college radio hit – that’s where the best music is heard.

On their first full elpee of tunes the Banana Convention reached deep and creates a body of music with emotional depth and maturity. It’s like 1910 Fruitgum Company in a 1969 concert at Mt. Holly promoting their final LP Hard Ride…heavy guitar, horn section, long jams…and then 1,2 3 Red Light . I loved every minute of it then and I love it now. Hats off to BC!

Bo White

I loved every minute of it then and I love it now. Hats off to BC.

- Bo White - Bo White -

"A little different, but still The Banana Convention"

Oily McBride Jr. can't hide his excitement.

Known as Monte Nothelfer when he's not chumming with The Banana Convention, his eyes grow wide when he starts naming the cities they've played, the songs they've written, and the element of rock new guitarist Ray Torres brings to the mix.

They nearly pop out of his head when he looks ahead to Friday's live recording session at White's Bar, a night open to Banana-Fannas everywhere. An Nothelfer not only promises fun, but a surprise for those who haven't caught the group in recent months.

"It was a concsious decision we made, to change our sound and to get our name out there a little more," he said. "We still aim for fun, that's the key to our whole scene, but we're evolving, too."

That doesn't mean you're not going to hear "The Telephone Song" Or "Ooo La La" when Nothelfer and band mates Sean "Groovy Palm O'Poodertoot" Drysdale, Shar "Mighty Afrodytee" Molina, Chris "Fletch Bohanski" Howard, Joe "Trinidad Jones" Balbaugh, and Ray Torres hit the stage.

"Cool Bus," a staple of the band's travels, is memoralized in song, too, and the long gone gorilla may even make an appearance, he teased.

But Molina, now handling lead vocals alone, has "broken free and come out of her shell," Nothelfer said. "She's a great performer, out there and on her own."

Of course, she has a lot of support, musicall and occasionally on vocals, from the guys in the band. They've caught it all on an album, recorded in Nothelfer's living room, and an extended-play recorded at Central Michigan University, available on the band's web site,

"This is something we wanted to do for a long time," he said of the recordings, which will total three in the past year after Friday's live session.

And they are getting rave reviews wherever they perform, from Manhattan and Boston, to Dayton and Chicago. The Banana Convention plays Detroit at least once a month these days, and it scaled back Saginaw shows to once every six week as well, "so when we do play, it's an event," he said.

Openin Friday's show is Bazooka Jones, a Detroit band Nothelfer calls their "musical soulmates."

"They do the same things we do, bubble-gum pop with a female lead," he said. "And they have fun, too. Having all of us on one stage is going to be crazy."

Of course, that's business as usual for a group named after Greg Brady's garage band on "The Brady Bunch."

"It was the cigarette episode, though, of course, the cigarettes weren't really his," Nothelfer said, leaning foward in his chair. "Chris, Bil Barrett, and my brothers Matthew and Marty - the original Oily McBride - started that band in the early 1990s."

Nothelfer joined in, too, but they only played a handful of shows before going seperate ways. Then, in 2003, the Olde James Towne Hall decided to gather up it's veteran bands for a one-time reunion.

Something clicked that night, and it's only grown stronger since, even through personnel changes and a refocusing of style.

"We'd love a recording deal - that's the goal of any band - but even more, we just want to get out there more and keep playing," Nothelfer said. "We've been on Myspace since it started, networking with other bands, and we're swapping shows around the country, playing clubs and bringing bands back to Saginaw with us."

"It's fun to go on the road and hang out with our 'band friends'. It's fun to get out of town. It's all still fun."

A visit to Japan may even loom ahead as brother Matthew - "Thumbs Harvey" - makes connections there. Now producing the band when he's in the country, he's offered to set up shows if his former band mates can find the funds to make the trip.

"He said it wouldn't be that hard to get some shows going," Nothelfer said. "Things just keep opening up for us. Who knows what will come next?"

--Sue White - The Saginaw News


The Basement EP
The Ghetto Diamond(s)
Dirty Negatives
Freeze Dried Eclectic Singles
Free Lap Dances Vol. 4 Compilation CD
Live @ White's Bar
Free Lap Dances Vol. 5 Compliation CD
Taking Back The Fun
*Some Points In Between



Putting the "F-U" into "FUN"

It's the battle cry of The Banana Convention, the ambitious garage pop band from the small rust-belt town of Bay City, Michigan. From New York to L.A., the band has dominated all stages. Whether it's local bars, The House of Blues, or The Van's Warped Tour, all venues that have hosted their musical mayhem witness performances that impress, express, and finesse. TBC is a naked clown car in your ears.

The rock 'n roll revelry is brought forward with a versatility that's lead by vocalist Shar Molina. She delivers pitch-perfect melodies with soul and power, spanning all musical styles. From a soft and beautiful ballad to the amped energy of the heaviest rock song, Shar lays out a siren's spell over her audience.

Percussionist Monte Nothelfer shakes up the entire band's foundation, backing up Molina with his unique vocal style and enigmatic charisma. Jake Voisine on guitar has been banned in several non-smoking establishments because his licks come so fast and furious that his guitar neck has been known to catch flame. Locking it down, Sean Drysdale's funky bass lines combined with the high octane fuel of Matt Hucul's drum back beats manufacture the tightest rhythm section on the scene.

It's Paramore jello wrestling with No Doubt while Weezer referees.

The Banana Convention is absolutely an aural and performance extravaganza that keeps audiences just rocking the hell out.