The Inactivists
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The Inactivists


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"Disappointing Follow-up"

Denver's own Inactivists remind me of a certain genre of New Orleans music made by punks who love Tom Waits and live in a city full of working jazz musicians who get off their gigs at midnight and proceed to drown their sorrows in whiskey and outlandish music. Bands like this perfected a combination of lounge music with unusual instruments--electric ukulele, anyone?--and ridiculous song subjects--fantastic chair?
The Inactivists' schtick could get old easily if it were all "Fantastic Chair" and "Won'cha Hit Me In the Face?" but it's got straighter "love" songs, like "The Girl on the Bus," which features the lyric "Are you an out-of-your-mind/fashion genius/or are you blind?" but nevertheless is a fairly cute ode to the oddly dressed girl next door. Flashes of ska rhythms show up between songs reminiscent of Tom Waits at his weirdest, and the whole picture together has a vibe almost like that of They Might Be Giants, while sounding almost nothing like them.

The Inactivists are certainly eclectic, and one can't knock their creative musical arrangements. Their songs will make you giggle for sure, even if 15 tracks of them get a little grating. They also win the award for the cutest album cover I've ever seen, hands down--a huge-eyed, sad-looking little cartoon rooster.

-Sarah Jaffe, June 10, 2005

- Kaffeine Buzz

"Live DenverThread Review: The Inactivists provide some sweet, sickly heartbreak for the love-challenged"

Scott Livingston isn’t someone you want to wrong, particularly in the arena of love. As frontman of Denver band The Inactivists, a band known for its nerdy humor mixed with artsy rock, he’s got a soapbox that’s pretty tall. And with the band’s latest record, “Love Songs and Other Songs About Love,” they’ve taken the heartbreak of a dissolved relationship and bent it into an aural sculpture on a framework of sardonic and geeky wit, and Livingston is the mouthpiece.

Even more extreme than the record, The Inactivists’ live show is one to be reckoned with, and they showed it off last Saturday night (January 30) at The Walnut Room in front of an impressive crowd. Behind his electric ukelele, Livingston cuts an impressive figure that belies the internal strife his lyrics portend. He’s more than well met by Victoria Lundy’s wild and earthy performance on the theremin and Pattie Melt’s smooth, punky saxophone and accordion, Matt Sumner’s bass funk and Kelly Prestridge’s complex rhythms.

The Inactivists Pattie Melt (right) and Victoria Lundy work up a smooth, punky lather onstage.
That night their set lasted just under an hour, and included rowdy versions of “I Need More Than That,” “Take Me Back,” the semi-sarcastic reggae of “Lock Jah,” “What What I Want Wants” and “United We Stand Still,” among others. A clear highlight of the set was their rendition of “The Octupi Occupy,” from Dreaded Concept Album, which featured a repeated chorus of both “Tickle my tentacles . . .” and “Tickle my testicles . .,” chanted very quickly, but the apex of the set had to be “WTF,” also the likely highpoint of the “Love Songs . . .” record. If it weren’t for some over-the-top language, too hot for airplay, “WTF” would be a surefire hit, and it’s painfully realistic depiction of the confusion and despair hat often accompanies a breakup would only help.

Inactivists are serving up another plate of their special brand of rock for an upcoming show at Bender’s Tavern, on Saturday, February 13th – a fitting date, seeing that it’s Valentine’s Day eve. The Panties On The Ground celebration will feature another rousing set from The Inactivists, with an opening set from another Denver band, Ground Above Zero and performances from Ooh-La-La Presents burlesque to bookend them bands (hip hint: Ooh-La-La Presents’ member Pebbles Bam Bam is fronting Ground Above Zero also).

Don't miss The Inactivists at the Panties On The Ground show at Bender's on Valentine's Eve.
Make it a point to hit the Panties On The Ground show at Bender’s – this one looks like it could become a tradition, and The Inactivists are the perfect accompaniment. Here’s to hoping Livingston continues to find solace in he performances of such fun and heartbreaking songs, as so many listeners will.

- Denver Thread

"The Inactivists spread their love straight into the heart of Denver"

As we round that corner of the year leading up to the sickening sweetness of another Hallmark-sponsored Valentine’s Day, I’ve been introduced to the perfect collection of songs to commemorate the “holiday,” complete with the appropriate level of irony, humor and lovelorn misgivings in The Inactivists‘ “Love Songs & Other Songs About Love,” released last year. So much more than merely a pile of rosy, soap opera schmaltz, this record, through The Inactivists’ sharp wit and sense of humor, represents probably the most honest revelation of love from the eyes of a constantly unrequited nerd (and let’s face it, all of us have been that, at one time or another), played by a band of Muppets that landed a daily gig in a bar inside David Lynch’s cranium.

The five piece plays an eclectic style of pop that defies any one genre, and deifies many. Sometimes it’s funk from Sly & the Family Stone – albeit often with an overwhelming flavor of Morris Day & The Time – and sometimes it’s arty rock from bands like King Crimson, or sick and flirty forays into psychedelia that rival Butthole Surfers’ wildest. And it’s all played with tongues planted firmly in cheek and wrapped up in a grown-up’s version of They Might Be Giants meets Captain Beefheart (many of the songs are not safe for office play, at least not without headphones – which, of course, makes them even more hilarious). Not bad for a band with a heavy metal ukelele and constant theremin as the root for their sound, not bad at all.

The Inactivists’ sense of humor altogether, represents probably the most honest revelation of love from the eyes of a constantly unrequited nerd . . . played by a band of Muppets that landed a daily gig in a bar inside David Lynch’s cranium.

The lineup, after some 6 years that included some inevitable personnel changes, includes Scot Livingston on ukelele, guitars and vocals, Pattie Melt on tenor sax, accordion, flute and clarinet, Kelly Prestridge on drums and vocals, Victoria Lundy on theremin and vocals and Matt Sumner on bass and vocals, a combination that proves more than solid. As I visited their “practice lair” in Westminster (Prestridge’s home) recently, I was impressed with the deep, easy camaraderie the group exudes. Like old friends, all with loads of talent and similar tastes in humor and nothing to prove, each of their personalities bounces easily off another’s, which results in a practice time that seems more like a welcome break to the mundane.

“We actually look forward to this night weekly together,” said Prestridge. “Many of us play in other bands, but this is the one we enjoy the most, probably.”

You can feel it in their performance, also. Where some bands may bend under some of their own weightiness, or seem to thrive on some internal competition (at least for a while, before they self-destruct) The Inactivists show little, if any, internal strife, and their happiness only adds to their successful formula of weirdness, dry humor and art-rock. When Livingston laments that “ . . . you say that I should be myself, because I might be someone else” in “What I Want Wants,” the opening tune from “Love Songs,” it never comes across as disingenuous, or, say, overdramatic (he’s about as far from Morrissey as you’re likely to find – and that’s a damned good thing). It does reek of the sad reality of many, many relationships, though, even if the band means it all as a joke.

The Inactivists' latest CD: Love Songs & Other Songs About Love
Other highlights on the record include a smoky, tiki-styled torch song in “Tell Me So,” about the internal meanderings of your average paranoid boyfriend, wallowing in the deepest basement of his own self esteem, and “Lock Jah,” a spikey death-jab to reggae about contracting lock jaw in the process of losing weight from fear of a constantly imminent breakup. A clear standout for me is “You Love Me Too,” which features Livingston singing through a voice synth that makes him sound like the Smurf version of Gibby Haynes as he screams vindication against an ex lover – or an imagined one, perhaps. The song has a creepy sort of stalker flavor that makes it that much more attractive.

Make no mistake – as much fun as The Inactivists are always having, they do take themselves pretty seriously – at least musically. Prestridge’s drumming leans more towards the Peart variety than the average drummer, and matches Sumner’s eclectic and skillfull bass perfectly. And the combination of Lundy’s omnipresent, eerie and sensual theremin with Melt’s sax – sometimes reminiscent of Romeo Void, others more like Morphine – and accordion couldn’t be more spot on with Livingston’s ukelele and guitar constructions. And the vocals, shared by all behind Livingston’s lead, and changing drastically with song subject and feel, add the right amount of maladroit clumsiness to give the humor extra bite.

The Inactivists have largely been more of a suburban item in the past, as far as live shows, but they’re st - Denver Thread

"The Inactivists Love Songs"

By Cory Casciato Thursday, Aug 20 2009

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November 2, 2009More About
Gary GlitterPunk Rock 3
The biggest sin committed on the Inactivists' all-love disc is that the first great song doesn't hit until track four, "Song for Gary Glitter." Before that, we get some decent material (especially the freak lounge of "Tell Me So"), but the Glitter tribute kicks off a killer stretch. "Taxi Cab" sounds like a vintage New Wave hit translated into the group's trademark nerdy art-rock style. That's followed with the ridiculous — and ridiculously awesome — "WTF?" and the silly faux-reggae "Lock Jah," making for an excellent core to wrap the album around. The oddball compositions, crass humor and weird instrumentation — some of the best ukulele and theremin I've ever heard — may not be for everyone, but if that sounds appealing, this album is full of win.
- Westword

"The Inactivists Dreaded Concept Album"

By Michael Roberts Thursday, May 3 2007
Thanks for the warning -- not that a heads-up was really necessary. After all, Dreaded Concept Album, which will be feted at a 5 p.m. show on Saturday, May 5, at the Larimer Lounge, isn't a rock opera in the traditional (i.e., pretentious) sense. Instead, it's a heaping helping of good-natured anarchy that's just as interested in belly laughs as booty-shaking.

Scot Livingston, Chris Budin, Matt Sumner, Victoria Lundy and Todd Burba come across like a jug band on a spree, using everything from a ukulele to a theremin to make their mayhem merry. Sometimes they generate a good idea -- e.g., the ridicule-happy "Fuck You, Singer-Songwriter" -- without bothering to write a decent song to accompany it. But when the players manage to get their music and lyrics moving in the same direction, as they do on the rousingly silly "Everybody Now," they go beyond mere novelty to, well, novelty-plus.

No reason to dread that.
- Westword

"Live Review"

By Dave Herrera, Monday, Jul. 7 2008 @ 9:00AMComments (5) Categories: Last Night's Show

The Inactivists absurdity is equaled only by its musicianship.
Mustangs and Madras, Action Friend and the Inactivists
Saturday, July 5, 2008
The Falcon
Better Than: Most shows that have the nerve to call themselves “punk rock.”

The Inactivists were already playing by the time I made it to the Falcon. It looked like a new member was playing saxophone for the band, but otherwise, it was the same Inactivists you either love, hate or -- unfortunately likelier -- know nothing about. Thirty years ago, this outfit’s pastiche of punk, jazz and art rock would’ve been lumped in with acts like Devo and the Residents, with whom the group shares some artistic sensibilities, while its lyrics, which are so hilariously absurd, recall modern day Situationists having a good Dadaesque laugh at anyone taking them too seriously.

This performance, as with others, while amusing and potentially unnerving because none of the players looks like a musician is “supposed” to look, displayed each musician’s indisputable prowess on their chosen instrument -- like they know you can’t take the piss out of any artform too well if you can’t even hack the discipline. The set featured songs from across the band’s releases including “Punching Each Other,” which sounds for all the world like a demented version of “Money” by Pink Floyd, “The Octopi Occupy,” “United We Stand Still” and “I Hate Myself.”
- Westword


2004 Self Titled Debut
The first album by Denver's finest theremin and ukulele rock band, The Inactivists
2005 Disappointing Follow-up
Quirky, theremin - addled funk? Clarinet-driven spazz-lounge? Jazz-baiting excursions into the darkest underbelly of the 4H Club? It's all that and more, Poindexter.
2007 Dreaded Concept Album
Holy Toffutti, Batman. The Inactivists strike again with everything from demented hip-hop to sambas in Esperanto and odes to art loving gorillas, with ukuleles and theremin
2009 Love Songs (and other songs (about love))
Theremin, ukulele and accordion rock band playing songs about love, sort of.



This is a love story.

Sort of.

Six years ago, Matt Sumner answered an on-line ad, and couple of days later met up with a strange man at My Brother’s Bar. This was the beginning of a strange yet beautiful long-term relationship. You see, the ad was placed on (this was in the pre-CraigsList days) and the man he met was guitarist and ukulele-player Scot Livingston. As a bassist, Matt had looked at Scot’s rather long ad searching for musicians for quite some time before actually getting drunk enough to respond. Not that Matt disagreed with anything in Scot’s diatribe, he just figured that anyone that verbose would be a controlling pain in the ass to work with. He was only half-right. Matt and Scot met at My Brother’s Bar (now the traditional Inactivists’ meeting spot) and exchanged CDs of half-finished song ideas and other demos. A week later Matt and Scot met up again where the were now about half-dozen newly written songs. Which is a good thing, since Scot had gotten frustrated with the solo singer-songwriter doing acoustic numbers at the coffee shop open mics and decide to start to booking shows as a band under the name The Inactivists in the delusional hope that someday a band would form around him. Luckily, Matt already knew a saxophonist and drummer who he thought would be interested in this project. Unfortunately the only day they had to practice (October 19, 2003) was the day before the next show that Scot had booked at Pink-E’s. So a dozen original tunes were practiced real fast and the next day, played pretty well given how talented and game the musicians were. Without time for another rehearsal, there was another show booked two nights later. Matt mentioned that he had been corresponding with a theremin player who also might be interested. Her name was Victoria Lundy and she walked onto the stag of the Blue Mule having no idea what the band sounded like or even what they looked like. But it worked. Sure there have been the usual band personnel shifts while looking for the right combination of talent and interest, but now the Inactivists have finally found their penultimate line-up. The drummer wasn’t too hard to find, since he ended up marrying Scot’s cousin, while saxophonist and accordion player, Pattie Melt was actually a refugee from an unfortunately aborted Surf-Tiki-Lounge project where she played with Victoria.

In the last five years the Inactivsts have drunk countless pitchers of hard cider at My Brother’s Bar, recorded four albums (five if you count the Xmas album) and are nearly done with the next one; they have played over 103 shows; opened for acts as diverse as the Red Elvises, Golden Arm Trio, Cecil “P-Nut” Daniels, and Captured! By Robots; they have yelled at the Hobby Lobby in Arvada and have serenaded protestor at the DNC on the 16th Street Mall; they have staged the only performance of the rock opera “Jahoprah & The Golden Guitar” with a cast of dozens; they have helped promote the Art Rock community in Denver by joining and helping organize the D.A.R.C.; they have had their theremin enshrined in the Aurora Natural History Museum, and smashed an acoustic bass guitar at the D-Note,; they have been joined on-stage by such luminaries as Little Fyodor & Babushka, Abbie Norm, and Tim from Yerkish; they have received dozens of glowing articles, even once being compared to “watching the Muppet Show in prison”; enduring thousands of questions from people unfamiliar with their instrumentation; but most importantly the Inactivists have had a good time while making good, strange music.