The Isotoners
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The Isotoners

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The best kept secret in music

Press


"If The Glove Fits"

(February 19-26)

The Isotoners's satirical barbs spare no one—straight or gay

By Beth Greenfield

The early Sunday-night crowd assembled at Tonic for a recent Isotoners show was respectable but definitely not large. The F and L trains were down, it was freezing yet again, and the evening's headliner, Hannah Marcus, had canceled due to a broken ankle. And then, halfway through the band's third song—a lyrical scat-themed ballad called "Poo Finger"—a straight couple left in a huff.

"We've never had that happen before!" admitted keyboardist Ben Lerman, high-fiving guitarist Clint Asays through a thin scrim of cigarette smoke during a postshow huddle. It's a wonder it hadn't happened before, considering that the Isotoners, a ragtag quartet specializing in biting parodies of gay city life, don't usually play queer venues. Starting Friday 20, for example, they take the stage at La MaMa for a three-night program they're calling "An Evening by the Bijou." The band's choice of gig locations has become one of its greatest assets, though, and can make a fan out of anyone, straight or gay, who shares its satirical sensibility. And that's the way the Isotoners like it.

"A lot of gay people don't have a sense of humor and don't like anything until they're told to like it," declares drummer Bryce Edwards. "It's hard to find some who really like music—or at least anything that hasn't just been fed to them." So the musicians were relieved by the reception they got when they played a gay venue, the Slide, last month. "That was great," Asays admits. "They loved us."

Maybe it's because no one gets singled out (or left out). Every gay passion, from one-night stands to drug buys, is a target of the band's satirical skewer. But the songs' razor-sharp lyrics are heightened by their surprisingly sweet vocal harmonies. That dichotomy of sound and meaning, coupled with a slouchy, East Village–grunge aesthetic, also helps the Isotoners (named, yes, after those stretchy gloves that Grandma wore) to be a potentially successful crossover band.

The guys, who range in age from 25 to 34, made their performance debut at the East Village's Sidewalk Café in 2002. Lerman and Asays were working as waiters at Time Café ("I didn't like him," Asays notes), but eventually, they warmed to each other and discovered their musical leanings. As a lark, the two started writing and recording songs on a 4-track and then displayed their schtick at Sidewalk's open-mic nights. They pulled Phoenix bartender Jim Andralis into the act—"We would come in to the bar and force him to listen to our music," Lerman says—after finding out that Andralis had been taking accordion lessons. Edwards, the crew's favorite Nowhere bartender, bought drums just so he could be a part of it all. "I had never played before, and I'm still figuring it out," he admits. This pretty much describes the expertise of each member, only one of whom (Edwards) had ever been in a band. Lerman is self-taught on keyboards, just as Asays is on guitar.

Asays explains their simple formula for success: "If we write something that makes other members laugh, then it's okay." Some compositions that have scored on their laugh-o-meter include the popular "Manboobs" ("I watch you fall asleep / Your mammaries flop side to side / Your manboobs") and "Subway Love" ("He said hello and headed for the L"). And they turn Hole's "Doll Parts" into a hysterical riff on East Village vegans ("One day / You'll eat meat by mi-stake..."). The revamped song came out of the post–Time Café period, when Lerman (who has also written for TONY) was waiting tables at Kate's Joint, the Avenue B veggie eatery popular with dreadlocked squatter punks. On his day off, he was at home working on the Hole riff, which was to be about Lerman's fabulous cake-making abilities ("Someday / You will bake like I bake"). But mid-creation, the owner fired him because he hadn't picked up the pace as much as she had previously asked him to. So the baking song was quickly transformed into a slur about soy lovers.

"We're cynical," Edwards says, "but it's tongue-in-cheek." Remember that, in case you ever become fodder for a slanderous song—as have the likes of MTV's John Norris, CNN's Anderson Cooper and East Village club promoter Daniel Nardicio. The musicians are cagey when it comes to confirming those tales of cocaine snorting and STD swapping, but there's one thing they're totally out about: "For the record," Edwards insists, "none of us have slept together."

- Time Out New York


"Funny THAT Way"

(April 16, 2004)
by Adam H. Graham
If you haven't already seen and heard this witty and winsome foursome, you can't call yourself a real gay New Yorker.

Somewhere between Tenacious D, the Talent Family, and the Scissor Sisters, you'll find the Isotoners. Musically they might seem like nifty boxed set of re-gifted gloves under the Christmas tree that nobody knows what to do with. Does one call them gay anti-folk heroes, East Village cabaret troubadours, or New York underground performers? Whatever. One thing for certain is that this deft quartet is more than just a fledgeling comical act. Heck—they're a musical talent to be reckoned with, and quite honestly, just one of New York's coolest bands!

The Isotoners (and their respective ages are Ben Lerman (29), Bryce Edwards (32), Clint Asay (25) and Jim Andralis (34). If you've been to the Phoenix on a Wednesday night you've had to pass two of them, Clint (who also works at 14th Street's Nowhere Bar) works the Wednesday night door at Phoenix, while Jim serves dollar-draft guzzling East Village hipsters at the bar. Both bars boast jukeboxes with the band's debut CD, Sometimes I Sit Down When I Pee, which crank out between Belle & Sebastian and Shins hits.

The Band was formed back in 2001 at Time Café where Clint and Ben both worked as waiters. After a mutual friend moved to Puerto Rico, leaving behind her guitar and 4-track, Ben and Clint had an idea. "Ben and I were going to a show at Luxx one night and instead he came over and we got shitfaced and wrote and recorded one of our first songs, 'Crappin' on the phone.'"

With songs like "Manboobs," "Rebound Baby," and "Lazy Eye," one might get the impression that these guys are just goofing around with a Casio and a guitar. But the songs, funny as they are, each also possess a sentimentalism that both muses and riffs on New York gay life. Heavily influenced by Kiki & Herb and The Magnetic Fields, the Isotoners' work reflects a sensibility lost in most pop music today. "Bands like us are rar, becuase our subject matter is so satirical," says Bryce, drummer for the band. "We make fun of people and situations, but we combine it with a love of melody." Accordionist and self-described warehouse-club kind of homosexual Jim agrees: "That combination is the fun part. We write songs about loss and poop. Everyone's lost poop! And the four of us really share an appreceiation of wit, combined with the absolute basest fourth grad humor." This is evidenced in lyrics like "Daddy never knew that my was Tom / He called me pussy-boy in front my mom" from "Leather Daddy" and "…Nobody does me nastier / Than you with your gynecomastia…" in their much requested hit "Manboobs."

"Peeing on someone is funny," explains keyboardist Ben, a bona fide Hoosier now living on the Lower East Side. "Peeing on someone you love is much funnier." When asked if these songs have an audience outside the niche markets of Lower Manhattan, guitar man Clint bracingly states the obvious: "Manboobs are universal." - Next Magazine


""Just too fab to be missed!""

(October 9-16, 2003)
New York's gay antifolk satirists the Isotoners are, sexuality notwithstanding, prime candidates for Queer Eye makeovers. These gents have an adorably slovenly sartorial sense that's more Bay Ridge realness than pret-a-Chelsea; one can imagine the Fab Five forcing this hirsute quartet to trade their rock T-shirts for couture, ukuleles for vocoders, and licentiousness for cocktail politesse. But thankfully, the kinks that have made the Isotoners a downtown cult phenomenon appear thoroughly unironable.

Cofounded in 2002 by guitarist Clint Asay and keyboardist Ben Lerman, the Isotoners began developing their parodic tales of gay, urban milieu at antifolk epicenter the Sidewalk Café. As those sketches became full-fledged songs) with the addition of accordionist James Andralis and drummer Bryce Edwards), the boys in the band began to attract a dedicated following—Stephin Merritt and Moldy Peach Kimya Dawson are frequently spotted in their audiences.

During their freewheeling gigs, the Isotoners' sharply humorous observations are framed by sweet, sentimental pop arrangements that ensure this is no joke band. Songs about L-train sodomy (the chugging "Subway Love"), teen-runaways-turned-runway-stars ("Troubled Teen Cherie") and low-expectation trysts ("Rebound Baby") somehow sneak notes of poignancy into the group's jocular mien. Add videographer Brendan Toner's skits (look for the band's re-creation of Carrie) and guest characters such as Soce the Elemental Wizard (don't ask), and the Isotoners are just too fab to be missed.—Kevin Wolfe
- Time Out New York


"Best of NYC 2004"

*With a full page photo on the cover of the music section of the "Best of New York 2004" issue.
http://www.villagevoice.com/bestof/2004/contents.php?subject=music

Best reminder that potty humor isn't just for fourth-graders - THE ISOTONERS
If you long for those distant days of youth when fart jokes ruled and "On Top of Spaghetti" was bliss, then gay punk-cabaret pinups THE ISOTONERS are made for you. Their hooky, idiot-savant originals about gynecomastia, knocked-up cheerleaders, stinky fingers, and drug-fueled debauchery brilliantly mix Paul Lynde camp with breathless Melanie-esque innocence. Do bring your favorite funny uncle (and his "roommate") along. -LD Beghtol
- The Village Voice


Discography

The Isotoners' self-released debut, Sometimes I Sit Down When I Pee, is available for purchase off of their website, www.theisotoners.com, where you can aslo download the songs, "Leather Daddy," "Subway Love," "Manboobs," and "Williamsburg Band."

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

THE ISOTONERS (www.theisotoners.com) like to have a few drinks. But they can quit any time they want. So, before you go and pigeonhole them in that whole homosexual-alcoholic-comedy-rock genre, take another look. Underneath that rugged, just-woke-up-hungover surface, you'll find a truly unique troupe of attention-seeking schizophrenics who aren't afraid of their sibilant S.

Self-taught musicians Ben (keyboard, bass, vocals) Lerman and Clint (guitar, vocals) Asay met climbing the ladder of the food service industry and formed the Isotoners as a duo in 2002, playing open mics and gigs at the Sidewalk Café. They played their first full show at Sidewalk in November 2002. They conducted an extensive talent search at Manhattan's Phoenix bar, and recruited the bartender Jim (accordion, vocals) Andralis and another bar patron Bryce (drums) Edwards. In February 2003, they played their first show as a quartet.

Thanks to early buzz, THE ISOTONERS have been packing rooms in New York like the renowned Mercury Lounge, Fez, Pianos, Galapagos, Sin-e, PS 122, Tonic, The Slipper Room, Chelsea's Barracuda Bar, Superfine, Lemon, and the Lounge at Elmo. In October 2004 THE ISOTONERS were selected to play in PopMontreal festival, and they were selected for the cover of the music section in the Village Voice's Best of New York 2004 issue. In 2005, THE ISOTONERS were invited to play in Toronto's NXNE music festival.

THE ISOTONERS blend sugary sweet pop vocals with inappropriate subject matter, mixing the sentimental with the deviant, to create a harmonious imbalance. Their runaway hit, "Manboobs," turns the cliché breakup song on its head with a pillowy case of gynecomastia. "VD" exposes a side of Valentine's Day you won¹t find in a Hallmark. "Rebound Baby" offers the newly broken-hearted a guilt-free chance at revenge sex.

With videographer Brendan Toner, THE ISOTONERS made their first music video, "Roofie Me," a story about a boy who turns a date rape scenario into a poor man's paid vacation. They've collaborated on some short comedy sketches like the VH1 parody "Behind The Isotoners," late-night sexfomercial parody, "Hassidic Girls Gone Wild," and a satire of video personals ads called "Strictly Personals."

THE ISOTONERS have finished recording their first full length CD, "Please Don't Feed the Isotoners," with new tracks like "Gay Divorce," "Halitosis," "Oxygen," and their first dance song, "Subway Love [Jockstraphanger Remix]," available in the audio section of this EPK. "Please Don't Feed the Isotoners"--recorded with additional strings, percussion, trumpet, and other bells bells and whistles and produced by LD Begtohl of FLARE, THE NEW CRITICISM, and the MAGNETIC FIELDS--is currently looking for a home at an appropriate label.