Artist of the day: Barely Pink
Barely Pink was formed in 1994 and quickly became one of Tampa Bay’s most popular acts. They wasted no time putting their nose to the grind, releasing a debut EP less than a year later, and three full-length albums between 1997 and 2003. They continued until 2004 when they decided it was time to take a hiatus. Since then they have played sporadically, getting together for an occasional appearance.
The lineup has changed over the years, the most current being Brian Merrill on vocals, Mark Warren on lead guitar, Michael Hoag on bass and Stan Arthur on drums. This time around, they have reunited for We Could Be Heroes: David Bowie’s 65th Birthday Tribute. The group will perform David Bowie’s landmark 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in its entirety on all three nights — Friday at the State Theatre, Saturday at Skipper’s Smokehouse and Sunday at the Cock and Bull Pub in Sarasota.
We talked with Merrill about his musical endeavors and this weekend’s Bowie extravaganza.
What caused Barely Pink to decide to stop performing in 2004?
Creatively we were burnt out from it. The guys had some other projects they wanted to do. We didn’t break up, it was all on good terms. It was like, “Let’s just put this on hiatus.” I think it was a good idea, because it’s given us the opportunity to pull it back out and have some fun. I used to play a lot of guitar when we were going strong, but lately I’ve been going total frontman. Especially this weekend for the Bowie shows.
Do you find it intimidating to be up there almost naked? With a guitar you have something to lean on.
Quite, it’s a little unnerving. I started out doing that as a singer in the ’80s in Parade In Paris. It was everything you could imagine it to be.
Synthesizers? Big teased-out hair?
All kinds of glammed-out clothes. I actually had the time of my life.
How did that lead you to Barely Pink?
That lasted from ’84 to ’89. Then John McNicholas and I (he was in Parade In Paris as well) formed Factory Black, which focused more on songs. It was a traditional rock combo. We did a lot of shows with Marilyn Manson at the time. We had the same management. The story goes: Marylin Manson and The Mavericks went on and I’m here still (laughs).
Factory Black disintegrated at the end of ’92. From there I was sort of lost for a little while. I started listening to a lot of Big Star and Material Issue. I wanted to form a power-pop band. The initial idea was for it to be as “bubblegummy” as possible. I put an ad out looking for like-minded players, and met (original member) Ted Lucas. We had a really good time. We decided this band was put together for fun. It wasn’t about getting a record deal. We made these recordings and I loved them so much I sent them out anyway. We got a great response, and got signed to Big Deal Records.
Who in the band now is still an original member?
That would just be me.
The newer members filtered in over the years?
Yes. Right before Stan joined in ’99, I was basically ready to retire the band. He reinvigorated me. He came in and gave it new life. I almost consider him the band’s leader. He really drives the live shows.
Do you have any plans to work on new material perform after the Bowie shows?
There’s nothing lined up, but the band has been sounding so good at rehearsal that it intrigued me, at the very least, to record a single.
Do you feel a certain musical kinship or connection with David Bowie?
I would say that my vocal style has been influenced by him. When I was first learning how to sing I would practice a lot of his songs. When I was a kid in the ’70s I would sing along to Fame and Golden Years. I had the 45s. I don’t try to sound like him, and I don’t think I sound like him.
Will you be wearing a skintight leather space suit?
I’m a middle-aged man and no one wants to see that.
-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*