Seminal art-rock legends Pylon will release Pylon Box on November 6, 2020, via New West Records. The comprehensive 4xLP box set includes their studio albums Gyrate (1980) and Chomp (1983), which have been remastered from their original tapes and will be available on vinyl for the first time in nearly 35 years. Pylon Box includes 47 total tracks, 18 of which are previously unreleased recordings. In addition to the remastered studio albums, the collection also includes Pylon’s first-ever recording, Razz Tape. The previously unreleased 13-track session predates the band’s legendary 1979 debut single “Cool” b/w “Dub.” Also included is Extra, an 11-song collection featuring a recording made before frontwoman Vanessa Briscoe Hay joined the band, along with the “Cool” b/w “Dub” single (which Rolling Stone named one of the “100 Greatest Debut Singles of All Time” this year), the rare recording “Recent Title,” the original single mix of “Crazy,” five previously unreleased studio and live recordings, and more. Each copy of Pylon Box will be autographed by the surviving members of Pylon: Vanessa Briscoe Hay, Michael Lachowski, and Curtis Crowe.
Pylon Box includes a 200-page hardbound, full-color book filled with many never-before-seen images and artifacts from the band’s personal archives as well as items now housed at the Special Collections Library at the University of Georgia and at the Georgia Museum of Art, UGA. In addition to an extensive essay written by music journalist Stephen Deusner—which incorporates new interviews with the surviving band members, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, Danny Beard of DB Records, and many more fans, friends, witnesses, and peers—the book also features testimonials by: R.E.M., Jon King and Hugo Burnham (Gang of Four), Kate Pierson (The B-52’s), Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein (Sleater-Kinney), Steve Albini (Electrical Audio, Big Black, Shellac), Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Clint Conley (Mission of Burma), Calvin Johnson (K Records, Beat Happening, the Halo Benders), Sam Fogarino (Interpol), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound), Anthony DeCurtis (journalist, Rolling Stone), Chris Stamey (The dB’s, co-producer of Chomp), Vic Varney (The Tone Tones, Method Actors), Tammy Ealom (Dressy Bessy), Ronnie Barnett (The Muffs), Richard Barone (The Bongos), Andy Butler (Hercules and Love Affair), Linda Hopper (Oh-Ok), and Karen Moline (author of Pylon’s New York Rocker cover feature).
Formed in 1979 by four UGA art students—guitarist Randy Bewley, bassist Michael Lachowski, drummer Curtis Crowe, and vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay—Pylon were the first band to connect the local party-rock scene with the art school scene at the University of Georgia. Before they even picked up musical instruments, they were painters and sculptors and gallery tricksters who applied their classroom lessons to rock and roll. After the B-52’s moved to New York, Pylon proved a small Southern town like Athens could maintain an active scene and produce important bands. “We saw them very early, and they were absolutely amazing,” says Mike Mills, bassist of R.E.M., a band that is by its own admission deeply indebted to Pylon. “They were melodic and driving and machinelike in a really good way. And very human. It was all so new to us. Pylon made us want to be better.” The producer and musician Steve Albini stated the band created “a kind of music that hadn’t been made before.”
Pylon’s first shows outside of Athens were a handful of support dates with Gang of Four, including both band’s New York City debut. Gang of Four’s Jon King insists they’re “really, one of the best indie bands ever.” The Atlanta-based DB Records released Pylon’s legendary debut single, “Cool” b/w “Dub,” in 1979, with their overwhelmingly critically acclaimed studio albums Gyrate (1980) and Chomp (1983) to follow. Chomp was barely off the press when Pylon were booked to open a run of dates for a hot new Irish band called U2 (after previously playing two arena shows with them leading to the album release). Most bands would have jumped at the opportunity, but Pylon were skeptical. At a critical point in the life of Pylon, they opted to become a cult band rather than stretch their defining philosophy too far. “There were a lot of people putting pressure on us about what we were supposed to do or what we had to do,” says Vanessa Briscoe Hay. “It wasn’t sitting well with us. We don’t have to do anything. It was a good life decision. And it was our decision. We made it together and we went out at the top of our game.” Pylon played their final show in Athens on December 1, 1983.
By then they had already helped shape the Athens scene, inspiring a new wave of bands like Love Tractor and Oh-Ok (featuring Michael Stipe’s sister Lynda). R.E.M. continued singing Pylon’s praises in interviews and even covered “Crazy” for the B-side of their “Driver 8” single (later being included in their 1987 rarities and B-sides collection Dead Letter Office). That, along with their appearance in the 1987 documentary Athens, Ga.: Inside/Out, fed the band’s legend as local heroes even after they had split.
“We fully intended Pylon to be an almost seasonal thing that we were gonna do for a minute and then get on with our lives,” says drummer Curtis Crowe. “But it just never went away. It still doesn’t go away. There’s a new subterranean class of kids that are coming into this kind of music, and they’re just now discovering Pylon. That blows my mind. We didn’t see that coming.”
An exhibit showcasing photographs, artifacts, and other ephemera from the Pylon Collection (which was recently donated to the Hargrett Library) will be displayed in an exhibition at the UGA Special Collections Building from September 18 through December 24, 2020. The UGA Special Collections Building is free to visit, and open to the public Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. (with the exception of closure on home football game Saturdays). Pursuant to the UGA policy, all visitors will be required to wear masks inside the building. For more information, call (706) 542-7123 or visit http://libs.uga.edu/scl.
Pylon Buzz Blend by Jittery Joe’s Coffee Roasting Company will also be available in November of this year. Jittery Joe’s has been roasting coffee for the Athens music community for over 25 years. Their new Buzz (an original for the original Athens band) is a brilliant mash-up of Guatemala, Brazil and Ethiopia coffees with notes of chocolate and fruit. A cup of coffee that’s delicious and new wave, it’s called Pylon Buzz for a reason.
Last week, in order to recognize the contributions of the artists who have helped make Athens a destination for music fans, the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission announced the launch of the Athens Music Walk of Fame, including Pylon among its first ten inductees. The band were inducted alongside the B-52’s, R.E.M., Vic Chesnutt, Drive-By Truckers, Widespread Panic, the Elephant 6 Recording Company, Danger Mouse, Hall Johnson, and Neal Pattman. Bronze plaques for each inductee will be installed in the sidewalk within a two-square-block area in downtown Athens—a walk that will pass several renowned music venues including the Georgia Theatre and the legendary 40 Watt Club (which was founded by Pylon’s Curtis Crowe).
Pylon Box will be available across digital retailers and on standard black vinyl. A limited-to-500 Color Vinyl edition is available for pre-order NOW via New West Records as well as select independent retailers upon its release in November. Gyrate will be available on compact disc, Opaque Teal color vinyl exclusively available at independent retailers, a limited-to-300 “Gravity Green” hand-poured vinyl edition via Vinyl Me, Please, and a limited-to-300 Clear Vinyl edition via New West Records. Chomp will be available on compact disc, Opaque Red color vinyl exclusively available at independent retailers, a limited-to-300 “Reptile Red” hand-poured color vinyl edition via Vinyl, Me Please, and a limited-to-300 Clear Vinyl edition via New West Records.