All About A Band Called Seven
By Brian Spangler
Since this is from my point of view, this story needs to start in Sioux Falls, SD right after my sixth grade year. I was your typical 6th grade geek…well, actually I was a little geekier than that even. I had no style, no real taste in music, and no direction. My parents had just divorced a year ago and I was visiting my dad in Sioux Falls. I hooked up with one of my old grade school buddies named Chris Livermont. When I saw him, he wasn’t the same kid I knew from Cleveland Elementary in 5th grade. This kid had long hair and a Metallica t-shirt. Chris introduced me to heavy metal and he was in a band. This dude had his very own band that he sang in! I was stunned. I guess I didn’t even realize something like this was possible for your average human being…much less a kid in Sioux Falls. I thought this was exclusive to people like Huey Lewis, Eddie Van Halen, and Bruce Springsteen. He showed me his guitar and drums and gave me a copy of his tape. At that point, I decided that I, too, would have my own band. The only problem was I didn’t own a guitar, nor did I know how to play a guitar. Oh, second small problem, none of my friends knew how to play an instrument either.
I went back to my mom’s in Hurricane, WV with a new perspective. No longer was I a fan of Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, or D.J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (although being a fan of these groups is evident in my song writing at times). I put my neighborhood friends (Justin & Travis Gordon, Scott Collier, etc) on notice. We now liked metal and we were going to start our own band. I was in the school band as a trumpet player, so I decided that I would have to trade in my trumpet for a guitar. I went to my grandfather and he decided to trade one of his guitars and a Sears Silvertone bass amp for my trumpet. I was now legit.
I spent the next several years writing crappy songs and trying to learn how to play guitar. I ended up starting a metal band in Winfield, WV. We only knew a few songs, but that experience helped me become a better guitarist. Sometime during my 10th grade year, I received a phone call from some annoying drummer named Phil Conifer. He had heard that I knew how to play “Holy Wars” by the band Megadeth and insisted I come audition for his band. A few days later, I made the trip from Winfield to Hurricane and auditioned. I think Phil was there along with Matt Lucas, Harry Schafer, Ian Shriver (he only hosted the practice at his house) and Billy Eggleston (he was Phil’s drum tech for some reason). I’m pretty sure Jason Williamson was there too. Phil immediately told me to sit down and play Holy Wars for him. After playing that song, Phil thought I was the best guitarist he had ever heard. I had him fooled, of course.
Phil, Matt, Harry, Jason, and I jammed some Metallica tunes for about a year or so until we finally hung it up. I think Harry quit because I started writing death metal. We then started a band called Book. I think this was the baby of Phil Medley and I. I’m pretty sure this band consisted of me, Phil Medley (maybe on vocals), Ray Davis on bass, Jason Williamson on drums, Matt Lucas on guitar (maybe), and Shannon Darby (maybe on guitar???). We only played one party at Matt Wheelers house and we only knew three Misfit covers. We played them several times and demanded that people started a mosh pit or we would discontinue to play. Well, they didn’t most so we eventually quit playing. This party was important because after we played, Ray and I were talking in the garage (I think) and we decided that we would start a new band. The only rule of our new band was we would not play Metallica. This band would be different. We would ask Matt Lucas to play guitar, Jason Williamson to sing, and since we didn’t know of any other drummers, we would ask Phil Conifer to play drums until we could find another drummer (Phil wasn’t very liked at that moment in time I think due to an altercation he had with Jason). Ray asked me what we would call the band. The first word that came out of my mouth was “Seven.”
Ray was jamming with Tex Carroll, so he informed me that Tex would come on board as our second singer. Whatever. We started jamming at Tex’s house up on hippie hill. I remember this was my 11th grade year right before I moved back to Hurricane. There was an upcoming show at Hurricane High School that I desperately wanted Seven to be a part of. Sara Young was coordinating the bands to be on the bill. I went to a Hurricane Show meeting and she was deciding which bands would be on the bill. I remember the bands on the bill were Freak Tent, Noize Box, Green, and two other bands. One of the two other bands was having some internal difficulties, so Sara crossed their name out and wrote “SEVEN” on the chalk board. We officially had our first gig!
We practiced fiercely at Tex’s house for a couple of weeks. I remember it being very cold there and Phil would continuously complain about it. Matt would sneak and flip on the overhead fan above Phil and he would sit there and shiver and talk about seeing polar bears walk by. For some reason, we all thought it was really funny when Phil was abused. Since we didn’t have any original songs, we learned a bunch of cover songs. We played the Ramones, Beastie Boys, Ministry, Misfits, Pantera, Faith No More, etc. We somehow managed to write two original songs. I wrote “Green Polyester Trousers” and Ray wrote “Looking Inside.”
The day of the Hurricane Show came and I remember everyone in the band being very excited. This show took place I think in January 1993 at the auditorium in Hurricane High School. I was very intimidated by Freak Tent and Noize Box. I had seen these bands in Poca, WV a few months earlier. These bands were legit. I remember them treating us pretty well before the show. There was a good turnout at the show. We finally had our turn to play. We ripped out a bunch of cover songs that the crowd really seemed to enjoy. We had our first mosh pit, which was really cool. I specifically remember playing Green Polyester Trousers and there being a mosh pit and by the second verse some people were singing along (not too hard to learn since the only words were GREEN POLYESTER TROUSERS!). I remember thinking how cool it was to have written a song and having people sing along and mosh to my song. I also remember thinking “this is better than sex…I want to do this for the rest of my life!” We finished the show with two encores. I was fulfilled. You see, I had always been a loser…a real MUNSEN! I had never felt cool or liked by many people. That was the first time probably in my life where I really felt like I was somebody. I wanted more…but it was short lived.
The next Monday at school, I was told by my bandmates that our band was mentioned on the morning announcements. I was also told there was a real buzz about Seven around the school. I moved from Winfield to Hurricane a day or two later and got to experience the buzz. People were really jazzed about our band. I can honestly say it went to my head. I never abused it in anyway, but I loved it…I really did. During the following months, we started to hear rumors that Freak Tent (really, Chris Allen) hated us. I guess he thought his band was far superior to Seven, especially since we were labeled a cover band. Bummer.
Very soon after that, we decided to kick Tex out of the band. We didn’t really dig his singing style and honestly, we didn’t really need two lead singers. We continued to play and write and eventually got a gig or two at the Nitro Flea Market. I remember our songs were still pretty rough and boring back then, but heck, we gave it our best. We played this one show at the Nitro Flea Market and I remember this show specifically. It was a pivotal moment in my life. While Seven was on stage playing our set, I remember Chris Allen from Freaktent yelling into a megaphone at us “YOU SUCK…YOU THINK YOU’RE FROM SEATTLE, YOU SUCK!!!!” I’m pretty sure we all wanted to kill him, but he was the big man in the big, mighty Freaktent. I’m pretty sure we were booed and laughed at. I was humiliated, to say the least. We packed our gear and headed home. In the weeks following that show, the band started to implode. Members took sides and we eventually broke up. I believe this was during the end of my 11th grade year.
We stayed broke up for the summer and decided to regroup at the beginning of my 12th grade year (late summer 1993). We decided we would play the talent show at school. The only problem was Matt Lucas decided he didn’t want to rejoin the band, so that left me as the only guitarist. This was pivotal because in most of my bands, I continued to be the only guitarist. Ray decided that Joey Clagg was a cool dude and needed to be in our band. I’m not even sure if Joey really knew how to play the bass yet. By this time, Ray was pretty much the leader of the band…he was the visionary. We all agreed to let Joey jump on board and have two bassists (Ray and Joey). I guess it wasn’t too weird since we had two lead singers before. We played the talent show (played Epic by Faith No More during school hours and an original tune called “A Soldier’s Story” in the evening). We were well-received, but didn’t win. I think we were beat out by Matt Lucas and some cheesy duet singing some god-awful song by M.C. Hammer or Paula Abdul or something. No worries though.
I remember back in this time of the band Jason didn’t come to practice much. I remember him using the excuse that he had to paint the garage several times. That became the running joke. We eventually decided to part ways with Jason, although I don’t think there was any bad blood between us. He eventually went on to play in Dead Ant Farm. Since we didn’t have a singer, we didn’t get much accomplished for a while. Ray then decided that he was able to sing, and since we had two bassists, he could easily switch over without disrupting the band. The only bad thing was Ray was an awesome bassist and Joey (at the time) was a beginner. I didn’t think it was such a great idea, but I trusted in Ray’s vision for the band.
We had our final line up – Ray on vocals, Joey on bass, Phil on drums, and I was on guitar. This turned out to be the line up that Seven would be remembered for. We started churning out some songs and heard about these other bands in the scene. We heard of a band called Dirt Bear and heard of a recording studio in Elkview called the Cave. We decided we would go there and record a cd. We had enough material to record a full length tape. Ray, being the visionary and perfectionist he is, informed the band that we would scrap all of our songs and start over. “Our songs suck” Ray said. I was steaming mad and disagreed. I remember Ray telling me something about how we could do better…how I could do better. He told me we needed to write “hits”…probably said “pop hits” or something like that. I was honestly confused, but for some stupid reason, I believed in what he was saying. I trusted Ray. He was like my big brother and I was the little kid being schooled.
We started writing for our first tape, Candy Jar. We had some decent songs, but a couple really stood out to me. The song Candy Jar was one of our first lighter songs. Riki was our first “hit.” Fonzie was our first “pop punk” song. Meatball Kid was our first funny song. We started playing shows at the Moshmallow Pit in Nitro. We had decent crowds and started picking up some steam. We met a bunch of cool people and played with a bunch of cool bands.
We ended up writing 12 songs for Candy Jar (13 if you include Midnight Hour – a joke song) and we went to the Cave to record. This is where we first met Brian Pauley, Scott Robinson, and the rest of the Dirt Bear crew. I remember Phil had a white Tama Rockstar set, I had a Jackson Dinky Reverse and a Peavey Audition 110, and I think Joey had an Ibanez Soundgear bass and a Peavey amp. These were the days when we recorded on a 4-track and couldn’t make many mistakes. The tape turned out to be pretty good for our first attempt. Joey made us a tape cover (which was really cool) and we ended up selling maybe several hundred copies.
After Candy Jar, this is when we entered the Golden Year so of Seven. We started playing lots of shows with many bands. We played a bunch of shows with Dirt Bear, Flood, Dead Ant Farm, and Watership Down. It seemed Seven, Flood, and Dirt Bear stood out a bit in the number of people in attendance at our shows. We started writing for our second release called 1989. This is probably some of the best music we had written. We had songs like Downbeat, Kate, Pixi Stix, Whatever, etc. Seemed like the kids really liked those songs. We ended up recording 11 songs for that tape and included two live songs from Candy Jar. Joey made the cover once again (I think he had help from Jeremy Smith with the design). We played a show at the Pit and Joey brought a whole backpack full of tapes and T-shirts. I pretty sure he sold every single one of the. I think I was mad because I hadn’t got either a T-shirt or a tape because he sold all of them. Either way, it was a good sign.
This is when we really started picking up steam. Kids were buying our music, wearing our shirts, singing our songs, dancing at the shows…it was a great moment in life. We played at the Pit, LKM, Common Grounds, and several other places. Nitro and Charleston loved us, although I remember Huntington hated us. I think the pinnacle of our short-lived career was our show at Great Oak Farm. If you are reading this story, I don’t need to explain to you what Great Oak Farm was. It was only the coolest outdoor show in West Virginia. I think there were probably 30 bands or so…three days, two nights of ungodly behavior…drinking, smoking, music, craziness. God…I wish I could have held onto this weekend for my entire life. I remember really feeling like somebody at this show. Everyone knew me, I knew everyone. It was a big community of music lovers…friends having fun. Seven had a good show, but I remember we made quite a few mistakes from a lack of sleep and from abusing our minds and bodies over the weekend.
Sometime after Great Oak Farm, Cave Records was formed and Seven, Dirt Bear, Flood, and Trout was on their compilation. Seven recorded Kate, Dwight D., Whatever, and She’s Not My Man for that cd. The record company and the cd was a great idea, but for some reason it didn’t do very well, to my knowledge.
Sometime after Great Oak Farm, Seven received a letter from a record label in one of the states ending in Carolina. The label was making a comp cd and wanted us to submit some music. We were very excited that a label in Carolina had heard of us. It really seemed it would only be a matter of time before we were signed to a label. I remember Joey and I butting heads over the song selection. Looking back, Joey really knew what he was talking about. He was really our band manager. He kept us focused and kept us playing shows, etc. He managed our money and managed to save enough band money to buy all new band equipment. I was a hothead, at times. I was short sighted and short fused. After some debate and me physically assaulting Joey (ok, I didn’t punch him, but I do think I tried to choke him), we decided to record some new songs and I think one old song. We went back to the Cave and recorded a four-song demo (one in which I would pay good money to have a copy of). I think the songs on there were called Bad Idea, Tijuana Girl, Shudder, and Good Times. Those were four really great songs and it was kind of a new direction for the band. We were taking on more of a snotty pop punk sound by direction of Joey. For some reason, Joey knew punk was the future.
After that era of the band, things started to wind down in the scene. Joey had moved to Pittsburg to go to school. That dude was driving back from Pittsburg almost every weekend to practice…talk about dedication. It started to take its toll on him and I remember him and I butting heads a few times. He was overworked and underappreciated.
Our last show was at Marshall University in late 1995 or maybe even early 1996. I think Flood and maybe Dirt Bear was playing as well. I remember being told that probably 1000 people would show up. It was supposed to be advertised on the radio and all of Huntington was supposed to be plastered with flyers. We showed up and I think there were literally 20 people there. This put the ole ego in check real quick. I remember acting like an asshole during the show. Not saying I was right or wrong, but there were a couple douche bags in the crowd making fun of us. I didn’t appreciate it lol. Joey and I had some words after the show. I don’t know what was said, but I knew things weren’t good. That was the last time we played with Joey. After that show, we decided to move on without him. The band eventually dropped the name Seven, and was changed to The Pumpernickles. Ray moved back to bass, Ronnie Stricklen came on board as the second guitarist, and Richard Ray sang for us. This band eventually became Shindig.
Looking back on the history of Seven, I can honestly say these were some of the happiest times in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of happiness now, but that was a time when I was a part of something important…something wonderful…something that I helped build. I eventually joined the Army and ended up in TN with Phil Conifer by my side playing punk rock (funny Phil and I played for many years…and he was supposed to be a temporary drummer). I was in a band called Julius Seizure and the Darling Hearts in Nashville. We played bigger shows, wrote more talented music, and recorded better quality cds, but those bands never came close to my first love…Seven. I’ve heard rumors that people still talk about Seven today…some might say we are “legendary.” I don’t know about all that, but what I do know is I wouldn’t trade those moments I shared with my best friends for the world. I guess those were my glory days…dang near 20 years ago…man…time really gets by ya, doesn’t it?
Seven wrote many songs while we were together. I am starting to forget the ones we didn’t record. I would guess we probably wrote 50 songs or more.
Here are the ones we recorded:
- See Fish Swim
- Candy Jar
- Seven Can Dance
- Little Walls
- Meatball Kid
- Song 43
- Part Time
- In My Bed
- Midnight Hour
- Pixi Stix
- Reynolds St.
- Dwight D.
- Love Bug
- Song 46
- Sleepy Mountain Anthem
- She’s Not My Man
- Bad Idea
- Good Times
- Tijuana Girl