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The Scissor Girls

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In the late 1980s, while growing up in Washington, D.C., bassist/vocalist Azita Youssefi (aka AZ) and Heather Melowic (aka Heather M) discussed assembling a band. The idea was put on hold for a short time when Youssefi moved to Illinois in 1989 to attend the Art Institute of Chicago. It was during her first year at the school that she met guitarist SueAnne Zollinger (aka SA), who was another D.C. native. Youssefi convinced Melowic to move to Chicago, and the two of them persuaded Zollinger into playing guitar for the band they had talked about forming back in D.C. The result was the birth of the Scissor Girls in the summer of 1991. The group was known for dressing up in odd attire on stage such as safety goggles and tutus and would sometimes smear on heavy amounts of makeup that made them look like raccoons. At one of the band's earliest shows in 1993 at CBGB's in New York, the group opened up for Liz Phair. According to Zollinger, the Scissor Girls made Phair's fans weep in pain from the fractured music they created. This original lineup recorded two full-length albums together before Zollinger left in 1994 and was replaced by Kelly Kuvo, who was a mutual friend of the group. The band continued for two more years before breaking up. It was at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989 that Youssefi and Zollinger met Kuvo. At this time, Kuvo was working at a store called Copy Max in the infamous Wicker Park district of Chicago, where many no wave bands of the early 1990s were spawned. It was there that Kuvo helped Youssefi and Zollinger make the first Scissor Girls flyers, demo tape covers, and posters for free or next to nothing. The Scissor Girls used all of their Copy Max items to land their first show, which took place on Halloween of 1992. Shortly thereafter, the group began to record their first 7" record titled Phy, Diablo! released on the Chicago-based Monkeytech label, owned by one of the members of Chicago no wave band Specula. The release came with a real squished cricket on the front of the record sleeve. It was around the same time that a 7" compilation called Time Expired appeared on Mira Records featuring the Scissor Girls, Slant 6, Drinking Woman, and Rastro. Following those two releases, Youssefi, Zollinger, and Melowic made an alliance with Quinnah Records in 1994, where they were to record a 10" LP. Due to a project that the NRG Ensemble was working on with Quinnah at the time, money was tight. Not only did this cause a delay in the Scissor Girls' release, but when Quinnah sent the master tapes of the Scissor Girls' first album to the record pressing plant, the facility burned down. This further delayed the release until Quinnah retrieved the tapes and found another pressing plant that made 1,000 copies, 500 of which were on marbled gray vinyl. The record, titled From: The Scissor Girls To: The Imaginary Layer on Skeletons, was finally released as a 12" record, rather than the intended 10," in 1994. The release came with a fold-out map drawn by Youssefi. The Making of Americans label, run by the band God Is My Co-Pilot, released From: The Scissor Girls To: The Imaginary Layer on Skeletons in its CD format. Following their debut album, the Scissor Girls immediately set to work on their follow-up, We People Space With Phantoms. It was following the recording of the album in November 1994 that Zollinger decided to quit the band due to internal personality conflicts. Zollinger moved back to D.C. and attended graduate school at the University of Maryland, where she received her degree in biology. At the time of her departure, Zollinger was rooming with Kuvo in Chicago. Zollinger tried to persuade Kuvo into taking over guitar duties for her in the band, but Kuvo was already busy with her other group, Dot Dot Dot, which featured bassist/vocalist Rose Meyers (aka Zeek Sheck), known for her work with Bobby Conn, and drummer Jodi McCann (aka Jodi Mecanic), known for her work with bands like Math, Duotron, and Monotona. Kuvo was also busy with her day job producing cable access television shows, so Youssefi and Melowic decided to hire a guitarist named James Yoo instead, because they had already booked a tour in order to support their 7" release Phy, Diablo!, the full-length From: The Scissor Girls To: The Imaginary Layer on Skeletons, and two other self-released 7" records called New Tactical Outline Sec. 1 and New Tactical Outline Sec. 2. From the start of the tour, which began in late 1994, Melowic and Youssefi realized that Yoo's guitar playing did not fit into the group's style, so they called Kuvo at her job and asked her to join the tour. Kuvo finally agreed and asked for a week off work. The tour resumed with Kuvo as a full-time member, helping to finish off the end of the band's road shows for early 1995. Following their return to Chicago, the Scissor Girls continued to get the band's name out, being featured on a University of Chicago compilation, as well as a CD called Dig This benefiting the Doorika Performance Company. They were even featured on the television show Ben Loves Chicago and the Chicago cable access program Chic-a-Go-Go, which was similar to American Bandstand. In order to perform on Chic-a-Go-Go, the group had to lip-sync, which Melowic didn't want anything to do with. Instead of canceling their appearance, Youssefi and Kuvo recruited a little girl to mime the drum parts. The band was even approached about appearing on the Jenny Jones Show, but Melowic refused. In March 1996, the Scissor Girls released a 10" single, So You Can Start to See What S-T-A-T-I-C-L-A-N-D, on the Providence, RI-based Load Records, known for other releases by groups like Six Finger Satellite and Arab on Radar. It was also at this time that Youssefi worked out a deal with Chicago-based Atavistic Records in order to release We People Space With Phantoms, the sophomore effort the band had recorded with Zollinger but never released. Kurt Kellison of Atavistic offered the band a contract following the April 1996 release of We People Space With Phantoms. Kuvo wasn't interested in signing anything with the label, but it didn't stop Youssefi and Melowic from putting their signatures on a contract that stated the band would release two records for Atavistic. The Scissor Girls stepped back into the studio to record their third full-length release (the first record of their Atavistic contract) in mid-1996, but they never finished recording the project. The band was in need of a manager, because money was being mishandled. Melowic and Kuvo had been starving themselves in order to save up money to go on tours. The both of them placed any money they received from gigs into a band fund, which Youssefi kept track of. Kuvo said that she never saw a dime of any of their savings while she was with the group. Melowic also grew tired of the band and decided that she would return to school to get her GED. The Scissor Girls officially disbanded in October 1996, and their final recording sessions were never released. Following the breakup of the band, Atavistic released Here Is the 'Is-Not' in April 1997, a CD that compiled all of the group's singles. Meanwhile, Youssefi went on to form the band Bride of No No, which continued in much the same vein as the Scissor Girls. Melowic received her GED and recorded one album with Chicago no wave supergroup Lake of Dracula, which included Weasel Walter from the Flying Luttenbachers on guitar, Marlon Magas from Couch on lead vocals, and Al Johnson (aka the Manhattanite) from Shorty and U.S. Maple on backing vocals. Following Lake of Dracula's breakup, Melowic went on to study virology at the University of Illinois. As for Kuvo, she moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., where she was neighbors with Johanna Fateman of the band Le Tigre. It was there that Kuvo formed the band Sweet Thunder and had Bobby Conn record their songs. Since embarking on yet another move from New York to Los Angeles, Kuvo has taken up a position teaching art at a mental hospital and also spends her time doing freelance writing for magazines like Index and Oui. ~ Stephen Howell

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