The Watchers

Avant-funk unit Watchers was formed in Chicago in the fall of 2000 by singer/keyboardist Michael Guarrine, who founded his first band Assembly Line People Program in 1994 in response to the city's burgeoning "now wave" scene (typified by acts including Trenchmouth, the Scissor Girls, and Lake of Dracula). A chance meeting with Blur guitarist Graham Coxon following the Britpop group's 1995 appearance in Detroit led to a long-distance correspondence, and after Guarrine sent Coxon an Assembly Line People Program tape, the little-known band was invited to open for Blur on a leg of its 1997 U.S. tour. Coxon also produced ALPP's debut LP, Subdivision of Being, for his Transcopic label, but when the album could not secure U.S. division, a frustrated Guarrine announced the group's split. He then assembled the Hex, which signed to Troubleman Unlimited to release its lone EP, 2000's No Car, before splitting soon after. Seeking to combine the abrasive dissonance of ALPP with a more angular, funk-influenced approach, Guarrine tapped Hex bassist Chris Kralik and reunited with ALPP drummer Ted Danyluk to form Watchers, adding to the lineup guitarist Ethan d'Ercole, a recent Chapel Hill, NC, transplant and veteran of that city's ska scene. After making their live debut in July 2001, Watchers added backing vocalists Ty Jiles and Nicole Irby and began work on their first demo at Chicago's Clava Studios. In mid-2002 percussionist Jamie Levinson joined the lineup, and after signing to indie label Gern Blandsten, Watchers issued their debut LP, To the Rooftops, in the spring of 2003. After completing the album, Danyluk left the group; Levinson assumed drum duties, with percussionist Damien Thompson rounding out the new lineup. Shows with acts like James Chance (both as openers and his backing band), Ted Leo, Gogogo Airheart, and Radio 4 followed, and Watchers issued the EP Dunes Phase in 2005. Two years later, the quintet (with drummer Jess Birch on board in place of Levinson) returned with the more experimental full-length Vampire Driver, which attempted to tap into the band's creative live energy. ~ Jason Ankeny

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