“Short” History of the Dark Marbles
Initially formed in 1987 in Buffalo when Yod Crewsy (who had recently departed from the SplatCats) got together with fellow University of Buffalo students Frank Ballardini (lead guitar & vocals – formerly from the band “Mom’s Worst Fear”), Rick Weber (bass), and Dave DiBiasio (on drums). The idea was to create an authentic garage-rock band in Buffalo. The name of the band came about when, just prior to playing the band’s first gig, Yod came up with a list of two-word band names….with names like: “Green wallet,” or “Arctic Apples”, “Electric Shoehorn”, ….y’know…stuff like that…Yod looked at the random list and suggested “Dark Marbles”, and since no band member stated their opposition, that is what the group became named.
This first version of the Dark Marbles played UB frat parties, the Continental in Buffalo, and even played at Mickey Rats’ “Battle of the Bands”. The band at this stage recorded some stuff in Clarence, NY including “The Evil One” (instrumental by Frank Ballardini), “Too Little Too Late” by Frank, and “Love or Death”, an epic rocker by Yod.
Then drummer Dave DiBiasio headed off to Alaska, so the band briefly recruited Joe Marciniak from Kenmore to play drums. With Joe on drums, the band was incredibly loud and fast, as witnessed by a live recording made on WBNY’s radio show with local DJ Rich Wall as the host. Some of the cover songs on the playlist at this time included “Bad News Travels Fast” by the Fuzztones, and “I’m a Man” by the Yardbirds.
As Casino El Camino (also ex-SplatCats) approached Yod to form a new band, and as Yod got more excited with the prospects of forming a new band with Casino called the JackLords, the Dark Marbles fell by the wayside…(NOTE: Yod’s JackLord period is fairly well documented).….while in the JackLords, Yod wrote several JackLords tunes, which would later become Dark Marble mainstays: such as “On the Beach”, “That’s the Way It Should Be”, and “Great Divide”….and in the Spring of 1990, when the JackLords were denied their second LP by Skyclad Records, and with his relationship with a certain girl on the skids, Yod left Buffalo and headed to Boston to look for work…..
The year 1990 would prove to be a pivotal one in Yod’s life….one friend has called the summer of 1990 “the summer of Yod’s discontent”… because Yod suddenly returned to Buffalo, and with a young man’s anger, passion, fervor, and angst, and he set about to bring back the Dark Marbles in some fashion. He brought back to the Dark Marbles set list “Turn Me Around” (a song he had previously written while in the JackLords) and wrote a whole batch of new songs like: “Friend of Her”, “New Year’s Eve”, “My Blue Day” and “Angel of Death”. This 1990 version of the Dark Marbles brought back Dave Dibiasio on drums, but this time featured his brother Pete DiBiasio on bass. With Pete’s nimble fingered and flowing bass lines, the Dark Marbles played on as a “power trio”, and garnered some rave reviews despite Yod’s limited ability to riff on guitar while singing. A high point of this version of the band was playing at the Billy LaBeef’s Rock and Roll Bar-B-Que at the Little Harlem Hotel in Buffalo.
A 4-track cassette recording engineered by Chuck Root III exists from this period, with Yod Crewsy- written songs on it including “Hey!”, “On the Wire”, and “Open-Ended Left Hand World”.
Additional members were tried out for the position of lead/second guitar at this time, including Eric Lubstorf (from the Mystic Eyes), Rich Kegler, and Mickey Mercurio (from the Magic Skyboat), but without any real success.
Then Pete Dibiasio left Buffalo to go out west, but in 1991 Yod kept the band going while he went to law school, keeping Dave DiBiasio on drums, but picking up Kirk Obear on bass, and then Kirk’s wife Elizabeth Obear on keyboards, and rocked out at such places as the Cabaret and the Essex Street Pub in Buffalo. As time went on, personal differences between Yod and Kirk escalated, and thus both Kirk and Liz Obear left the band. Yod then approached Patrick Kane (formerly of the Stains, Elements, Blaze of Glory, etc.) and with Pat’s help put together a whole new Dark Marbles line-up with Patrick Kane on lead guitar, Doty Hall (also from the Stains and Elements) on bass, and Al Konrad on drums. Musically, this was perhaps one the most adept Dark Marble line-ups. There were some great shows that followed, and it was at this time that the band perfected their version of “Another Girl, Another Planet” (by the Only Ones). The band opened for Ani DiFranco at an acoustic concert to benefit several UB Law School student groups. Unfortunately, there were many shows that were poorly promoted and lacked audience members. Then things finally picked up at the JackLords reunion show in 1993 at Nietzsche’s, where the Dark Marbles were one of the opening acts. Following their set, the band was approached for a recording deal. By this time, however, it was “too little -too late,” as Patrick Kane had already decided by this time that his tenure as a Dark Marble was finished. The 1993 show at Nietzsche’s in Buffalo would be the last Dark Marbles gig in Buffalo for quite some time.
After 1993, Yod was busy with Law School, and he graduated from UB’s Law School in the Spring of 1994. For the next year, he devoted himself to his new girlfriend (who lived in NY City), working a law firm in Buffalo, and passing the Bar exam. In 1995, after Yod passed the Bar exam, he moved to NY City to live with Alex Verner, his fiancee, who he married in Long Lake, NY in September of 1995.
Yod knew plenty of musicians from Buffalo who had moved to NY City, and thus it made sense for him to create a new version of the Dark Marbles there. Yod first started jamming with ex-Buffalonians Joe Scott Klossner (formerly of the Pluto Gang) and Mike Hueston on bass (who Yod had known from UB Law School), and Dave DiBiasio again on drums, but it was Yod’s friendship with musician and photographer Sara Essex that helped him get other musicians on board. When Dave DiBiasio could not commit to a being in a band anymore, and Scott Klossner bowed out, it was Sara’s friend Dave Rhoden who stepped up to the plate as guitarist and guest singer, and it was Sara’s friends Mike Zwecker and then later Charlie Strout who agreed to drum. With this line-up, the Dark Marbles played their NYC debut at the Spiral on the Lower East Side to rave reviews.
Artistic differences with Dave Rhoden as well as Charlie’s recent marriage, led to Yod seeking new members, and this time, he was able to find a lead guitarist through his NYC garage-rock connections (thank you Jahna Rain Balk!) in the form of John Pardo, who had previously been in the Defilers with Jahna. Drummer John Kokinos was also briefly in the band after Charlie Strout. At this same time, Yod also made a friendship with musician Adam “Shankbone” Feldman, who summered in Long Lake at a lakefront property adjacent to Yod’s wife’s Alex’s family camp. Through Shankbone, and Shankbone’s musical friends, Yod found drummer Glen Turell.
With John Pardo in the band, and with new drummer Glen Turell, and keeping Mike Hueston, the Dark Marbles played such venues as Don Hills and the Continental Divide in NYC. They even travelled up North and played at the Red Barn in Deposit, NY with Scott Carpenter and the Real McCoys for Yod’s 40th birthday party, as well as another “up north gig” – namely the first of Randy Ketcham’s “Raquette River Rock Fest” held at the Lakeside Bar in Long Lake, NY!
But the relationship with John Pardo didn’t last either, as John went back to be with his friend Jahna to play guitar in the Innuendos and then the Demands. And this time, Yod got Adam “Shankbone” Feldman to play lead guitar. The Dark Marbles played some great live shows at the Orange Bear in NYC, some even with Glen’s girlfriend Jennifer Halpern on keyboards.
It was probably as this time that Yod fancied himself a promoter of sorts, and he got such Buffalo bands as Scott Carpenter and the Real McCoys, the Irving Klaws, the Outlyers, and other bands such as the Howling Thurstons, Hazy Jane, the Von Ghouls, the Coffin Daggers, the Apes, Mondo Topless, and others to do shows together with the Dark Marbles at the Orange Bear.
After a period of time, both Jennifer and Glen both left the band, and this is when Yod placed an ad in the Village Voice to recruit drum talent, and after auditions, the Dark Marbles picked up Dave Eisenhardt on drums. He was considerably louder as a drummer than Glen, and the volume of the band picked up.
With Dave Eisenhardt on drums, the Dark Marbles once again (summer of 2001) played Long Lake, this time at the re-opened “Newcomb Road House”. Long Lake went crazy for the sounds of this garage band.
But the events of September 11, 2001 changed many things. Dave Eisenhardt no longer could commit to the band (his office at 26 Federal Plaza was all in disarray), and even stalwart bassist Mike Hueston bowed out, stating that his life’s priorities had changed because of 9-11. And the Dark Marbles had a show scheduled for the Orange Bear (4 blocks from ground zero in Manhattan) for mid-October. What to do?
This is when Yod befriended musical virtuoso and garage-rock guru Peter Stuart (from the Headless Horsemen/Bitter Hearts) to play bass, and the band actually came awfully close to doing a show with Peter Stuart as the Dark Marbles bassist, and ex-Buffalonian Matt McGilliveray as the drummer. The Orange Bear failed to open in October of 2001, however, and Yod had to content himself with having Peter Stuart do the bass lines on a studio track/version of “Walk Around the World” (the Bernie Kugel & the Good tune) that Yod had been working on. In fact, it was at this time (Fall of 2001) that Yod finally set out to start recording the 18 songs that you now hold, many of which he had composed and had played with the Marbles all these years. In addition to Yod-written numbers, some of the recorded compositions (like “Catch That Girl,” “Paradise Lost and Found,” “Searchin For your Love,” and “Can’t Stay Here with Me”) were Buck Quigley (from the JackLords) compositions. It was a Dave Rhoden connection, namely a fellow named Arthur Winer, who ran a little studio (Canaveral Skies Studio) out of his apartment in Brooklyn. Yod started going to the studio and initially just laid down guitar and vocal tracks there. And when Pete DiBiasio came to visit NYC, Yod got Pete to lay down the bass tracks to “My Blue Day” (a song Yod had co-written with JackLords harmonica player Cliff Hanger), and the bass lines to “Turn Me Around”.
Post 9-11, Yod went back to the same list of drummers where he had found Dave Eisenhardt, and his second choice on that same list had been a dude named Tony Stuppiello, who had just come from several bands, including SpeedCrazy and The Trash Mavericks. For bass, Yod found ex-Buffalonian Zeke Brill, and with Shankbone now on lead guitar, the band soldiered on.
The studio recordings were now paid attention to, with Shankbone doing the leads on “Catch that Girl”, “Paradise Lost and Found”, and “Can’t Stay Here with Me”, and Zeke Brill doing the bass tracks on the same 3 songs.
In 2002, Yod moved to Cranford, New Jersey, and while Tony expressed an interest in coming to NJ for rehearsals and continuing the Dark Marbles project, Shankbone and Zeke did not, and thus there was another short gap in the Dark Marbles’ history. Eventually, Yod placed an ad in local NJ record stores and music stores, and came across Pete Quilla, from the Vigilante Cowboys, and Tony offered up his friend John “Hollywood” on bass. This is the line-up as photographed on the outside cover of the Dark Marbles 5-song “Sports car demo” recorded at Dome Studios, in Rosell Park, NJ. And yes, that is Yod’s 1971 MGB convertible in the foreground….
Tony’s friend Hollywood proved to be a bit unreliable at bass, and there was an Orange Bear show where he did not show at all….and yet the band sounded great at that show, fast, and tight, despite his absence…
At this time, Tony met and fell in love with Deb Shuster, bass player for the all-girl rockabilly band “Catspaw”. Tony talked Deb into joining the Dark Marbles, and for a long while Deb played bass in 2 bands. The Dark Marbles often played opening for Catspaw, and vice versa.
Eventually, Deb opted to drop CatsPaw, and came on board with Dark Marbles for good. This was the line-up that opened for the Sky Saxon and the Seeds, opened for the Insomniacs, opened for Muck and the Mires, and did several shows with the Demands: Yod, Pete Quilla on lead guitar, Tony on drums, and Deb Stuppiello (yes, they got married!) on bass. The Dark Marbles played at Tony and Deb’s wedding, and you can see a picture of them playing at this wedding on the inside liner notes of “Live at Maxwell”, a bootleg CD.
In 2004, this version of the Dark Marbles made the trek to Buffalo, where, immediately following the 10-year reunion of Yod’s UB Law School class, the band played at the Mohawk Place tavern to rave reviews.
Through this last line-up, Yod got Tony to lay down the drum tracks for all 17 songs (this time at Wombat Studios in Brooklyn) on the new CD, and Pete Quilla plays lead guitar on “That’s the way it should be”, and “Great Divide”. In the studio, Yod got William “Rocky” Belcher to do the keyboard tracks, Vickie Sandiford to do bongos, Cliff Hanger to do harmonica, and got Timmy Rockwell from Long Lake to lay down the bass tracks on “Evil Moon”.
By 2005, three of the studio tracks were coming together….and the Dark Marbles released a studio-EP entitled: “Let’s Go!”, with songs: “Walk Around the World”, “In Angola”, and “Run Through the Rain”.
This version of the Dark Marbles got good reviews from critic Al Muzer of the Aquarian Music Weekly, as well as Gary Wien from Upstage Magazine, and got to open for Jason Ringenberger from Jason and the Scorchers, and NJ favorites Maybe Pete at clubs like the Saint and the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. The band also got to see several songs played on DJ Bill Kelly’s Teenage Wasteland show on WBNY (Bill Kelly also does this show on Sirius Radio’s “Little Steven’s Underground Garage”…)
By the year 2007, Yod had figured that he had done enough shows fronting the Dark Marbles, and after playing one of the last of CBGBs garage-rock/psychedelic shows in a line-up that included the Anything People, The Anderson Council, the Black Hollies, and Mod Fun, Yod felt that the Dark Marbles were just about done.
The Dark Marbles played their last NYC show at Otto’s Shrunken Head in the summer of 2007, making it 20 years, on and off, that the band had been together.
After the last live show, Yod continued to work on the studio recordings, finally settling on MJB Studios in Rosell Park/Union, NJ as the place where the last few recorded tracks would be laid down. Here Yod got Robert Kozak (formerly with the Jumpers from Buffalo) to lay down some great leads, including those for “Turn Me Around”, “The Elmwood Strip”, “She Comes in Colors”, “Evil Moon”, “Send Me a Postcard”, “Friend of Her”, and “New Year’s Eve”, and he got “Saxo” Joe Braverman to lay down a flute track on “New Year’s Eve” and a saxophone track on “Friend of Her”. And thanks to Matthew Ballister at MJB Studios for getting the recording phase of the project done….!
With all the raw tracks recorded, Yod just had to get the darn thing mixed down. But then Yod and his family moved from NJ to the Adirondacks in July of 2009, with the belief that his NJ friends (MJB and Grammy-award winning producer Todd Whitelock) would be able to get the job done….but it just wasn’t happening…..Todd and Matthew Ballister at MJB Studio were quarrelling over the Dark Marbles mixing project…..what to do now? Who would want to tackle mixing down assorted digital files, some of which dated back to 1997 or so, and were recorded at different times, and were located on several different disks and hard drives?
In the meantime, Yod had convinced the Dark Marbles drummer Tony and bass player Deb to came up to the Adirondacks to play a rare live show at the Big Tupper Ski area in the Fall of 2010, where they were joined by Steve Signell on lead guitar and Jason Hall on keyboards.
Yod’s pleas for help in mixing the tracks (message sent out on facebook) was finally answered by Robbie “Goo Goo Doll” Takac, who offered to get the tracks mixed down at his GCR Studio in Buffalo. Robbie’s sound engineer, a Mr. Justin Rose, is an absolute genius, and deserves so much credit for converting all the raw tracks into what you hear now. Thank you so much Justin Rose for your expertise!!