Since playing their first show at the legendary Spirit Club in early 1987, Usual Suspects were a top club band locally, playing original songs, opening for touring artists, and dodging all those pesky record labels that were always trying to tempt them with offers of fame and fortune. (Well, at least that's the way the band remembers it.) The band was twice nominated in the "best rock band" category at the San Diego Music Awards (damn those Beat Farmers
), and received positive press from the likes of Karla Peterson (San Diego Union-Tribune) and John D'Agostino (The Reader & Los Angeles Times
). The band worked hard at recording but released only two complete albums in its lifetime: Soapbox Row
in 1992; and Month of Sundays
In '87, the band had begun as a quartet, with Kyle on guitar, Brian on vocals, Bob Sheehan
playing the drums, and Gary Halvin
on bass. Later in that first year the band added a fifth member, keyboardist-guitarist Mike Wozniak
, and what would become the Usual Suspects' sound was developed. Late in '87 the band gathered at Tim and Marvin's house (friends of Woz) to make their first recording. Mike, due to the fact that he had once recorded and and released a solo album, was the de-facto producer. The band recorded seven of its best songs and the band's first release, Pictures Never Lie
took shape. The cassette-only release was finished in early 1988. Wozniak didn't stick with the band for long however, and was briefly replaced by Sharon Golden
on keys in the Fall of '88.
In '89, the band would have an unwitting brush with fame at a battle of the bands at San Diego State University. Back to playing as a four-piece without keys, Usual Suspects played well, but the band that went on last had a singer with an amazing amount of charisma, as well as a fair amount of talent, and completely won over the crowd by the end of their short set. Looking back, losing a battle of the bands to Bad Radio
wasn't really the end of the world. The singer with all that charisma proved to be polite and quiet backstage, and introduced himself simply as, "Ed." He would later relocate to Seattle, and help form a group named Pearl Jam. You may have heard of him.
Later in 1989, with the guys once again looking for a fifth member, they found Bob Fedeli
, who played keyboards and guitar, and sang. Ready to record again, the band went to The Studio to record with the hottest engineer in town, Mike Harris. Incredibly prepared, the guys recorded and mixed 4 songs in a weekend, and the Return to the Moon
EP was released in early 1990.
In '91, in the midst of another recording, original bassist Halvin was replaced with Mark Tucker
, whom the boys had known from his days with Junction 8, and the classic band line-up was finally in place. Due to a personal contact, the band had access to a local studio during evening hours and the boys made the best use of this time possible. The tracks that made up the Soapbox Row
album were largely recorded during this time. The album was finally finished as a cassette-only release in 1992. The album was largely the result of Kyle's musical vision, and Bob Sheehan's artistic vision, as they had worked tirelessly on the album's concept and package.
During all these recordings, the band always made time to keep playing out in the local clubs. This band line-up was only altered for a brief period in '93-'94 when Fedeli stepped away from the band temporarily, and was replaced by local legend Mighty Joe Longa
, organist for the Jacks and Tomcat Courtney.
In 1995, with Fedeli back in the group, the band remained active in the San Diego club scene, playing all the "originals" venues, and playing monthly at Jose Murphy's, one of the classic beach bars in town. The idea of recording once again was encouraged by the band's longtime friend, engineer, and producer, John Hendrickson
, who by now had developed contacts in the real music industry.
As house engineer, John had the ability to get the band into Schnee Studio in Hollywood during their down time, and once again the band took advantage, recording the basic tracks to another album. During this time, John also became friends with Gavin Lurrsen
, mastering engineer extraordinaire, and budding music producer. Gavin agreed to oversee completion of the album as well as its final mastering. Month of Sundays
was finally released on CD in 2000.
However exciting the the prospect of another completed album was, Bob Sheehan had already left the group for the always popular "other interests" and although he was replaced by good players, including Todd Woolsey
, things just weren't the same. By the end of 1999, Brian, too, had convinced himself that he was finished with music and "retired" from the band.
Most of the former Usual Suspects reunited as Hatfield Rain
, and continued to play together into the new millenium. Later, Usual Suspects played together on occasion, usually once each Summer at Mickee's in Imperial Beach, but also in February 2005 at the Belly Up in Solana Beach, opening for the Beat Farmers.
The Bobs, Sheehan and Fedeli, have remained friends with Wookie Garcia and contributed mightily to their first recording.