XOXOXO was an early 2000s, Phoenix band that almost made it big during the Myspace era. They were fronted by an incredibly talented girl named Rachel Taylor, who tragically passed away about 10 years ago. I knew a girl that performed in a play Rachel wrote titled Sorbet and Other Stuff.The band was somewhat ahead of their time in that they were a polished, synth oriented and fashion conscious indie band at a time when most local indie rock was centered around guitars and Pabst Blue Ribbon. I always admired XOXOXO for aiming for something big. The band released one cd, which is pretty damn hard to find. XOXOXO even had a smear piece written about them in the Phoenix New Times, which is just further proof that they were awesome. XOXOXO disappeared for a while and reemerged with a new name, The Kohl Heart. I seem to recall that they lived in Oakland for a while as well. The members seemed to have a tendency to reinvent themselves just as they were beginning to achieve success. They are mostly forgotten …but not by me. Rachel Taylor RIP.
I first met Abe from Treasure Mammal around 2002-2003 and briefly lived with him at a house known for late night pool parties in Tempe, Arizona. Before he had started Treasure Mammal, he had been in a number of more conventional and “serious” indie rock bands. Despite being a multi-talented and gifted musician, he probably found standard indie rock fare to be a rather stifling and boring endeavor. He was always the life of the party and someone with Four-Loko tier levels of energy, and so Treasure Mammal turned out to be the perfect creative outlet for him. Anyway, I didn’t intend for this to sound like an obituary and am happy to observe that 15 years later, Treasure Mammal is still around, even as a zillion other Phoenix bands have come and gone.
Treasure Mammal has always differed from other indie “fun” or “humor” bands in that usually these types of groups use theatrics, costumes and funny gimmicks as a substitute for musical ability. In Treasure Mammal’s case though, Abe is actually a very skilled and accomplished musician, who just so happens to prefer to let loose and engage in this kind of wild chicanery. Another thing which distinguishes Treasure Mammal from similar bands was the use of top quality recording and production. While most people would have been content to throw some crap together and record it on 4 track, Treasure Mammal worked on their releases with some of the top recording engineers in the valley (Mike Hissong, Ryan Breen, etc.) Nowadays, almost anyone can make a near radio quality recording (production-wise anyway) with the software available, but Treasure Mammal was insisting on the very best studio production even 15 years ago.
Over the years, Treasure Mammal has had a knack for capitalizing on faddish catch phrases as they become part of the popular lexicon, quickly turning them into songs while their usage is still fairly prominent among the public. Examples of this are Best Friends Forever, Spring Break, and Real Talk. The most recent example of this is the jam, Missed Connections, (from the 2015 album I will Cut You With My EBT Card) which appears to be a musical satirization of the kinds of bizarre messages one might frequently see in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist…and it’s epic.
Seriously, this track is awesome. It combines subtle, ironic humor with an excellent and catchy pop song. The chorus, where the female vocals kick in (featuring singer Lonna Kelley,) channels its inner Olivia Newton John in the sense that it is simply magical. The style of the song blends 80s synthpop with avant garde spoken word. Though it isn’t meant to be taken seriously, Missed Connections could be interpreted as a social commentary on the empty desperation that animates these kinds of classified ads. I assume most people read these ads for amusement, but what about the ones that write them… and do so earnestly, without even a hint of trolling or irony? Who are they? What do they look like? What kind of low point are they at in their lives? There’s something deeper about contemporary society and atomization in this super fun time tune, whether anyone cares or not.
Like many of Treasure Mammal’s previous songs, one would easily envision this becoming a viral, chart topping hit. It’s one of those songs where you tragically muse to yourself, “I can’t believe that dumbass Travie McCoy ‘I wanna be a Billionaire’ song managed to become popular, and yet this crown jewel of a jam isn’t.”