Music can’t mask the pain, but for the two surviving members of For Squirrels, it can be therapeutic.
It has been more than two months since the Gainesville, Fla., rock quartet’s van crashed in Georgia, killing lead singer John Francis “Jack” Vigliatura and bassist Bill White, both of Palm Harbor, and road manager Tim Bender (of Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.).
Carrying on in their names is just what they would have wanted, says guitarist Travis Tooke, also of Palm Harbor.
“I’m sure they would do the same thing if the situation were reversed,” said Tooke, who suffered a broken elbow in the Sept. 8 accident. “As far as them being friends, I’m still coping with (losing them). But you have to stay positive, otherwise you’ll never go forward and sit in your own little suicidal world.”
Bassist Andy Lord, who went to East Lake High School (in Palm Harbor) and played soccer with Vigliatura and Tooke, has been added to the group. They will remain a three-piece, and Tooke will now sing lead on the songs that won them a big-label deal last winter.
Their debut Sony/550 Music album, “Example,” was released Oct. 3, three and a half weeks after the band was returning from a triumphant show at the trend-setting CBGB’s club in New York. A rear tire blew on the band’s van on a Georgia interstate.
Drummer Thomas “Jack” Griego, who suffered a broken neck, was sitting next to Vigliatura, who was driving. Griego said he still feels the effects of the accident, mentally and physically.
“Up until where I lost consciousness, I probably replay that all the time, wondering if there was anything we could have done,” he said in a recent interview. “But you can’t dwell on something like that or you’ll drive yourself crazy.”
Griego said he has some leftover nerve damage in his right arm and has problems lifting it. His physical therapist set him up with a pulley device that supports the weight of his arms. The band rehearsed a few weeks ago for the first time, and Griego said it was an awkward situation, but he didn’t overextend himself.
Tooke said he and Griego never considered quitting.
“It’s a you’ve-got-to-go-on type of thing,” Tooke said. “I want everyone to know about the record and the guys. It’s inspired us to keep going.
“After this happened, I wanted to keep it in the family, and adding Andy was like a no-brainer. He was really excited about being a part of the band and carrying on for the guys.”
For now, Tooke is contending with his dual vocal and guitar duties. He even jokes about his voice.
“If Jack (Vigliatura) is sort of R.E.M.-ish,” Tooke said, “I guess I’m sort of a bad version of John Lennon and Kurt Cobain, real raspy. I can sing real melodic and have a range, but it kind of sounds like a John Fogerty-esque scratchy.”
Like many young musicians, the members of For Squirrels did not have health insurance. Medical bills from the accident are mounting.
“We were actually in the process of getting health insurance through our music union, which is pretty rare for a band,” Griego said. “That was supposed to go into effect in January. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great.”
Artists ranging from R.E.M. to Pearl Jam have stepped in help defray medical costs for the group by donating items for an auction. On the block were several autographed items, such as a guitar from Pearl Jam, a drum head from Dave Matthews Band and a guitar from Willie Nelson. Other bands gathered cash donations at concerts.
BWF (before we forget): The surviving members of For Squirrels formed the band Subrosa.
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