Surviving members of the Gainesville, Fla., rock group For Squirrels had little time to grieve over the deaths of two band mates and their tour manager in September 1995. They have been too busy trying to keep their memories, hopes and dreams alive.
Now, nearly two years since lead singer Jack Vigliatura, bassist Bill White and tour manager Tim Bender were killed when their van overturned in Georgia on the band’s return trip from a gig at CBGBs in New York, the healing process finally has begun.
Guitarist Travis Michael Tooke, now on lead vocals, drummer Jack Griego and new bassist Andy Lord have left behind For Squirrels and started over as Subrosa. Their debut 550 Music album, “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” (released July 29), is their ode to three lost friends.
“We really didn’t have much time to reflect on anything after the accident,” Griego said recently. “We were trying to keep the focus on the record (For Squirrels’ debut ‘Example’). It was real important for us to get out there and perform. It was therapy for us.
“It wasn’t really until the past six months that we really got a chance to sit down and think about doing something different, something other than For Squirrels. We wanted to do something they would be proud of.”
They would be proud: “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” is a raw catharsis, infused with the spirit of For Squirrels and Tooke’s blossoming songwriting skills and artful venting. The 13 tracks were recorded at Le Studio in Morin Heights, Canada, and produced by Nick Launay and Subrosa.
Griego said he thinks of “Never Bet the Devil Your Head” as another chapter in their still-developing book.
“This particular book is more erratic than ‘Example,’ ” he said. ” ‘Example’ was more like one book, and this new one seems more like three books. Each part of the album has its own book and a song that tells the story.
“You have your ‘head’ songs, the ones about emotions, and you have your ‘never’ songs, which are a little cathartic, and you have your ‘devil’ songs, which are pretty obvious. Doing this record was our way of grieving. It’s a very dark record, with a lot of emotions in it.
“We’re just now coming to terms with what happened, whereas before it was always on the backburner.”
In the band’s press kit, Tooke said For Squirrels’ spirit has moved on, but its body and soul remain.
“In medieval times,” he wrote, “knights brought to the brink of death, consumed under oath, could be reborn under a new oath – an oath to the death for their cause, their loyalty, their integrity. This was called an oath under the rose, their private crusade to a new life, a new meaning: Subrosa.”
Choosing a new name was perhaps their most difficult decision, Griego said.
“Not only did it have to mean something to us,” he said, “it also had to pay homage to our friends. Subrosa honestly says it all for us.”
BWF (before we forget): See a related story on For Squirrels.