order of oddfish cover

The Order of Oddfish


Goodbye, Brilliant Pebbles

So after two-and-a-half years, my band Brilliant Pebbles is breaking up.

From the left, that’s Monika Bukowska (singer), Sam Ng (keyboards), and me (bass). In the back, wearing the monstrous blue dragon head, is Philip Montoro (drums). Monika and Sam say they’re going to continue Brilliant Pebbles in some altered form.

Philip had invited me to join Brilliant Pebbles, which he had named after a failed 1980s space-based anti-missile program. He introduced me to Monika, who dressed like a glam space sorcerer and sang in an unhinged mix of English and Polish. (She was interviewed about her style at the Chicago Reader here, though sadly, the picture seems to have disappeared). Monika was best friends with Sam, a classically trained musician who had emigrated from Hong Kong. (The Reader profiled his “pseudo arrogant” style here.)

I had some of my best times in Chicago with Monika, Sam, and Philip. I have rarely laughed so hard. When we were writing songs and playing out, it was nearly perfect. I loved being in Brilliant Pebbles.

After every show, I felt like I had been walking with gods. We played with so many fantastic people: Bobby Conn, Marnie Stern, Dan Deacon, Dengue Fever, Quintron, Secret Chiefs 3, Borts Minorts, Ruins, Detholz!, Baby Teeth, The Show is the Rainbow, Crystal Castles, Blue Ribbon Glee Club, Lazer Crystal, Laura Palmer . . . and too many more to mention.

Here’s a video of us from just a couple weeks ago, lip-synching our song “Monkey Go” on Chic-a-go-go, Mia Park’s legendary Chicago kiddie dance party cable access show:

This Saturday is our last show, at Chicago’s Subterranean. It’s also our CD release party! The openers will be “candy thrash machine” Heart Shaped Hate, the ghostly organ theatrics of Aleks and the Drummer, and the hilarious scat-classical electro-huuuh? of Lord of the Yum Yum.

We got a nice notice in the Onion’s AV Club for Chicago, in which they described our songs as “full-fledged space operas that sound as though they’ve been extracted from a bygone era, joyfully mashing fuzzed-out bass with church organs while frontman Monika Bukowska caterwauls in what may or may not be English.”

Actually, the metaphors in the reviews are almost as fun as the music. Time Out Chicago called Brilliant Pebbles “a giddy, Gypsy-arcade assault on your senses.” Liz Armstrong wrote in the Reader that “Monika Bukowska seems to be taking direction from an animal spirit guide: a bushy-tailed, neon-hued, carnivorous squirrel, maybe. She skitters, trills, and growls hosanna while her bandmates . . . turn flangey haunted-house keyboard, licks of lollipop bass, and chariot-race drums into hilariously labyrinthine, melodramatic tunes that sound like the moment in a Mexican soap opera when all becomes suddenly clear—OMG, she’s a he!—and someone gets a slap across the face.”

“Licks of lollipop bass.” That will be my epitaph in the Chicago music scene. I can live with that.

If you’re in Chicago, we’d love to see you on Saturday for one last fling.

So long, Brilliant Pebbles.

Interviews and Articles

I am interviewed by Betsy Bird for the School Library Journal’s Fuse #8 blog. Check it out if you want to read about my opinions on Zork, my life in the convent, and why The Jeffersons is superior to Catcher in the Rye. Many in the comments section deem this the “Best. Interview. Ever.” Dare you disagree?

I am interviewed by the lovely Senfaye on A Maze Of Books. Read it if you’re curious as to why I chose to end the interview by saying “I hate you”—and why when Senfaye asked “What’s your favorite food?” I replied “Your skull.” It’s scandalous!

I am interviewed by Amy Alessio for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Read about my experiences as a junior high school science teacher—in particular, of how the entire faculty was mysteriously menaced by a obscene note-writing student known only as “The Foggy Wiener.” I also talk about my participation in Japan’s violent “Naked Man” Festival, and how I discovered the President of the ALA is a whimsical hobo.

Order of Odd-Fish Week on Murphblog. Check out Paul Michael Murphy’s monster five-part interview with me! Part One, the road to publication; Part Two, on writing; Part Three, I reveal the thing I will always find funny; Part Four, the “lightning round”; Part Five, a Create-Your-Own-Odd-Fish-Specialty contest (entries are in the comments section); and I judge the winner of the contest.

I am interviewed by Melissa at the Book Nut blog. I talk about the difficulties of getting The Order of Odd-Fish published, my high school friend who was the inspiration for Jo, the idea of an “urban Narnia,” and the origin of the All-Devouring Mother character. Melissa also posted a glowing review here.