The Story Of Vomit Launch

Vomit Launch: A rock band from Chico, California from 1985 to 1992. They released four proper albums and toured, mostly playing the West Coast with one East Coast jaunt. Some people liked them.

Patricia Rowland - vocals
Lindsey Thrasher - guitar/vocals
Larry Crane - bass/guitar/vocals
Steve Bragg - drums

Previous band members:
Tim Smyth (RIP), Toni Smith, John McKinley, Gene Story, Doug Roberts (a.k.a. Dog Rubbers/Stanky Poon) and "Roland" the Drumatix.

Studio guest musicians:
Phil Smoot (of The Whitefronts), Doug Roberts, John Baccigaluppi, Rich Hardesty (secret whistling), John McKinley

A Tedious History of Vomit Launch

In January 1985, in the college town of Chico, California, Gene Story decided he wanted to start a band, with the idea that they could sound like 4AD groups such as the Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil. He asked Lindsey Thrasher and Patricia Rowland to join. Being friends with all involved, Larry Crane offered to play bass (borrowed from roommate, Steve Valin) and the use of his house to practice. Lindsey owned a guitar and it wasn't yet determined what Patricia would be doing. Basically Gene never made it to practice, but somehow friends Tim Smyth and Toni Smith dropped by for the first rehearsal with guitars, amps and percussion equipment. Patricia was conned into buying a drum machine, persuaded to set aside her viola and became the vocalist. Rehearsing a couple of times, the group was asked to play a house party and needed a name. Some time before this group had assembled, Lindsey and Doug Roberts drank a bunch of wine and created a list of possible band names for future use. Unfortunately among these names were Truckload of Fuckers, Fuckload of Truckers and Vomit Launch. Needing a name with a "gig" fast approaching, the band decided Vomit Launch would be a fantastic choice! The party was quite a success, according to those who remembered anything the next day. More shows for this 5-piece ensued during the next month or so. Tim and Toni headed off on a vacation to Europe, leaving the remaining three to carry on with their pal "Roland". Soon the band was spotted and befriended by John McKinley - a recent Berkeley transplant and leader of the Heat Seekers, a rocking new band in town. John, claiming to be more than just a guitar player, offered to play drums. In April 1985 John had his first show with Vomit Launch - an opening gig for The Replacements and 28th Day (a wonderful Chico band, featuring their pals Barbara Manning, Cole Marquis and Mike Cloward). That summer, the band went into a local studio (On Trak) to lay down the songs they had been performing. This material, along with some live recordings, was released later that year on cassette as Fishbutt. Through a handy friendship with a record distributor it actually sold a few copies. The band continued to play around Chico, doing more shows with 28th Day plus opening for Camper Van Beethoven and punk legends the Dead Kennedys.

In January 1986, Vomit Launch made its first foray to the Bay Area to play with friends Idiot (the) and punkers Social Unrest. Gigs in Chico and the Bay Area continued into April, when John, for personal reasons, decided to quit the group. A few ill-advised trio gigs occurred in May and June, culminating in a show at the renowned Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco where John temporarily helped out and pal Doug Roberts filled in on second drums and trumpet. During another disaster-laden trio show, UK immigrant and punk rock drummer Steve Bragg watched aghast. Taking pity on the group, he offered to try out on drums with them, despite the fact that he lived in Berkeley - three hours from Chico. Needless to say, from the first practice and on Steve proved to be an asset to the group, strengthening their arrangements and giving the band a bit of muscle that had been missing. In August 1986, Steve made his live debut with Vomit Launch, and by early October they headed into former Pell Mell/Call bassist Greg Freeman's Lowdown Studios in San Francisco to track an album. The seven song release, Not Even Pretty, had a title based on some wonderful feedback the band received after ending up on the cover of the local weekly (Chico News & Review) earlier that year.

Not Even Pretty was self-released (via a loan from a good friend) on the band's own label, Rat Box Records, in 1987. The album did fairly well on the CMJ charts, garnered decent reviews and quickly sold out of its initial pressing. For some unknown reason, producer Greg Freeman created an ungodly remix of "Swelling Admiration", the band's anti-frat boy anthem. It ended up on At Dianne's Place, a LP compilation that included the band's pals Camper Van Beethoven, Donner Party, The Catheads and others. One of the label owners claimed he would be booking all of the group's shows, including a national tour. Of course he flaked out. In mid 1987 the band traveled to the Northwest for a series of shows, meeting up with their pals The Walkabouts in Seattle. Doug Roberts followed along, landing in jail in Eugene and sleeping in a random stranger's home in Seattle. Steve's school bus/living room/tour mobile proved to be quite the exciting ride as promised, with brakes failing and head gasket blowing along the way. Limping home, the band continued to play shows around the Bay Area and Chico and started work on their second album, once again at Lowdown with Greg at the helm.

Vomit Launch's second album, Exiled Sandwich, was also self-released and came out in April 1988. It too sold fairly well, gained some radio play and helped spread the band's name. Shows kept rolling with many of Vomit Launch's favorite groups and best friends - Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Weenie Roast, SF Seals, Donner Party, Idiot (the), The Walkabouts, Glass Eye, The Downsiders, Dose, World of Pooh and others. September 1988 saw another bus ride to the Northwest, a breakdown/rental van and another blown head gasket - but the gigs were bigger and better. Mad Rover Records, run by John Baccigaluppi and Rich Hardesty in Sacramento, approached the group about working with them. Contracts were signed and at the end of the year the band snuck onto the CSUC campus to record some demos for what would be their third album.

Happy to have an opening slot for the popular Seattle group Mudhoney in lovely San Jose, Vomit Launch found a band named Nirvana begging their way onto the bill at the last minute. They seemed like nice guys and had a great Shocking Blue cover. Three of the songs from last year's demos were mixed with Greg Freeman and came out as a 7" on Teenbeat Records in DC, where owner Mark Robinson had taken a liking to Vomit Launch's unique sound. A lucky accident totaled Larry's car with no injuries, and with the settlement, the band now had a Dodge Tradesman 300 tour-mobile deluxe, with a crafty wooden interior. Vomit Launch briefly returned to Greg's to cut a track for Lookout Record's compilation, The Thing That Ate Floyd, but soon they also found themselves at Enharmonik Studios (really a basement of a home at the time) with John Baccigaluppi, recording (too many) tracks for their third album. The Tradesman 300 proved to be a hit, with three trips to the Northwest this year and travels to exotic California locales such as Fremont and Arcata. Sessions for the third album spilled into 1990 as unlimited studio time and delusions of grandeur afflicted all involved.

As studio sessions wrapped Vomit Launch found themselves playing out of town quite a bit. Two more trips to the Northwest (Portland's Blue Gallery owner Tim Brooks was a fan) and regular Bay Area visits kept the band busy. Mad Rover Records were now in the process of finding someone to help release the third album, Mr. Spench, named after the band's mascot - a clown head (Fun Fountain) that could levitate his hat on a stream of water (he shows up on the back cover of Exiled Sandwich and inside Steve's kick drum on occasion). Eventually Rough Trade Records hooked up a pressing and distribution deal for Mad Rover and the album came out in late September. A video for the song "Switch" was shot by Michael Bahr, and even made it to MTV's 120 Minutes show - even if it was embarrassing and silly to watch. New Year's Eve found the group bringing down the house at Sacramento's Cattle Club with a host of bands including, local heroes Phallucy.

And thus began one of the busiest years for Vomit Launch. Their first trip to the seamy underworld of Los Angeles resulted in a fantastic show with Popdefect and Naked Raygun. In February the band played a special party/show at Enharmonik Studios' new building (now The Hangar) in Sacramento. The show was recorded and highlights came out later that year on the Boltcutters & Beer 7". The Northwest was visited three times again this year - once via an extended trip booked by some kid who ended up claiming to be in the process of booking a national tour for the group before flaking out and moving to Alaska. At least return trips featured gigs with The Melvins, Hammerbox and ex-Chicoans Dose. From April through July the group visited Enharmonik (between day jobs and gigs) to start tracking their meticulously planned fourth album. Their return visit to L.A, was awful, with a lousy blues band and some other jerks sharing the stage. Overall, the year produced the recordings for their final (and best) album and they played plenty of shows with (mostly) great bands.

With Rough Trade Records US going bankrupt the previous Fall, Mad Rover would never be paid for any records sold (Mr. Spench actually did sell fairly well), and everything that had been released through them was now in limbo. With a record in the can for over half a year already, the band was getting worried. Eventually Mark at Teenbeat Records offered to release their fourth album, which was almost titled One Harmful Piece of Carpet but through a quick dictionary search renamed Dogeared (partially summing up how the band was feeling about the music biz at this point). Higher profile shows came along, including gigs with X, Thin White Rope and (the lame) Food For Feet. Mark booked the first ever East Coast tour for the group. Shows with The Verlaines, Grenadine, Magnetic Fields, Dustdevils, Eggs, Labradford, Blast Off Country Style, Chew Toy and others were a treat, but somehow the CD never materialized until the tour ended. At tour's end the Tradesman 300 dropped a rod between Flagstaff and Needles, but amazingly limped home with the help of fearless roadie/driver/soundman Adam Wakeling. With the album finally out, the band hit the Northwest again and the usual Bay Area and Sacramento gigs. The music climate was changing - post-Nirvana the big labels seemed to be coming in and picking up any stupid band with loud guitars - but Vomit Launch didn't fit that mold. Plus they still had this dumb band name. Writing began for a fifth album, but even though Mad Rover had renewed their contract, concerns grew over whether the label could even release an album without a P&D deal in place. Would it be another year of waiting for an album to come out? What once seemed like such an adventure, and a special joy shared by very close friends, was now fraying. The group had always promised themselves that this would be music made by friends and that it would be fun. Looking forward things didn't look so good. In November Vomit Launch announced it was disbanding. On December 11th Vomit Launch took the stage for the last time, at Duffy's Whispering Clam Room (co-owned by Doug Roberts), and played two long, passionate sets of all the songs they could recall. In a haze of beer and tears, they called it finished.

Mark Robinson picked out the bonus tracks for a Not Even Pretty CD reissue that came out in 1994 on Teenbeat. In 1995 Jeff Gomez's book, Our Noise, was released - with gratuitous use of many underground rock band names and such. Vomit Launch and Patricia are mentioned on pages 94-95. It's lame. In 2008 the song "Exit Lines" was used in the movie, The Wackness and the band got paid a little bit of dough. Deweylogz (?) posted one of the few Vomit Launch cover songs ever in July 2012.

A 7-inch of rare VL tracks from 1985 will be released August 19th 2013 on BUFMS records. 

Patricia Howard (nee Rowland) lives outside of Chico, California, and has been working in greenhouse culture. She's married to Sugar Bob Howard and just won an"Employee of the Year" scholarship!
Steve Bragg also resides in Chico, still drums in bands, and runs his screenprinting business, Limey Tees.
Lindsey Thrasher opened Exiled Records in Portland, Oregon, and has been selling lots of obscure vinyl, including Vomit Launch records. 
Larry "Lawrence" Crane is the editor of Tape Op Magazine (with partner John Baccigaluppi) and his Jackpot! Recording Studio in Portland has been around since 1997. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.

If one was curious as to goings-on before Vomit Launch, checking out the Induced Musical Spasticity • Buttecounty Free Music Society Twenty Fifth Anniversary quadruple long playing record and compact disc boxed set might set you straight. Patricia, Lindsey and Lawrence were all involved in projects here, as are many compatriots who show up all over their history.