The Chimeras - Mistaken For Granted (1995)
Sadly, this is the only release that saw the light of day to my knowledge and is extremely difficult to find, often fetching from $50 to $150.
Excerpts From New Times (Laurie Notaro)January 4th 1996:
The band was born early in 1993. The Zubia brothers (Mark and Lawrence)--fresh from dismantling their former band, Live Nudes--teamed up with bassist Scott Andrews, drummer Mark Riggs and original Gin Blossoms guitarist Doug Hopkins, and quickly became known for a style that combined Hopkins' three-minute-pop brilliance with the Zubias' soulful, blues-influenced rock. According to Mark Zubia, they took the name "Chimeras" from a Greek word that described a "she-woman fire-breathing beast, with the head of a lion, body of a goat and tail of a serpent."
The Chimeras rocketed onto the music scene. Just a few weeks after the band materialized, it became one of the most-booked and best-recognized ensembles in Tempe. The band's first gig was before a capacity crowd at the now-defunct Edcel's Attic. In record time, rumors were bouncing off the barroom walls that the Chimeras would be the next band signed out of Tempe.
But the Chimeras seemed to fall apart as quickly as they came together. Hopkins abruptly left the band after a discouraging performance at a music festival in April 1993. Riggs quit because of personal problems. Bookings plummeted and dragged the band's morale down with them.
"We went through five months without another guitarist," remembers Mark Zubia. "We were very depressed. Pete [Milner] has told me how depressed we looked when we played."
For four months, we paid for our rehearsal shed out of our own pockets," adds Andrews. "And then we'd all just go there and sit looking at each other."
After six months of limbo, Milner filled the hole that Hopkins left. The band members collectively cajoled Gary Smith--who was playing with Swamp Cooler--into sliding behind the drums.
The reconstituted Chimeras quickly started writing new material, and within weeks the band once again was a staple ofclub listings. New Times named the Chimeras Best Alternative Band of 1993.
In December of that year, however, the bad times returned with a vengeance. After suffering through several years of alcohol abuse and severe depression, Doug Hopkins killed himself. Hopkins had remained friends with the band, even after leaving. It was Lawrence Zubia who discovered Hopkins' body in the guitarist's apartment early one Sunday afternoon.
Performing was no escape from grief. Hopkins had written a large portion of the Chimeras' material, and every set the band played brought poignant reminders of his suicide.
Then, after years of his own excessive drug and alcohol use, Lawrence finally arrived at what he terms "the crossroads." He found himself fighting the same problems that caused Hopkins to shoot himself.
"I could not go any further," Lawrence says. "It came to a decision of whether I was going to continue my life like this or not continue my life at all.
"Now I look back and think, 'How did I do all of the mathematics?' Like, it would be a Thursday; I'd think, 'I gotta play tomorrow. It's midnight. Okay, I can take 14 of these pills, and then by six o'clock tomorrow evening, I'll start feeling somewhat okay. I'll drink four beers. I can play.'"
Fortunately, Lawrence checked in rather than out. He enrolled in a 28-day program at a west Phoenix rehab center for chronic relapsers, the kind of place that requires residents to wake up at six in the morning to do laundry and other daily chores.
"It was like boot camp," Lawrence says.
Although Lawrence's bandmates were supportive of his decision to take a monthlong hiatus and get clean, his peers in rehab were not so supportive of his determination to continue as a rock musician.
Mark made it clear to his brother that he would still be part of the band.
"And this is what I was telling the people in rehab," Lawrence continues. "But they're telling me, 'You can't go back to the band. That's the worst place for you to be!'
Lawrence successfully completed the program and immediately rejoined the band, which experienced a creative catharsis on his return. And Lawrence stayed sober.
"I think the real inspiration for me to stay sober is what happened to Doug," Lawrence continues. "I felt sorry for myself for a long time because of drugs and alcohol. I really pitied myself. Now it's like: How fucking hard is it to play music with a purpose?"
But if Hopkins has remained an inspiration for the Chimeras, his pop influence has faded from the band's music. All but three of the songs Hopkins wrote for the band have been excised from the Chimeras' repertoire, and none of the late songwriter's work appears on Mistaken for Granted.
Obviously, Doug Hopkins and the Chimeras wrote a lot of good songs, and his influence is still with us," stresses Milner. "He was a great guitar player and a great musician. But if anyone thinks we're up there trying to ride on Doug's songs, they should understand that we're a new band since then."
The Zubias' songwriting style has started to accommodate more of a blues/rock format and even a twist of the traditional Mexican folk music they heard as children.
"My brother and I have been blues-based writers," says Mark. "Doug was more pop, and we went to that pop thing. Now I think we're back to somewhere in the middle. We can take what we learned from Doug and apply it to what we do now."
So far, so good. Mistaken caught the attention of Morty Wiggins, vicepresident of Bill Graham Management, the promotional entity behind the Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop. Wiggins and the band's lawyer, Fred Davis (son of Arista CEO Clive Davis), plan to shop the Chimeras around, confident they can get the band a record deal.
And so the Chimeras recently returned to the studio to record a demo tape produced by Gin Blossoms guitarist and longtime friend Jesse Valenzuela. The demo was cut at the Vintage recording studio in Phoenix, a small, white building that looks more like a VD clinic than the studio where the Gin Blossoms recorded their latest single, "Till I Hear It From You."
Despite the potential that is crackling in the air, the Chimeras have come to realize that there's more to staying together as a band than cutting record deals.
Lawrence Zubia - Vocals
Mark Zubia - Guitars & Vocals
Peter Milner - Guitars
Scott Andrews - Bass
Gary Smith - Drums
Produced by The Chimeras and Mark Mattson
Recorded at The Salt Mine Studios
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