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Sylvia Acoustic Freaky

A Pictorial, Annotated History

This is most all the stuff Syl does care to admit. For the sake of readability not all the band incarnations are included here; hopefully the Bandmates page does justice to the other musicians.

The Pre-History

1980 - 1982

The Leaving Trains was the first band Sylvia joined, as keyboard player. Released a single. She left to form her own band. The Trains were finding they didn't quite need a keyboard player anyway, and she was finding she didn't quite want to be one either. Still, she didn't say no to a US tour with Clay Allison, playing keyboards and acoustic rhythm guitar. Meanwhile To Damascus was getting started, but the first couple years were mostly a frustrating time of false starts and short-lived, mis-matched lineups. Managed to release a single, and record lots of songs at Radio Tokyo studio, most of which never got released.

The Lust Years

1983 - 1987

To Damascus

When David Winogrond and Tyra von Pagenhardt joined up, at last To Damascus was a real band, with dedicated players who influenced it and contributed to it.

Thus the rampage began. Constant rehearsals in their tiny rooftop space, long jams, late nights with the clunky 4-track cassette machine, every gig possible, even after a show Sylvia didn't want to put down her guitar. The music gradually morphed from a melodic punky power-pop a la the Buzzcocks/the Zombies into psychedelic jams a la Hendrix/Spirit/Love (these are exceedingly general comparisons). Completed the first album, Succumb, which had been impatiently started by Sylvia with a stand-in rhythm section, and charged right into the next one, Come to Your Senses. Syl got a used former phone company van and dragged everyone onto a madcap US tour, the band being completely unknown, with no money or real record label, and borrowing a bass player yet again. Good things came out of it, just not right away.

More stuff on the To Damascus page, also the entertaining Bio from this time period

Sylvia - from To Damascus cover To Damascus To Damascus portrait shot To Damascus Tour Syl and Van


Joining SWA came about by accident. Sylvia had called SST Records on behalf of To Damascus and got into a long conversation with Chuck Dukowski (ex-Black Flag bassist and SST co-founder), who happened to be needing a guitarist "who can really jam". She drove down that very night, they played, it rocked, within a month they were playing shows, recording an album, making a video out in the desert, playing some more shows, and surely breaking records for total cumulative decibels emitted in a one year period. Gigging constantly with two bands, it was during this time Sylvia started to hit her stride at last. Sylvia Wails Awesomely ...

The Lost Years

1988 - 1990

"Nature" album

To Damascus broke up on friendly terms when David and Tyra weren't able to commit to the hardcore touring life that Sylvia was determined to embark upon. Sylvia abandoned the band name to go "solo", for more flexibility and options with the inevitably changing band lineups. Musically it continued in the direction it had already been going, gradually more hard rock than 4/4 punk, less 60's though just as trippy, and though the next album, Nature, had yearning angst to spare, it was a bit more aloof than the heart-on-your-sleeve second To Damascus LP.

Live, the band did yet more wild improvisations. Bassist Tom Shannon, borrowed from his own band Death & Taxes, brought in his drummer Don Medina. Tom and Don's excellent musicianship opened new doors - with their odd-timing abilities, Don's double-bass, more things were possible, the trippy jams went into even more wide-ranging excursions, with chaotic speedmetal parts and jazzy. The same could be said of Sylvia's life at that time, with its nonstop adventuring. That was the dream: music all the time and - ta-da! - no day job!

Close Sylvia History
Sylvia Guitar Lead Syl Bat Freaky SJ Band in Basel Switzerland Photoshoot with Dave and Tom Syl Does a Jack Nicholson

With an snazzy new rhythm section and newfound confidence there came better gigs both at home in LA and elsewhere. Some highlights were a superfun adventure-filled mini-tour to the CMJ in New York, then the first European tour, which was very well-received, defying expectations. Ha-ha on certain promoters who had insisted on paying percentages instead of a flat fee! On the other hand, due to small printings, once again the band was on the road without enough albums in the stores. Typical record label blunderings. Sylvia loved Europe, found it historically interesting and culturally appealing, and the band was appreciated like never before. Right after that came a US tour as opening act for Soundgarden. That band was not yet huge, but everyone knew they soon would be; this was a great opportunity, fun despite a few personal dramas, and that trusty van pulled through once again.

"One Thing" album

One Thing was recorded with Barney Firks on bass and Chris Frye on drums, on loan from the San Diego band Wormdrive. "On loan" was actually "borrowed, with intent to steal". No wonder Wormdrive singer Ryk didn't much like the whole idea. But it was not so evil as it may sound - one reason for going "solo" after all was to get the best players, regardless of their other commitments. If things went well it would help everyone involved.

Then came the second European tour, with Barney and Don. This was the peak, career-wise. The biggest recording budget, the best gigs, and musically ... well it's all a matter of taste as to which was "the best" band version, but there's no denying that the constant gigging led to a tight band with amazing dynamics.

Desert Roadstop Backstage Live in Europe Road View Sylvia with friend Andrea

The Last Years

1990 - 1995

"Is" album

Europe had appealed to Sylvia from the start, and when she got an offer to stay there awhile she took it. Personal reasons as well made the timing propitious. The first year was great fun. Not as career-oriented as it should have been perhaps, but by now she'd given everything over to the minstrel life. As well as the band tours and solo shows, she explored Europe, wandered alone, learned German, indulged a brief obsession with chess, went to India.

The Is album was recorded in Holland with engineer Gertjan ("Joe"); Barney and Chris had come out from the States and they lived at the studio for a couple weeks in semi-rural seclusion. For once there would be no stress and distractions; on the other hand, being able to step back for some perspective is good too. Chris had to leave unexpectedly mid-project but things were continued. Then came another tour, which also got messed up in the middle, and also continued, but things were starting to fall apart.

Sylvia Juncosa Promo Shot Europe 1991 Live Acoustic Blur Switzerland Version Venlo Cow Dark Days

Then started a long period of darkness and silence. Eventually came back to the US. That last picture (above right) says enough. Years went by.

The Revival

2009 onward

It all started with a feeling. Sylvia, cold and withdrawn and hidden away for years on end, felt something reawaken in her heart. What had been buried and silent could remain buried and silent no more. Yup. So it was. And so she dug out that trusty SG and built back up those rusty chops, and crawled out of her long hibernation. And was well-pleased to find good friends still around, still jamming, and giving her a warm welcome back. Thus the rampage resumes.

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