Pheromones' Musical Chemistry Turns On The Public

A Social Message And Some Shtick

January 28, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

If you ask Washington-based musician and satirist Al Pheromone to describe the music he and his brother Jimmy play around the country, he'll probably say something illuminating like, "We're for anyone, but we're not for everyone. Our music is a holistic piece of the larger issues."

What this means, in brother Jimmy's words, is that musically, "We like to employ pop themes to deliver contemporary social messages. We realized that the serious approach wouldn't work, but that shtick would, so we use comedy to deliver a highly digestible message."

County residents can decide for themselves Jan. 31 when the Pheromones are performing at the Maryland Inn's King of France Tavern. They're appearing as Mack Bailey's guests on his popular Thursday Night Folk Jam.

Under their personae as brothers Jimmy and Alvin Pheromone (they prefer to keep their actual identities secret, since they play with other bands and aren't really related) the contemporary folk duo and satirists perform something they call "socially relevant pop cabaret."

Musically, the Pheromones are a melodious pair of intelligent lyricists with songs that range from the wickedly satirical, like "If I Were Your Prezident," and "The Galactic Funny Farm," to moving and beautiful songs such as "The Long Black Wall," about the Vietnam War Memorial, and "Adrienne."

The latter deals with an episode in the life of the French philosopher Voltaire -- not a typical subject in the realm of popular entertainment. But as Al puts it, "Our music says a lot more than just 'Hello, I love you. Let's dance.' "

The Pheromone sound tends to the eclectic. Their songs include the stream of conscious style of "Yuppiedrone," the rap song "Ciccada" and the moral "Bugs, Not Drugs." Al says "The Great Rondini," is a satirical nod to former President Ronald Reagan .

"The older ones, who have been in the party for a long time, will sit back and laugh or singalong. But the younger ones, the Young Republicans, will get up and head for the door, sometimes," he said.

The duo can be normally heard in nightclubs, on the college circuit and on non-commercial and alternative radio stations across the country.

Al briefly traced the Pheromones' biography.

"We were joined at the nose at birth, andsurgically separated by a blow torch and a chain saw. Then we lost our parents in a media blitz," he said.

Actually, the Pheromones' emergence into the professional music scene was a somewhat different story.

Al originally came to Washington, D.C., to attend the Georgetown University Law Center. He worked his way through school as a professional musician, playing for a time with the now-defunct North Star Band.

It was then he met "brother" Jimmy, a writer who was also managing the band. At the time, Jimmy had no onstage experience.

The duo trace their partnership origins to 1982, after the breakup of the North Star Band. Sitting down, more or less for fun to write a song, the collaboration went so well that they decided joining forces.

Jimmy's girlfriend, who was studying biology, told the pair about pheromones, chemical substances secreted by animals that influence behavior when inhaled by others of the species.

"We write a lot of our songs in Canada," added Al, including their high-tech hit, "Yuppiedrone."

So far, their 8-year-old partnership has been successful.

Their three CD and cassette albums, "Yuppiedrone," "Collateral Damage" and "So Far, So What!" have been heard on hundreds of commercialand non-commercial radio stations nationwide. They are frequent contributors to the California-based, syndicated Dr. Demento Show.

"Weget a lot of fan letters from being heard on his show," said Al. "All three of our albums have been on his top-10 list over the past fiveyears."

The "brothers" have built a loyal and avid audience that Al describes in part as "an interesting group. They are educated people who have taken the time to find their place in the world."

The other half of their audience consists largely of college kids, primarily those "who buck the system. They are a philosophical and eclecticbunch. Sometimes, after a show, as many as 30 will come up afterward and get on our mailing list."

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