CHECKING LEVELS: “There’s something very powerful about high-decibel improvisation,” says Kate Biggar. “Something very other-planey.”
Conventional wisdom says that those who can't do teach — and that record collectors do not rock stars make. But we need a corollary to account for a pair of curious local exceptions. Wayne Rogers and Kate Biggar are a cottage industry specializing in the mainlining of mind-expanding psych-rock into the consciousness of America and the world through their multi-pronged attack of Twisted Village (their record store, a Harvard Square mainstay since 1996) and Major Stars (their decade-plus-long rock-and-drone assault project). How did two mild-mannered '70s teenagers from the suburbs of Connecticut become the psych godparents of New England?
"At 14 I was figuring out that the Eagles sucked," Biggar explains when I crowd into a booth with her, Rogers, bassist Dave Dougan, and drummer Casey Keenan at Charlie's Kitchen. (The remaining regulars in the band are guitarist Tom Leonard and singer Sandra Barrett.) "Being in Connecticut had the advantage that a little record shop in Vernon was close enough to New York City to have cool underground records. And the æsthetic was that we grew up without seeing these bands — you weren't part of a scene, you just did what you did. You listened to the records, it was a bedroom scene, a crazy-loner scene."
Wayne Rogers was indeed a prime mover in this late-'70s suburban Connecticut bedroom scene: his compulsive musical appetite coupled with a limitless creative desire created a monster when he began to interface with punk and record geek chic. "When the first couple of Teenage Jesus & the Jerks and DNA singles came out, which I got at my local record shop when I was 14, me and my friends devoured them. And we listened to them and realized, 'Wow, we can do anything! Anything!' " He started by turning on the spigot to his hyperactive songwriting mojo. That resulted in the formation of a band in 1980. "With Crystallized Movements, we realized that if you played the song past where you knew the song ended, then it got really interesting. And we wanted to make records: I got my first job washing dishes at a Bickford's, and after five days I had enough money to press 100 records — so I quit and was like, 'Right, now I can make 100 records!' "
Kate, meanwhile, was having her own adolescent epiphanies. "When I was in high school, I was really into hardcore and popular punk, but at the same time I really loved Yes and progressive rock, and no one could figure me out, because back then you were supposed to choose sides, you know? I had my skate/hardcore friends, and I'd be like, 'You've got to check out this album Fragile, it's a great record!', and they'd be like, 'You smoke too much pot,' and I'd be like, 'No I don't, I drink vodka!' And then I met Wayne."