Birdsongs of the Mesozoic enjoyed a curiously successful career from their very first show, a release party at Kenmore Square's deceased Rat for the Modern Method label's local comp A Wicked Good Time.
Soon after, they were booked to play another show in Boston, on Mother's Day with the Girls. "The Girls were the progenitors of all the true 'art-rock' bands in Boston, and they ran a loft space on Thayer Street," says Roger Miller. "They were a major influence and encouragement for Burma. At that show, Daved Hild from the Girls called his mom and had the phone hooked to the PA, and everyone had to be quiet so his mom wouldn't know that it was being broadcast."
"Mostly we'd play with rock bands in Boston," says Miller. "The Volcano Suns, local acts like that. We'd open up for Mission of Burma sometimes. There would be stuff at Thayer Street like a guy in knee pads hurling plastic bottles around, but mostly it was just rock bands.
"We played at Danceteria in New York and with Psychic TV — one of the main guys from Throbbing Gristle — and it was just a wall of industrial stuff with him snarling at people, then there was Birdsongs plinking away. I guess it was audacious enough and unpremeditated enough and spontaneous enough that nobody really bitched at us."
Rick Scott: "We were all nervous about going down South, and they ended up being some of our best shows."
Miller: "There was a frat show in Columbia, South Carolina, that had all the earmarks of a disaster."
Scott: "They had a cookie-eating contest between sets. Martin's playing the guitar behind his back, Erik's playing his synthesizer with his teeth. At five till 12, they stopped our set and cleared all the alcohol off the tables because it was South Carolina and it was about to be Sunday. So they got rid of it all, the lights go back on, and we started playing again."
Miller: "The other band was a garage-rock band, and we thought, 'We're fucked!' But we went on, and people loved it. I remember opening for Burma once at the Channel in Boston. And Pete [Burma drummer Peter Prescott] goes, 'I really loved that song that sounded like a torch song from the '50s,' and I realized he was talking about The Rite of Spring. He wasn't thinking it was classical, he just thought it was bluesy.
"Later we played with Einstürzende Neubauten, and that went okay. We played with Echo and the Bunnymen once, and later the guitarist said, 'I've seen bands in England doing what you're doing,' and I said, 'Really?' I'd never heard any of that. But that's just a British thing to say.
"People liked it at all stages. At one show there were people who didn't like it because they said it sounded like Schoenberg put to rock music."
I'd have thought that anyone who was actually familiar with Schoenberg would love the idea of rock music that sounded like him.
"Good point," laughs Miller. "This was a very elite crowd. Oh well, fuck 'em."