When fondly remembered bands get back together, they usually say they’re just playing a couple of shows and not thinking about the future. Not the case with Scarce, who play their first show in 11 years at T.T. the Bear’s Place this Saturday. The band were close to a national breakthrough when they broke up in 1996, and they have every intention of getting there again.
IN THE NOW: Propatier, Graning, and Raskin are ready to pick up where they left off.
“We feel it’s unfinished business,” explains singer/bassist Joyce Raskin. Adds singer/guitarist Chick Graning, “This band deserves to put out a great record and to do some great shows, and we’re going to make that happen. Why not? I’m never going to have another band like this one, and if we’re going to get back together and do it, then we’re going to really do it.”
The pair are talking to me in the back yard of Raskin’s home in Braintree, where Graning — who recently moved back to his birthplace of Knoxville — has been crashing for the past few days. Joined by drummer Joe Propatier (the last of five drummers Scarce had in the ’90s), they’ve had their first rehearsal the previous night, and Graning reports, “It went a lot easier than it should have, and the harmonies were better than they used to be.”
Scarce had everything going for them in the early ’90s. Radio was opening up to punk-inspired rock with raw nerves and good hooks, and Scarce did it better than most. Graning brought a disheveled rock-star charisma and an underground following from his previous band, Anastasia Screamed. But what made Scarce was the palpable chemistry between Graning and Raskin. Only 20 when she joined, and a little in awe of her bandmate, Raskin threw herself into the live shows so hard that she had to put foam rubber on the underside of her bass to keep from throttling herself with it. On a lesser night Scare were a fine rock band; on a good night it they were a force of nature.
The band were invited to open the first leg of Hole’s Live Through This tour and were about to release their major-label debut (Deadsexy on A&M) when the bottom fell out. On June 12, 1995, Graning missed a rehearsal. His bandmates were concerned. They broke down the door of his Providence apartment and found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. He’d sustained a brain aneurysm, and they saved his life by showing up. Still, doctors gave him just a 10 percent chance of survival. “That was one time when my Jewish hypochondria paid off,” says Raskin. Deadpans Graning, “They were pissed that I missed rehearsal, and I’d better have a good excuse. I had a pretty good one.”
Scarce went right back to work after Graning’s three-month hospitalization, adding new songs to the delayed A&M album. Yet it wasn’t the happy ending they’d hoped for. “An experience like that kills your physical confidence and your confidence in the universe,” says Graning. He’s made a full recovery; as he points out, however, “The cognitive stuff comes back, but feeling like a human again — that’s difficult. So I was emotionally flat: I could see what I was doing, but I couldn’t feel anything — very much like being a robot. We’d be rehearsing, and the others would be looking for a reaction, and I’d be saying, ‘Sorry, I’m trying. Can’t feel it.’ We’d already had problems with lawsuits and changes of drummers, and the aneurysm was the cherry on top.”
“That period really broke my heart,” says Raskin. “For me the band was always an emotional thing. I fell in love with Chick’s music from the first practice we ever had. After the hemorrhage, it took years before he even felt like himself again, and the hardest part was to see him standing next to me but not relating to me. I got angry, which didn’t help, and it spun out after that.”
Neither did it help when the band played the usual no-glory showcases after Deadsexy’s belated release. Graning: “They weren’t mentioning my experience in the publicity, and I was thinking, ‘Go on, use it!’ They had us touring the Midwest playing to nobody. The last show was in Chicago, where we had 50 radio people standing there with their arms crossed. After that, I looked at Joyce and said, ‘You know what? I’m done.’ ” By the time they got a rave review in Rolling Stone, the band had already broken up. Graning says he never even read it.
Graning’s emotional recovery took a few more years. He says he cried for the first time when he saw Neil Young play a live version of “Powderfinger.” He moved to New York and formed a short-lived solo band, then made a solo album (Empty) that came out only in Germany. He drifted to New Orleans and played the streets in the French Quarter before returning to Tennessee, where he’d been doing stage construction. He’s been away from Boston long enough that he’s surprised when I tell him the Rat has closed.