12/16/1998

Music Feature

Curiously catching on


Precious and few: Drummer Matt Bloodwell, guitarist/vocalist Steve Gawron and bassist Joe Panton inject semipsychotic theatrical elements into their live sets, reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers (photo: Gregg Matthews)
By Sara Nichols

Steve Gawron was looking for more than a band when he formed the first version of Precious three years ago. The noise-rock trio’s performances were less about music than about experimenting with sound, vocal inflection and impromptu theater. This is still the case, as patrons of the 1998 Orlando Music Awards found out in October when the current lineup performed its local-radio hit, "Bi-Curious George," while a pair of ballerinas translated the song in dance.

The effect was bizarre but entertaining -- very much in line with the philosophy behind Precious. Gawron, who serves as the band’s guitarist, lead singer and main songwriter, says he is mainly influenced by the visual arts (preferably works by Vincent van Gogh and Jackson Pollack) with bits of philosophy from Camus and Nietzsche thrown in for good measure. "Before Precious, I really didn’t have that many musical interests," he says. "Except the Sex Pistols, of course. The punk attitude."

Precious’ original incarnation only lasted a few months before Gawron left for the more bohemian atmosphere of Athens, Ga., where he soaked up inspiration from the still-thriving music scene that launched countless college-rock bands in the wake of R.E.M. and the B-52’s. Rejuvenated, Gawron returned to Orlando and began posting notices in search of Precious Mach II.

He soon found bassist Joe Panton, who was impressed by Gawron’s "insane" approach to playing and his apparent utter disregard for his equipment. The search for the perfect drummer took a little longer, but the band finally coalesced when they found Matt Bloodwell, whose atomic-powered drumming was ideal for pounding Gawron’s basic ideas and lyrics into shape.

The band developed a raucous, unpredictable-yet-tight sound. Gawron’s vocal approach ranges from a high, boy-choir falsetto to near-guttural shouts, while the music is often reminiscent of the Butthole Surfers and their semipsychotic Austin, Texas, musical brethren. Precious shows are both bizarre and extremely funny.

Each show is unique -- you may hear the same song twice but you’ll never experience it the same way. "We’re on the same wavelength," says Panton. "We all contribute to the development and evolution of the songs, and we try to keep them evolving so that shows will never have that stale feeling. Even when we’re playing older songs, they’ll still be fresh."

When it comes to the studio, "We try to maintain the same vibe," says Gawron. He contends that the CDs are mainly for the rapidly increasing number of fans who want to hear the songs they’ve grown to love from the live shows, particularly "Bi-Curious George."

Precious gained momentum toward the end of the year, receiving an Orlando Music Awards nomination and picking up airplay for "Bi-Curious George" on WPRK-FM (91.5) and Real Radio 104.1. Recently they were solicited by Orlando-based TRIbalfilm to create a video for "Bi-Curious George," and a CD is due out early next year.

"My goal is to able to support my family on my art," says Gawron. "It’s too physically and emotionally draining to try to do this and a regular job, too. I also want to give the current inertia of the Orlando scene a nice shot in the arm of psychotic energy."