By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Throughout Al Galvez's tumultuous history as an underground impresario, his own band has remained his top priority. Back in 1995 the first version of A Kite Is a Victim was born, retiring its former name, the Al Galvez Band. "That's what he should still call it," Rajan snorts.
With the first lineup of AKIAV -- Galvez, bassist Leroy Talcott, drummer Bruce Crowder, and guitarist Scott Nixon -- "at least I had an album to show for it," Galvez says, pointing to Home. With later members Rajan and Perez, "I couldn't get them to do anything," Galvez declares.
Talcott has few positive memories of his experience with A Kite Is a Victim. "He didn't even give me a copy of the CD we recorded," Talcott says, "the one which I wrote and recorded all the bass lines and some of the acoustic-guitar parts. How do you like that?"
Talcott, who claims he was never paid a nickel for performing or recording with AKIAV, explains that his predecessors, the members of the Al Galvez Band, bailed en masse. "Of course he had nothing but bad things to say about them, and no part of the breakup was his fault. In a fit of rage I stirred in him when I called it quits, he admitted to using me. I played with him for three years, and in the beginning he was easy to get along with. I was good friends with him back when he was still humble."
The way Galvez remembers it, Talcott was fired from A Kite Is a Victim. "Leroy was another rich kid who didn't want to go on tour," he says. "He didn't want to work, didn't want to do anything, so he was let go. He wasn't my friend outside of that, so I continued on my way."
Crowder left AKIAV on good terms in August 1998, moving to Connecticut to be close to his ailing father. Now he oversees Space Cadette's mail-order department, based in New Haven, and injects the label with capital -- including a recent investment of nearly $20,000, he claims.
Sounding somewhat bewildered by the bad blood that's surfaced in the wake of AKIAV's repeated restructurings, Crowder says, "Al is very determined at times. But I wouldn't consider him a difficult person to work with."
Nixon, who occasionally sat in with his acoustic guitar at AKIAV shows as recently as last winter, says only, "Al is very, very focused. He knows what he wants."
At the time of the first AKIAV breakup, the main thing Galvez wanted in a bandmate seemed to be a hired gun who would do what the hell he was told. Thus when Galvez recruited Rajan and Perez to back him, he made sure they knew just how far back they were. "I was an employee," charges Perez. "It's like you're his body, but he's the brain."
Perez didn't have a problem with the arrangement at first. "He's a good singer-songwriter," the drummer allows. "He's very meticulous. I really enjoyed playing with Al."
Although they're sometimes determined not to admit it, every former associate actually seems to have believed strongly in Galvez's art.
"I'll be damned if that music's not tight," Matus admits grudgingly. "He takes the time to make it sound right. He has a very clear vision, but that comes at the cost of other people's devotion. A lot of people will put in time because they believe in the things he believes in, but Al does not know how to say thank you."
That statement -- echoed by many of Galvez's former partners -- is often borne out by conversations with Galvez, who asserts that the members of AKIAV who couldn't hack it have themselves to blame. He does admit that Perez was entrusted with many tasks -- helping run the studio and the AKIAV Website; spending 10- or 12-hour days rehearsing and recording; toting equipment from gig to gig, setting it up, and breaking it down; and being ready to do the same thing the very next day. This past June, Perez walked out.
Galvez has a theory as to why Perez couldn't hang any longer.
"Ulysses was losing a lot of weight, passing out [in] places, and not making it to shows," Galvez says. "And that only means one thing. I feel bad for him. I'm sure he's a bit confused, but I hope he gets help, I really do."
Perez tilts his head back and laughs when he hears this -- hard enough that his dark eyes twinkle with tears. "I guess I am a drug addict, if you consider marijuana a drug," he finally says when he stops convulsing.
"Oh my God!" Rajan shouts when this rumor is revealed. "[Galvez] is spreading lies -- I really need to kick that guy's ass, now!"
When each version of AKIAV imploded, the intensity with which its members attacked one another suggested that venom had long been filling their veins. As Galvez says, bands are tenuous marriages, creative alliances that are fragile and vulnerable to the same forces that send couples to a counselor.
"In the end we were never really friends," Galvez admits, referring to Perez and Rajan. "It was my mistake for giving away something that was very special to me, when in the end it was obvious they were just into it for purely opportunistic interests."