Jason Bieler on Saigon Kick in the '90s: "We Were Caught in the Middle"

Saigon Kick circa 1991.
Saigon Kick circa 1991.
Photo via Atlantic Recording Corp. / Wikipedia

When Miami-based hard rock group Saigon Kick released their debut self-titled album in 1991, they weren’t exactly embraced by either the heavy metal or grunge movements that dominated at the time, leaving them in a sort of “no man’s land,” according to guitarist Jason Bieler.

“It was just not being part of the 'cool guy' club," Bieler told New Times in a recent interview in anticipation of the band's performance this Saturday at Duende in downtown Fort Lauderdale. 

"The time we came out was a really transitionary period musically, so we were caught in the middle. We played with The Ramones and Soundgarden, and then we had a successful, big ballad [“Love Is On the Way”], so we never hit with ’80s metal, and we weren’t part of the Nirvana scene.”

It's fair to say Saigon Kick did fall somewhere in the middle of those early-‘90s genres; members’ interests in different bands and styles contributed to the their unique, if hard to label, psychedelic metal sound that showcased heartfelt lyrics on the ups-and-downs of love, as well as plenty of teenaged angst.

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“I think that’s one of the things that Saigon Kick is about,” says Bieler of their eclectic sound. “We love Jane’s Addiction, but we love Queen, and we love Barry Manilow, and we love Tom Waits.”

After members Phil Varone and Chris McLernon left Saigon Kick earlier this year to pursue other projects, the band have now re-grouped with a new lineup featuring Steve Gibb (son of Bee Gees' Barry Gibb) on guitar, and Jonathan Mover on drums.

Gibb, who attended The Lear School in Miami and is currently performing with his famous father on the latter’s Mythology Tour, had known some of the original band members back when they first formed Saigon Kick, and they remained friends since. On top of his musical prowess, the addition of Gib just felt like the right fit. “It just feels very natural, and he gets the point of what we do,” Bieler says.

Although much of the crowd this weekend at Duende will likely hail from the iPhone generation, Bieler says he's found a surprising abundance of young people at recent shows who are into the music and the era — an assuring sign that the ‘90s are indeed back.

With co-founders by Jason Bieler and his brother Aaron Bieler their Bieler Bros. Records imprint out of North Carolina (Fort Lauderdale heavy metal band Nonpoint formerly signed with them), and other members pursuing different projects, Bieler said the band have only played about 15 shows in the last three years.

“We’re not doing it the way most bands are doing it, so we’re all doing a ton of different things,” he says. “We’re just doing things that we feel are interesting and have great market value...The whole thing about putting this band back together is putting together a few shows for the right reasons. Let’s do the things that make sense, and when the opportunity arises, we’ll go for it.”

Bieler, who grew up in Coral Springs, says the band is excited to perform at their hometown celebration and that playing local venues was “a huge part of all of our lives. [Broward] will always be a huge part of home for me and my family.”

Duende: Broward County’s 100th Birthday Weekender featuring Saigon Kick, Friday, October 2 through Sunday, October 4, S.W. 2nd St. and Downtown Fort Lauderdale. Free. Saigon Kick performs at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. For complete schedule, visit duende.broward100.org.

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