John Davis still remembers how bad The Gruesomes were when they first started out.
“We started when we were in high school. It was just like our high school band,” says Davis. “If you saw us part of the fun was seeing guys who could not play totally collapsing on stage. We would have trainwrecks all the time where the songs would die and it was almost funny to watch us try to get through a set, and that was almost part of the appeal.”
Formed in 1985, The Gruesomes were a garage-punk band formed by Davis, Bobby Beaton and Gerry Alvarez. His brother Eric was the drummer until 1987 when he stepped away and was replaced with John Knoll. At the time, Davis and the rest of the band were still in high school. Three of them came from NDG, and after they finally got good enough to put together a short set, they played their first concert in the basement of the Davis home for 50 of their friends.
“I think that the intention at first was just to get competent enough to get through a song,” says Davis. “Then our friends would come over when we were jamming and then we said ‘We think we can do like 30 minutes of music in front of our friends.’ People still talk about that they were at that show.”
With a name like The Gruesomes, people might go into a show with some expectations about the type of music they were about to listen to. They might not expect that the name is a reference to the family of the same name from the 60’s “The Flintstones” cartoon (“The Flintstones were an unreasonably big influence on us,” laughs Davis.) The entire band was young, with long mop-top hair and quick wit.