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Country USA

Style Hard Rock

In September of 1988 founding members, guitarist Michael Parker and vocalist Sam Carava, recruited bassist Jimmi Nolan and brother Shawn Nolan on drums, for their new project entitled Fontalis. Within’ a month the newly formed band had written over 10 songs, including “# 69” and “Sweet Sybil,” both of which would prove to be significant and prophetic to their future.

As a favor to a local promoter, the group entered a Battle of the Bands contest. The announcer was given a set list and mistakenly announced the band as Sweet Sybil, the first song on the list. The band won and the erroneous name change stuck. They used their prize, 12 hours of studio time at DKP Studios in Chicago, to record their first four-song demo with Producer & Engineer Bob Pucci. The demo hit the airwaves of local radio and was met with instant popularity, receiving massive call-in support from a large and growing legion of devout fans hooked on the raw, fun & sleazy rock these dirty boys were serving up in the midst of all the primped and pretty acts of their day.

While the demo continued to spin on the Chicago airwaves, Sweet Sybil took their new found notoriety on the road and began playing shows all over the Midwest. Back home, they became the first rock band ever to play at the Gateway Theater and were voted “Best New Band” by readers of The Chicago Rocker, accepting the award at the magazine’s annual awards show at that same venue.

The summer of 1989 would bring many changes for Sweet Sybil. The band parted ways with Jimmi and Shawn, welcoming new bassist Wayne Carlson and local legend drummer Randy Matthiessen to the lineup, gaining them an even funkier edge and more playful vibe to Sweet Sybil’s persona. They also took on management, signing with Northstar Productions, known more at that time for publishing comic books and having produced B movies. It was a winning combination all around and the band flourished with the new additions, utilizing the artists provided by Northstar to create a new logo, backdrops and other visuals which greatly added to the band’s promotion and already infamous live show.

They went two steps further, and the Sweet Sybil entourage grew to include a professional stage crew, led by stage manager (and sixth member) Mark Messner, and Monte, a lovable local personality who, in addition to announcing the band, was given free rein to entertain the crowd during live performances. The band strongly believed, and strove to make, each Sweet Sybil show an event to remember, and memorable they were. No two were the same, bond money was always a possible need, and to have seen it was to have born witness to something special. The witnesses talked, spreading the word and peaking curiosities as the stories of this band (both onstage & off) circulated and filled the columns of local rock magazines month after month, 20 years later continuing to be the stuff of legends.

Both the creative and cosmetic changes went over well with the fans and Sweet Sybil began a string of mini-tours, opening for such acts as Extreme, Alice in Chains, Enuff Z’Nuff, Dirty Looks, and King’s X and headlining at famous Chicago haunts like The Thirsty Whale and Avalon and many others. Their surge in popularity brought with it a heavy demand for new music, but the band wasn’t done tweaking and underwent another lineup change in the fall of 1990 with the replacement of Wayne Carlson with bassist Jeff Malas, a deep-thinking stage veteran whose time in the band saw him breathe fire, roar like a panther and even a brief stint as a male stripper. They also decided to add a second guitarist, choosing guitar virtuoso and Berkley student Brian Unger after auditioning several players. The changes meant a new personal dynamic in the band and for the fan, a fuller sound wrapped around the same raw sexuality and sleaze that was Sweet Sybil’s calling-card. This would be the lineup most associated with the name Sweet Sybil.

It was Sweet Sybil’s last and final face that entered River North Studios with producer Roy Vombrach and began work on a six-song EP, which would include “Remember When” and “Downtown Suicide,” songs that would later be two of their biggest hits. The highly anticipated EP’s release, held at local record store “Beyond the Limit,” was met with an amazing trove of eager fans and was tracked there as the highest selling local release ever. The recording also received international success when it was released as an album in Europe, reaching #1 on the rock/metal charts in the Netherlands.

With a strong EP in stores and radio airplay on two continents, multiple magazine/fanzine features which included back-to-back months on covers of The Chicago Rocker and Windy City Rocks, and one of the strongest followings to be born of the Chicago rock scene, Sweet Sybil was gaining national attention. Negotiations with entertainment lawyer Owen Sloan (Warrant, Kenny Rogers) and several major labels, however, fell apart and the band parted ways with Northstar Productions.

Independent again, Mike and Sam resumed the management of Sweet Sybil, and the band entered the studio for the last time, with producer/engineer Johnny K. (Disturbed, Avenged, and Sevenfold) to begin work on another 3 song demo. Faced with the harsh reality of the record companies’ overall reluctance to deal with self-managed bands, the market’s sudden shift toward Seattle’s rising ‘Grunge-Scene,’ and internal conflict, Sweet Sybil permanently disbanded in late 1992.

In October of 1993, in a tragic mishap, Sweet Sybil forever lost its brother and most beloved member Randy Matthiessen. In 2009 Eonian Records released a collection of the band’s tracks, simply titled Sweet Sybil. This album is dedicated with love and celebration to his memory, his family, his friends, & his fans. Those that knew him will never forget him and always know that he lives on in his music and his spirit.

– Sweet Sybil [2010]


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