Friday, July 27, 2012

Aleka's Attic (River Phoenix's band) - 1989-1993 - miscellaneous tracks

Aleka's Attic
(River Phoenix's Band)
Miscellaneous tracks (1989 tape, unreleased 1993 album)
Gainesville, FL

mp3 @ 128 kbps

While we are discussing the Gainesville music scene in the late '80's, I have to mention Aleka's Attic, the band formed by and featuring Hollywood film actor River Phoenix. In 1987, The Phoenix family, with multiple children with budding acting careers (River, Rain, Joaquin, and Summer) and had already appeared in numerous films and TV shows, moved to the Gainesville Area (first, in town, then later to a large ranch in the surrounding area), to get away from the corrupting influence of Hollywood. And River was by far the most succesful, having appeared in major films such as Stand By Me, Mosquito Coast, Running On Empty, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and receiving much acclaim and notoriety, even an academy award nomination, and all by the age of 17. Anyway, as River became immersed in the emerging Gainesville Music scene, it inspired and stimulated his musical creativity and ambitions. River formed his band, Aleka's Attic, which also featured his sister Rain and a couple of his new Gainesville friends. The Band was started in late 1987, and almost immediately became the buzz of the area. Through his industry connections, he received a development deal from Island records to record an album within 2 years. Unfortunately, due to his growing movie career and schedule, they were unable to complete the album within that time, and ultimately Island opted out of the deal. But when River was in Gainesville, he devoted most of his time to the band, and they recieved much notoriety in a short time, often playing at the Hardback Cafe, and receiving some important opening act gigs with national touring bands like The Psychedelic Furs, Sonic Youth, and others. The band became very popular around the area, and even received national attention, and in turn bringing national attention to the Gainesville Music Scene. He was friends with big names like Michael Stipes (REM) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and was immensely liked, as an actor, musician, and positive role model for teens. The band put out a short (4-song) independent tape that they sold at gigs around 1989-1991, but no records were ever commercially released. Only one track, 'Across The Way' was ever released commercially during this time, as part of a benefit album, 'Tame Yourself' for PETA, one of many causes and charities River actively supported. By 1993, River was more determined than ever to put together an album, which he was funding himself, and apparently recorded many new tracks for it. Among his friends it was often said that, as good as he was as an actor, music was always his true passion. But all band activity came to an abrupt end in October 1993, when River tragically died of a drug overdose in California, at age 23. Although it has been reported that in subsequent years Rain spent alot of time going through the recordings to prepare an album, still no Aleka's Attic album has ever been released (rumored to be due to a dispute among other band members), although a few isolated tracks have appeared on other compilations. River Phoenix himself has remained immensely popular among fans, with numerous tribute web sites, books, and songs written about him. It would seem that eventually his music will be officially released, too. Not surprisingly, however, most of the recorded Aleka's Attics songs (including the nearly complete 1993 album, tentatively titled 'Never Odd or Even' or 'Zero') have been available in various forms as bootlegs over the internet for several years.

So, then, the big question is, was Aleka's Attic really any good, or were they just popular because of River's fame? Well, now, you can decide for yourself. Here are all the available Aleka's Attic songs, from their early 1989 tape, to the unrelaeased 1993 album. To be honest, I was never a big fan, but I think there was definite potential in those early tape songs (I hear a cool kind-of XTC vibe and feel in songs like 'Goldmine' and 'Too Many Colors'), whereas some of the 'neveroddoreven' (a palindrome, River seemed to like palindromes and wordplay) stuff is pretty spaced-out or mildly annoying. But I know that some really like the band. Even back in their heyday, there was a definitive split in local opinions about them, from those that were really into the band, and those that thought they only got attention because of River's fame. Overall, I think they are quite interesting, and who knows what they might have been able to do if River hadn't died so young. Certainly worth checking out.  Anyway, here they, another unique entry in the Gainesville music scene, Aleka's Attic.

Note: I have purposely only posted low bitrate versions of these tracks (they are the most common forms available on the web) in order to give people a chance to hear these, but yet not actively compete with higher quality official versions, if they should ever be released (which I think they will someday). BTW, it has been reported that Michael Stipe bought the rights to all of River's demos and recorded material from the original Island recording deal, so perhaps that might also be released someday.

1989 band tape
1. Goldmine
2. Too Many Colors
3. Across The Way
4. Blue period
Miscellaneous unreleased
5. In The Corner Dunce
6. Popular Thinks (Live)
7. Where I've Gone

Unreleased album 1993 - tentative title: 'Never Odd Or Even' aka 'Zero'
1. Alone We Elope
2. Below Beloved
3. Bliss Is...
4. Dog God
5. Get Anything
6. Note To A Friend
7. Safety Pins & Army Boots
8. Scales & Fishnails
9. Senile Felines
10. You're So Ostentatious

Aleka's Attic original lineup:
River Phoenix: vocals, guitar
Rain Phoenix: vocals
Josh McKay: bass
Josh Greenbaum: drums
Other contributing musicians (later tracks):
Tim Hankins
Sasa Raphael
Michael Perfitt


city said...

thanks for sharing.

. said...

I have an Aleka's Attic cassette tape in my hand, having gone through my archives to find things to digitize. I first saw them play in Waldo in 1988 at a rained out concert with a handful of us dancing wildly in the mud. I loved their sound - it was very Gainesville - much like NDolphin. River R.I.P.

Unknown said...

hey "." would you ever consider selling your Aleka's Attic tape? I am trying to find one for a friend of mine. Anyway if you ever see this let me know.

Katherine_wh said...

Anyone know where I could get a hold of a alekas attic tape,been searching all over for one any find one!:/ if so could you email me's a old email...)

TUPI -YAMATO said...


Unknown said...

Does any of you know what's the name of the first song aleka's attic performed during this show? It's driving me nuts

Unknown said...

Thank you so much!