Every year, thousands of struggling rock bands flock to Hollywood in search of a record contract. But Scotland's Eugene Kelly didn't have to leave home to get the kind of sweetheart deal those bands dream about.
In fact, Kelly practically didn't even have to form a band before labels--bearing what a British magazine recently referred to as "elephant bucks"--started knocking on his door.
That's because Kelly was the lucky recipient of massive praise from Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, who spent much of last year touting Kelly's defunct band, the Vaselines, and covering its songs.
Kelly's new band, Eugenius, which appears on Friday with Mudhoney at the Hollywood Palladium, plays the kind of fashionable guitar rock made famous by hometown friends Teenage Fanclub and the Pastels. Eugenius' new album, "Oomalama," showcases a number of highly melodic songs with spacey lyrics and sloppy centers, like the single "Flame On" and the equally dynamic "I'm the Sun."
But the band was formed on the spur of the moment, after Cobain's praise piqued the interest of promoters around Glasgow.
Kelly was watching a show at a local club when a promoter asked him if he was going to get a new band together. "I don't know why, but I lied and said, 'Yeah,' " Kelly recalls. "So he asked me if my new band would like to support the Lemonheads in a month's time, and I lied again and said, 'Yeah.' Then I went home and rang up a few friends and wrote three songs, and that was pretty much that. It was a bit of a laugh really."
That was a little more than a year ago, and Kelly's still laughing--or would be, if he weren't exhausted after a 24-hour drive from Minneapolis. This is already Eugenius' second time in the United States since April. At that time, the band, then called Captain America--the name had to be changed because Marvel Comics had the rights to that name--came over to observe the bidding war spurred by its being touted as Cobain's favorite band.
Cobain invited Captain America to open for Nirvana on a British tour in early spring. The band was eventually signed to Atlantic Records and recorded "Oomalama." Now back in the States, it's touring with Mudhoney and reflecting on its good luck. The Vaselines, after all, were not a well-known band, even on their home turf. The group released only one album, which is almost impossible to find in America.
In 1989, the Vaselines did a mini-tour tour of England with the Pastels and an American band from Olympia called Beat Happening. Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson later released a tape of one of those shows, which found its way into the European touring van of another band from the Northwest called Nirvana.
By that time, however, Kelly had long since broken up the band and was studying graphic arts. Upon graduation, he discovered there were no jobs in his chosen field. "The three biggest graphic design firms in Glasgow went under," he explains.
So Kelly took a job working part time in a Glasgow pub. About a year later, while thumbing through the New Musical Express, Kelly noticed a mention of his band: Apparently an American act called Nirvana was raving about his tape. A few weeks later, the band played its version of one his songs, "Molly Lips" on influential deejay John Peel's radio show.
At the time, Kelly hadn't heard Nirvana's music. "I didn't buy any records then as I hadn't any money," he says. Eventually, however, he heard a copy of the 1988 album "Bleach."
"I really liked the music, but I thought it was strange that a band that sounded like that was interested in mine. It was pretty flattering really."