Worm Quartet is an inaccurately-named one-man band from Rochester, NY that mixes punk, rock, and various sorts of electronica with twisted comedy lyrics, and refers to itself in both the third person and the plural for this paragraph. Worm Quartet had the most requested song of the year on the Dr. Demento show in 2004 with “Great Idea for a Song,” and again in 2005 with “Inner Voice” (a collaboration with comedy rap group Sudden Death,) and won the 2011 Logan Award for Outstanding Original Comedy Song for “The Ballad Of Doctor Stopp.” Over the years hey have stared the stage with an eclectic array of artists including MC Lars, The Pietasters, Ookla the Mok, the great Luke Ski, Devo Spice, Voodoo Glow Skulls, and the Vibrators, among others.
Tim “Shoebox” Crist began writing and recording music under the name “Worm Quartet” in high school. The name was in tribute to a comic strip Shoebox had been writing, and the four worms in the strip were credited as the performing artists on all of Worm Quartet’s early tapes. These tapes were extremely low quality recordings made on a Yorx stereo system, with most of the music blatantly and obviously stolen from commercial records or written and played by Shoebox on his cheapass keyboards, often using the built-in rhythms. Shoebox recorded a total of ten of these tapes over a period of two years, selling copies to his friends for $2-$3 (a ripoff at half the price) and now eagerly awaits the day when a magnetic disaster of some sort renders them all blank so he no longer has to wake up screaming from nightmares about anyone actually ever hearing these.
In 1994, Shoebox decided that bands should have more than one member, and recruited a couple of friends who, while not virtuosos in the traditional sense, could at least identify an instrument by sight. Tony “Coffee” Roche played guitar, and Kevin “The Guy In The Slayer Shirt” Morgan played a Muppetesque drum set. A handful of recordings with this three-worm lineup were made before Coffee smashed his guitar in a rage during a frustrating practice session and Kevin sold his drums.
In 1996, Shoebox (on vocals and keyboards) along with Kevin (now on guitar) and his roommate Ben Dean (on the Dr. Rhythm drum machine) spent several long cold nights in Southbridge, MA recording four songs for what was to be Worm Quartet’s first tape that didn’t completely suck. For the price of a six-pack and the February 1996 issue of Hustler’s “Barely Legal,” Ben worked his Tascam 424 Portastudio magic, and the “Urine Sampler” demo tape was born. This was originally envisioned as a “sampler” for an upcoming full-length album, but instead, Shoebox graduated college, moved to Syracuse, and got married.
Shoebox continued working on new music, and tried halfheartedly to find local musicians to work with, but eventually realized that the tracking program he had been playing with not only showed up to practice on time and didn’t play loud Metallica riffs when he was trying to work out a bridge, but also didn’t make any mistakes it wasn’t told to make, and didn’t smell like a drummer unless it was peed on. So Worm Quartet once again became a solo project, and Shoebox began adapting these songs he had written with a band in mind to this new format – eventually abandoning the Portastudio for a $20 piece of multitrack recording software. This culminated in a handful of songs that did moderately well on the comedy charts at mp3.com, and eventually Shoebox completed a full-length album entitled “Sumophobia,” which was released as an mp3.com “DAM-CD” in 2000. Shoebox was encouraged by friends to send his stuff to Dr. Demento, and was shocked when “Coffee” and “I Bit William Shatner” became modest hits on the show, making the weekly Top 5 on multiple occasions.
Somewhere in this time period, Shoebox finally heard Atom and his Package for the first time, and after seeing him in concert, was inspired as hell by the idea that a crooning weirdo backed by a box full of pre-arranged music could single-handedly mesmerize a crowd of punks and indie rock weenies. Encouraged (and booked) by Syracuse shoegazer meta-legend Gregg Yeti, Worm Quartet played its first live show in August of 2001.
Worm Quartet’s next album, “Stupid Video Game Music,” came out four months later. The tracks “Dear God” and “Frank’s Not In The Band Anymore” were played repeatedly on the Dr. Demento show, and Shoebox was stunned when the latter climbed to the #1 position on the weekly “Funny Five,” and then did so for several weeks. It ended up being the second most requested song of the year, just barely losing to the great Luke Ski’s “Peter Parker.” Shoebox contacted Luke to congratulate him on his victory, and after a few more conversations he found himself somehow booked at his first sci-fi convention, 2BeCon in Merrillville, IN, a city known for having too many l’s in its name.
2004 was a ridiculous year for Shoebox. In early 2004, Worm Quartet’s third disc, “Faster Than A Speeding Mullet” managed to find its way into existence. The album included “Great Idea For A Song,” which had an insane number of appearances on Dr. Demento’s Funny Five countdown, and eventually became the most requested song of the year despite having to be re-censored a bit due to radio’s reaction to the “Nipplegate” scandal. Among other shows, Worm Quartet played MarsCon in Bloomington, MN for the first this year, and for the first time shared the stage with Dr. Demento himself. Later in the year, Shoebox appeared on VH-1’s “Totally Obsessed” showcasing his love of Pac-Man, and performed a brief bit of Worm Quartet’s “Pac-Man Is Naked And So Should You” which was mostly edited out and replaced with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Can’t Stop.” Later in the year, Shoebox lived up to the promise of FTASM’s first track by procreating with the help of his lovely wife.
Shoebox collaborated with Sudden Death (Devo Spice’s old band) in 2005 to write and record “Inner Voice,” which managed to become the most requested song of the year on the Dr. Demento show, making Worm Quartet one of only three bands to have ever topped the chart two years in a row.
Worm Quartet began 2007 by contributing the first song ever to the brand new comedy music site known as The FuMP. The song, “C Is For LEttuce,” along with the modest Dr. Demento hit “I’m Not A Girl,” were featured on the “Mental Notes” CD that came out later that year.
Shoebox met MC Lars at some point in 2008, after hearing his songs on WBER-FM in Rochester and discovering that Lars was familiar with his work due to his cover of Atom and his Package’s “It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Lib” years before. They played a few shows together and eventually collaborated on another Atom cover – “(Lord It’s Hard To Be Happy When You’re Not) Using The Metric System,” which appeared on the “Upend Atom” tribute album and Lars’ 2009 release “This Gigantic Robot Kills.”
In 2009 Shoebox collaborated with fellow comedy musician and Erfworld/PartiallyClips creator Rob Balder to form “Baldbox.” The duo recorded and released one CD, “The Dumb Album,” conceived, written, and recorded mostly over the course of a single weekend. A handful of foll0w-up songs were released on The FuMP, and Baldbox performed live on a handful of occasions.
In 2010, Shoebox, Devo Spice, Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad, and the great Luke Ski collaborated under the name “Cirque du So What” and recorded a sketch comedy album that had actually been in the works in various forms since 2005. Two follow-ups, “Stupid Cowboy Thing Vol. 1: Grandmother!” and “Stupid Cowboy Thing Vol. 2: Additional Squid” followed in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
In 2011, Worm Quartet’s ode to Shoebox’s vasectomy, “The Ballad Of Dr. Stopp” (featuring Curt Allen on guitars) won the Logan Whitehurst Award for Best Original Comedy Song. Jurors included Dr. Demento and “Weird Al” Yankovic, among others.
Currently, Shoebox is hard at work on the new Worm Quartet album “Songs of the Maniacs,” slated for a June 2012 release.
But enough about me. How’re you?