Underheaven,
The TVD First Date

“Underheaven was a collective of Washington, DC rock insiders, veterans even when they began in 1982. Three of the four original members are now reactivating this ensemble for select live performances and potentially recording.”

“The roots of the band reach back to the very beginnings of the DC underground, proto-punk scene. Library of Congress AV professional Don Zientara was contacted by a former bandmate, Robert Goldstein, to record his new band, The Look, including bassist/songwriter Howard Wuelfing; this would be the first punk related recording engineered by Zientara or made in the Capitol City period, inaugurating a long, storied career as a studio maven for Don, owner of the storied Inner Ear Studios.

Wuelfing meanwhile would move on to The Slickee Boys, then form the Nurses, recording with Zientara with both outfits. In 1982, he came to Zientara and proposed forming a new band that would meld post-punk innovation with classic guitar pop melodies with Don on guitars and vocals, Underheaven, a name inspired by the Byrds/Pete Seeger tune “Turn Turn Turn.” Joined by drummer Richie Labrie and guitarist Mark Jickling, from the avant-naif group Half Japanese, this combo debuted with a live performance on Bethesda’s storied WHFS, played East Coast venues from Richmond to New York opening for bands like R.E.M. and the Bangles and recorded with Ian MacKaye overseeing.

One of these tracks surfaced on an early compilation by the nascent Sub Pop label. A motorcycle accident and lengthy recuperation for Zientara spelled the end of the band, thought the three other members stayed together and were absorbed into an expanded edition of Half Japanese, recorded with them and played on that outfit’s first live shows outside of the Baltimore/DC area.

“Between 1982 – 1984 we were in a strange time where Underheaven was doing more guitar-pop even though punk was king at the time. Yet there was a punk tone that underlay Underheaven’s sound. Failed love was a recurring theme of ours. It was emotional punk. It had a mood to it, not just a loud, brash in your face attitude. Not that we’re putting that down,” explains Don Zientara.

Jickling, Zientara, and Wuelfing reconnected in early 2019, recruited Gary Smith (Ravenstone, Queen Anne’s Revenge, Martin Welling Band) who’d played with Don shortly before the Capitol got punked and began sorting through all set lists, baking and digitizing vintage recordings, and introducing new material.

Underheaven will be playing select dates on the East Coast starting Fall of 2019. Having a backlog of material old and newer that was never recorded in the studio they have their work cut out for them.”
Don Zientara

Underheaven play Washington, DC’s Black Cat on Thursday, November 7. Tickets are available here.

Underheaven Facebook
PHOTO: HOLLY ENEY

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