IncogneatoBy Art Edwards
May 16, 2011
In October of 2010, I was getting ready to submit my recently finished third novel Badge to agents. This process involves writing a query letter, and it’s important to have a good one. I busied myself writing the best query letter possible, and I took a draft of it to my writing group for critique. The last paragraph of the letter read as follows:
My second novel, Ghost Notes, released on my own imprint in 2008, won the 2009 PODBRAM Award for best work of contemporary fiction. My work has appeared in The Writer and Writers’ Journal, and I am also a contributing writer at The Nervous Breakdown. In the 1990s, I was co-founder, co-songwriter and bass player with the Refreshments, a band that sold over 400,000 units worldwide, had a hit single (“Banditos”), and wrote and recorded the theme song for the Fox television series King of the Hill. I live with my wife, artist Raquel Edwards, in Portland, Oregon.
“Really?” Colleen said.
I knew what she was talking about. I’d been in this writing group for over a year, and I’d never mentioned the Refreshments. As far as they knew, I was a musician pushing 40 writing a novel about a musician pushing 40, and that was about it. “You mean the Refreshments part, right?” I said.
“Yes, the Refreshments part,” Karen Karbo, the group leader, said. Her eyes had a glow–that glow. “That’s really you?”
I wouldn’t blame anyone for being surprised. In the 13 years since the band’s demise, I’ve managed to scoot a fair distance away from the rock and roll tree. I’m probably more like your daddy than Puff Daddy.
Or more like Philip Roth than David Lee Roth.
Or more like the guy who lubes your axil than Axl.
I proceeded to tell my group about some of the band’s exploits, like the time we were on Conan O’Brien (Conan came up to me afterward, shook my hand and said, “Sorry you couldn’t be on Letterman”). The room was filled with wonder, disbelief. Someone asked Karen to get her laptop to see what Google had to say about this.
Later that night, the link to the O’Brien clip was unearthed, and emailed, and by the next morning everyone was congratulating me. There’s a funny moment in the clip where I do a kind of duck walk, and many wanted me to repeat the move at workshop the next week.
So why all the secrecy? Why didn’t I tell the people in my writing group I was in this band called the Refreshments?
The easy answer is that I thought they wouldn’t care. We spent our time talking about how to make our writing better, or which Jane Austen novel is the best, or the coming ebook revolution. These were topics that interested me. Mentioning the band seemed an unnecessary diversion.
But that would be a lie. I know most people have at least a little interest in this kind of thing. (One person in the group accused me of “holding out” on them.) The truth is I don’t like to talk about my life in the band. Bringing it up always sounds like some kind of pick-up line. I picture a weedy guy, drink in hand, eyebrow cocked, creeping over to some unsuspecting soul and saying, “You know, I was once in a very famous rock band. We were called the Refreshments. Have you heard of us?” This wouldn’t impress me, so I don’t know why it would impress anyone else.
In another way, my reticence is a kind of self-protection. I’d be embarrassed to tell you some of the most provocative things that happened while I was in the band. As rock stories go, they barely register on any self-respecting frat boy’s scale of Friday night revelry. I could rehash some Refreshments lore that’s at least half embellished, but why? I’ve spent 14 years mining that material for a different kind of story. I’ll probably spend another 14 years doing the same. This gets me fewer “whoa, dude”s then I might come by otherwise, but I guess I can live without them.
If I’ve learned anything since the band’s break-up, it’s that people want to retain their rock and roll fantasies, their unfettered narratives of drinking and rocking and debauchery, especially if they’ve never had them. My stories could violate your stories. “Why be a rock star if you’re not gonna party like one?” Good point. Maybe that’s why I’m not, and never was.
Despite all this, I’m proud of my Refreshments life. The band created fun, compelling music that made thousands of people freak out, including me. We had hit singles and toured the country. We have one ditty so ubiquitous that, if you turn on your TV right now, I bet you’ll find it playing somewhere. The band became the third part of the Tempe music trinity that also includes the Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop, my two favorite bands in the world. What’s not to be proud of? If I have any kind of relationship with anyone for any length of time, I want to tell them about it.
So, I’ve developed a policy about mentioning my rock and roll past to folks: I wait a year. After a year, people know me, know who I am, sense what I’m about, and the Refreshments stuff is more colorful aside than main narrative. That’s what I’m comfortable with, so that’s what I do. Think of it as my variation on not kissing on the first date.
A year ago today, I posted my first TNB article. That means it’s time to let my Refreshments light shine at TNB. It’s not like it was a big secret, but it’s official now. I was in the Refreshments, and we were kind of a big deal. Hit me with your best Refreshments question, or just ask me my favorite Jane Austen novel. I’ll try to remain impartial.
were you the guys who made the particle accelerator go backwards?
“My stories could violate your stories.” great line.
I don’t remember making a particle accelerator go backwards, but hey, it might help if I knew what a particle accelerator was. Google is of little help.
Great to see you on Saturday, Greg. Dave was awesome. I bet Rush’s Caress of Steel has been talked about so much in years.
Okay! What’s your favorite Jane Austen novel? I’m partial to Sense and Sensibility.
Happy TNBiversary, Art! I’m so glad you’re more Philip Roth than David Lee Roth. DLR didn’t age well, and you with your bow tie and your awesome rock writing are timeless.
Also I might have seen you in concert once.
Thanks you for asking, Cynthia. I think Pride and Prejudice is the novel everyone in trying to write, whether they know it or not. Such impropriety in that one, eh?
If you were going to radio festivals in 1996, it’s very possible you saw us. We did quite well in San Antonio, and came through town a lot. I’m trying to remember the club’s name where we played there. 500 or so seater? Older part of town? Anyway, fun times.
P & P, top choice, sir.
Actually, I lived in Tulsa then, so this would have been Edgefest w/ Gravity Kills, Filter, Poe … I’m trying to think of the others. I’m sure Refreshments were in that lineup. Ah, the pre-kid years when I went to every concert imaginable *sigh* …
I’m picturing a rainy Tulsa Saturday. I think I wore a garbage bag to keep the rain away. I might have a picture somewhere.
Hey Art there must be something in the air about conan because just last week i went looking around to watch that performance.Heres what i have to say.The song nada in mine and my wifes eye is the greatest song ever written( no joke) she cries when it comes on or when Roger plays today at show.We even stopped on our way from Rocky Point after seeing RCPM play and did a shot of tequila while we listened to it.Thanks for writting that song and putting it out in the world(no joke)
My pleasure, Mark. Yes, those shows back in the day sort of climaxed at “Nada,” which was always toward the middle of the set. I always hated to slow our set down, but “Nada” had the intensity of a rocker, so there was never a drop-off when we played it. We may have played it at every Refreshments show ever.
Thanks for reading. (Are we Facebook friends?)
Well done. I always wondered why you never wrote about that- seems like an endless source of great material. But I also noted that in staying away from your old band, you’ve managed to carve out a reputation as a writer first and foremost- just one with an abiding knowledge of and passion for music.
I’ve always enjoyed the Refreshments and it’s very cool that you’ve segued so nicely from one creative passion into the next. Rock the hell on, man.
Thanks, Joe. It is an endless source of material, but it was so close to me for so long I wasn’t sure I had the right perspective to write about it. That changed this past January when I think I found a voice that suits the subject. I’ll have more to say about it in the coming months.
Are you pulling the wool over our eyes?
Did you make this all up?
My connection is tenuous here in Maastricht, so I hope I get the answer.
(I think you concocted this whole story out of whole cloth.)
You caught me, Irene. I’m just your average, attention-starved writer looking to move a few units on Amazon. Did you see the link?
I wish I were clever enough to make this up.
See now, Art, there lies the problem.
I can’t get any of the links to work here.
They “time out” here in my “free but extremely slow and inefficient” Wi Fi in my hotel.
I’m trying to get through to Amazon, but only part of the picture shows and the bar won’t quite fill up.
I can’t get on to google either to look up “The Refreshments” to see if they are real.
I suppose I’ll just have to believe you on faith alone, and you’re adorable little smile and your bow-tie, of course.
Don’t let me down, Art.
Come on, would a face like this lie to you?
I have to admit you kind of shocked me. It did gave me a great idea for my next post, so thanks for that.
Can I call you Buddy?
Ha! Yes. Buddy’s been my nickname since childhood. At 29, and recently free of the band, I decided I didn’t want to be Buddy for the rest of my life, so I made a concerted effort to go by Arthur, which is my name. Once I realized how stuffy Arthur sounds to the average Joe, I shortened it to Art, even though I’ll probably always hear Art and think of my dad.
So, that’s my exciting journey of the last 13 years. Thanks for reading, Gloria.
Also, I know you’re happily married and your personality is pretty low-key – I daresay even affable. However, I can’t help but think of all the various ways you could parlay your Refreshments experience into some pretty great pick up lines:
Care for a Refreshment?
Or, you could hold a party for a girl you like and, in the invitation, include the line “Heavy Refreshments will be served.” Then, when just the girl shows up (because you didn’t invite anyone else), you can put on the moves.
I’ll think of more. I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seat.
ha! gloria, you make me laugh.
the only thing that would make those lines and situations better is if they had a sombrero in there somewhere.
and art, you have the awesomest clark-kent ace in your pocket. cheers to you mister!
Thanks, pixy. My grand marketing scheme is finally coming to fruition, eh?
is there an echo in here? Someone hit the bypass button on the Lexicon 480L.
“All work and no play…”
I’m trying to figure out how to delete them.
I just love that all of these comments are going to my inbox.
Is that a part of your marketing scheme, too, Art? ‘Cause it’s brilliant!
I call it my “annoy people until they pay attention to you” method. See, works!
I was going to say the same thing!
I’m disappointed that they keep cutting off your head in the video.
Anyway, you’re now officially the bass player in the TNBand.
They had to make room for the nose.
And the moves.
Am I right to feel flattered that I have known you just a few months, and I already knew about your rock-n-roll background?
Yes, that and the first piece I brought in to our group referenced my rock and roll past, so I was kind of in a pickle.
Still, after 13 years, it’s time, isn’t it? Damn it, I was a Refreshment. I WAS A REFRESHMENT!!!
I knew about your “past” before I met you, way before you joined our group. Your Refreshments legacy preceded you, as did the consensus that you were a cool, laid-back dude. So no surprises here.
See, I leveraged my Refreshments street cred to get in the group.
And I also used psionics on you to make you think you cared who the Refreshments were.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got a copy of the Seattle Demo’s somewhere, a friend of mine is nicknamed Nada AND Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy is just a great and FUN album.
So, hi! Fangirl has arrived. 😉
As cliche as it may sound, I’d like to raise another round..
Welcome, Fangirl! Any friend of “Nada” is a friend of mine.
And I forgot about the Seattle demos! I recall “Los Angeles” kind of kicked ass.
Who wrote Psychosis and why is it not on the FFBB Album? Why did you follow up a rock album with a country album? (inflammatory question that I’m sorta half joking about) Did the band really have a policy about free days and they were never to be fucked with or am I just remembering that from a ‘fictional’ account in Ghost Notes? We all know about RC’s relationship with Mike and how the song Mekong is loose reference to their trip through Thailand. You must have been friends with him as well? Is that sacred territory never to be discussed? What are your thoughts on music from RC and PH after you left? Unbearable to listen to or ???. Tell me about Mexico. Tell me about you and Mexico. Who would win in fisticuffs: Danny White or Nick Scropos? If Kurt Cobain thought Nevermind was too slick, and worked to get a really raw sound on In Utero, is that why I prefer Wheelie? A Million souls in the lost and found? or A million stalls, and the lost and found? What happened with Wendell at the Whiskey Bar in NYC? Is Badge out yet?
Ah, Duane. So it was you who blew TNB’s bandwidth today.
Okay, at the risk of blowing my mystique, here goes:
Who wrote Psychosis and why is it not on the FFBB Album?
Roger wrote Psychosis while in the Mortals, and it’s not on FFB&B because Roger really didn’t like it, and because in 1994 we weren’t entirely convinced Mercury wouldn’t use it as the first single, trying to sell us as a grunge band. Yeah, I know. Hard to believe. I agree with you it would be a better record with Psychosis, but it may have saved us a headache.
Why did you follow up a rock album with a country album? (inflammatory question that I’m sorta half joking about)
No, I get it. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not much of a country guy, and if B&FH is country-ish, let’s just say it wasn’t my influence.
Did the band really have a policy about free days and they were never to be fucked with or am I just remembering that from a ‘fictional’ account in Ghost Notes?
(Do you know what I love talking about more than Jane Austen’s novels? My novels!)
It wasn’t a band policy as much as it was my policy. The fellas tried to accommodate me, which was good of them. I would’ve gone crazy without scheduled off days on the road.
We all know about RC’s relationship with Mike and how the song Mekong is loose reference to their trip through Thailand. You must have been friends with him as well? Is that sacred territory never to be discussed?
Oh, I knew Mike. Sweet guy. Kind of a lot of trouble, but sweet at heart. He was quite a sculptor. I got drunk with him a few times. He was more Roger’s friend.
What are your thoughts on music from RC and PH after you left? Unbearable to listen to or ???.
I make a concerted effort never to listen to anything post-Refreshments from any of the guys. This is strategic on my part. If I hear it, I have to have an opinion, and I’d rather not have an opinion. Life’s easier that way. I wish them all well.
Tell me about Mexico. Tell me about you and Mexico.
These aren’t questions.
Who would win in fisticuffs: Danny White or Nick Scropos?
I don’t know, but I figure Scropos has got to be feeling the pressure to write a rock novel about now, don’t you?
If Kurt Cobain thought Nevermind was too slick, and worked to get a really raw sound on In Utero, is that why I prefer Wheelie?
I don’t know, but that why I prefer Wheelie.
A Million souls in the lost and found? or A million stalls, and the lost and found?
What happened with Wendell at the Whiskey Bar in NYC?
This doesn’t ring a bell with me. Refresh my memory?
Is Badge out yet?
Bless you, but not yet. Soon, I hope.
I think I have a career as a detective ahead of me. I cracked that case wide open.
Art, I am glad to see you reclaiming your Refreshment roots. Be out & proud!
I now know how Rob Halford felt…or most Republican congressmen.
Huh. And all this time here I was thinking that guy Art doesn’t know shit about music. Actually, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I always just assumed you were a band expat of some stripe. And I like your policy of flying low for a year. I sort of share that philosophy, at least in the sense that I’ve yet to talk about my time as by-the-scene talent on the Vivid Video circuit.
Seriously, though…interesting reveal, Art. Very cool that you’ve got that legacy to draw on for literary purposes. Now I’m gonna to go watch some Youtube.
You win, Sean. Best answer.
The best part about flying low for a year is you can make yourself sound like a saint for waiting a year.
Thanks for reading.
You worked with Cliff Norrell…always liked what he did with Indigo Girls and about 50 other really good bands…
Loved working with Clif Norrell. We knew he was the right guy, and he was. He also had great stories about all the bands he’d worked with, which was the first requirement of every producer we worked with, as far as I was concerned.
I think we are facebook friends. Markandjudypeacemakers. You signed 2 books and your cd for my son a couple xmas ago.check his band out on facebook he plays bass to.tell me tomorrow is the name.
That’s right. I remember, Mark.
And a bass player for a son! Raisin’ ’em right, I see.
I love this. It’s so zen!
Also a bit eerie for me, as I’ve had to explain repeatedly to publishing types that: “No. I’m not any sort of former musician or music insider! Seriously, I’m not being humble!” I should’ve posed as the bassist from the Refreshments while you were still underground…
In the land of self-promotion, you’re a rare man of integrity.
And I am sorry you couldn’t be on Letterman.
I’m curious, Tyler. Did they want you to have a platform or something? Because I’ve always heard it’s not supposed to matter for fiction.
We so wanted to be on Letterman instead. It must have been a common thing for Conan back in the day. Not so much anymore. That quote always endeared me to him.
Well, I’m exaggerating, I suppose. It didn’t really matter that I was nobody during the shopping-around phase of the book. But afterwards the publicity and marketing questions did kind of probe my personal history, and I felt pretty darn boring during that part. But you’re absolutely right: it really doesn’t make a big difference, compared to other kinds of books and things.
That is a truly great Conan moment. I often think of his parting words: if you work hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard.
Right. They need to love the book. Sometimes I wonder if the Refreshments thing–which I am not shy about using when submitting a novel–works against me. I try to guard against my writing coming off as a celeb bio or something, because it’s really not, but I don’t know if people can see past it. Anyway, it’s my one advantage, so I use it. It’s really anyone’s guess.
Did the Refreshments ever play a Warped tour? If so, I may have seen you guys. I remember being inundated with the video for Banditos in the 90s. Surprisingly I’ve retained most of the lyrics, which is rare when you are stoned most of the time. Also, it’s really cool you guys played Conan, that’s such a rock and roll dream.
I don’t think so, Steph. I mean, we were on some warped tours, but not the Warped tour. (Sorry about that. I’m getting old.)
The video was getting 8-10 rotations a week at MTV during the summer of 1996, so if you were tuned into MTV during that time, you got a good dose of the vid. I always liked the video. We certainly weren’t able to repeat the fun aspect of it in any of our other videos.
No one year prohibition for me, I’m regularly that weedy guy, drink in hand, eyebrow cocked and using the pickup line, “I know I guy… who was once in the band the Refreshments.”
In all seriousness, Molly turned me on to the article this morning and I thought it was wonderful. I will now fall completely behind schedule as I spend the remainder of the day perusing the archives of TNBD to see what else I have missed. I’m glad to have gotten to know Art instead of Buddy. In my mind one is real and one is a bit more of a cartoon superhero… yet still those lines blur from time to time. You are so right, noone wants to give up their rock n’ roll fantasy.
Take care and congrats on another fantastic and successful yarn. Tauri Rule!
You mean this is the first thing of mine you’ve read at TNB? Clearly someone on my marketing team isn’t doing their job. I can assure you he or she will be dealt with accordingly.
So kind of you to say about the article, and it’s great to know you guys, too.
Who’d of thought a superhero could be named Buddy? Sounds more like a sidekick, doesn’t it?
Hooray, you’ve come out!
Great piece, Art. My “really” would have been about the theme song for King of the Hill. Very cool!
Have we not talked King of the Hill yet?
In 1996, we were one of 35 national acts who submitted a theme for the show and, they said, “yours was the one we were humming around the office.” We beat out Danny Elfman, Les Claypool, etc. The show premiered in 1997, and we didn’t think it would last the year. I’m glad we were wrong.
Damn dude, I didn’t know you were in The Refreshments. My old band used to cover “Banditos” back in the oh-so happening ’90s. (I was the bassist and backing vocalist too. Ha) Great song to play for a cow pasture full of drunk high-school and college kids — of which I was one myself.
Hey, my bass playing brethren! I probably saw you at one of those keggers!
Sorry for holding out on you. We’ll chat more about it later.
I do believe this explains the look on your face in that adorable Gravatar: who else would be able to rock that tie?
The tie did prepare me for a life in rock. In fact, I can trace most of my success back to that tie. Oh, where is it now?
Hey! I loved Banditos! The world is full of stupid people. It is.
And I love King of the Hill.
One complaint: The theme song’s pretty manic and it attacks loud and fast out of nowhere, so when I’ve dozed off during an episode, I’m frequently startled awake into an angry, agitated state by the closing credits.
Now I have someone to blame.
“FUCK YOU ART!” I’ll shout at my TV every night before bed.
That’s fame, man. That’s a legacy. 🙂
I knew I wasn’t going escape unscathed, Becky. Thanks for keeping me honest.
And I blame the credits themselves. They disappear too quickly from the TV. I picture some poor key grip trying to show his folks that, yes, he is doing something in L.A. besides playing World of Warcraft, and he’s up at the TV going, “See! There it was. Did you see it?”
Hey, I just heard something funny. Do you know what MFA stands for?
MORE FUCKING ARTISTS!
Thanks for reading.
Well, I tease, of course. I didn’t mean to scathe you.
The real problem is that the credits are about 2X louder than the entire balance of the rest of the show. It’s not the song’s fault.
But I’m not joking when I say that I watch an episode of that show almost every night, and have for some time.
Your band’s song has been a part of my nightly wind-down routine for, like, a year, which is funny to me.
That’s more what I hoped you’d take away.
Scathe was strong. I was having fun, too.
It’s great to be a little sliver of so many people’s lives. The real reward is it is a good show.
If you ever hear a version where a couple of guys yell “Yee haw” at the end of the progression, that’s me and our drummer P.H. Sometimes I hear it during the end credits. Listen for it next time.
Also, because I forgot to say so, I love your playful title here. 🙂
I think it goes with the tie.
Were it hard to be famous?
I don’t think of us as famous, but I know what you mean. It has its challenges, but I count myself lucky.
I picture a weedy guy, drink in hand, eyebrow cocked, creeping over to some unsuspecting soul and saying, “You know, I was once in a very famous rock band. We were called the Refreshments. Have you heard of us?” This wouldn’t impress me, so I don’t know why it would impress anyone else.
Heh. Actually, I’ve been using that line for years, and it’s awesome.
Hey, happy anniversary, Mr. Edwards!
Use at will, Simon. It definitely has its place. I may not be as shy about using it as I suggest above.
Coyness is for suckers.
Art, I saw youse guys in Portland in 96 at a little bar called EJs. I think maybe one of your first out of Phoenix shows.
Also many times after that.
My question is this : I have The Bottle…signed all but yourself . That was at an instore @ Music Millenium ,Pdx. Would you do me the honor of signing it ?
Of course, Dave. Are you still in the Portland area? Let’s hook up!
EJ’s really rings a bell. I’m picturing a full 250 capacity club in June of 1996. Where is it? Is it still around? I’d love to drive by. That was the day I knew Portland was special. Lots of fun playing Portland every time. Were you at the La Luna gig?
Our first gig in PDX was at Key Largo downtown in 1995, which had about ten people in attendance. I walk by that place–or what used to be that place–all the time. And I sing, “Sailin’ away to Key Largo” every time.
So cool, Art! I had no idea you were in the Refreshments. Like Becky, I listen to your King of the Hill theme song nearly every night, pre-sleepytime. And I even had some friends in a very cool band in Lawrence, Kansas who covered the song at live shows. What a fun bit of trivia this is to find out about you. Love it.
I had no idea you had a history in Tempe/Arizona either. I was born in Phoenix and lived there the first 8 years of my life. Nearly everyone I’m related to in the world lives in Arizona. (Perhaps this is why I am a total cold weather pussy?) What led you to Portland? Do you miss the sun?
Thanks for sharing your “secret” with us. (:
Yes, Phoenix was my home for nine years. I’ll always love it, but I don’t miss summers that last 6 months. I’m not a heat guy. I love overcast days of 50 degrees, so I found home.
That doesn’t mean I don’t pine to go to Spring Training every March.
I’ve always loved Portland. It’s a special place for the weird folks who relate to its ethos. It’s a nice sized city on the west coast where not rich people can still afford a house, or maybe live without hog-tying themselves to a job they don’t like. I’ve lived many places, and I’ve loved all of them on some level, but I can’t say I’ve fit in in all of them. I’m very comfortable here.
Enjoy the “Yee haw” at the end of the theme song during the ending credits. That’s me and the drummer.
[…] ART EDWARDS plays the bass. […]
San Antonio gigs– Didn’t you play the St. Mary’s University Oyster Bake one year? It would have been on an outdoor stage. I live in Ft. Worth now but my hometown is S.A. and I was amazed to read that a relatively un-hip place like St. Mary’s hired you. I can say “un-hip” because my dad and my sister both went there, some 50 years apart. They usually hire tribute bands and rockers-on-the-way down to play it and you guys were on the way up.
Ha! Maybe they were anticipating our rapid demise!
The clam bake doesn’t ring a bell, but it’s been a while. We certainly played gigs like that.
How the hell did I miss this? Haha, wow. I was on the radio in the mid-nineties, specifically ’96. I’d have to double check, but I’m pretty certain that album is on my iPod even now. The line in Down Together that I remember (and I refuse to look it up but I think it’s still emblazoned in the brain): ”
Whoever said that there’s nothing new under the sun never thought much about me, but he’s dead anyway.”
Rock on. There’s more than a few good memories attached to your music.
Love that line too, Slade. So glad to know your a fellow 90s dude.
What happened to all the great rock? Are you hiding it all down there in Texas?
[…] it wasn’t until recently that Art revealed to our community that he was co-founder, co-songwriter, and bass player with The Refreshments. Best known for the […]