If nothing else, The Publiminal Sigs, aka Pub Sigs, have assured their place in Indianapolis rock history with their seminal 1995 album Satisfried. A breathtaking multigenre joyride, Satisfried still holds its charms today, with songs like “Retread,” “Square Wheel” and “In Tongues” revealing themselves to be as rocking and fresh today as they were back when Melrose Place and Billy Corgan ruled the world.
Never an easy band to pin down, The Pub Sigs went through constant personnel changes and close brushes with major labels. Ultimately, the band’s almost decade-long career left behind memories of impossibly drunken performances and that lone, great album.
This Friday at the Historic Melody Inn, The Pub Sigs will once again ply the boards, heading up a bill that includes Hellwinkle and Indiana Bandana. Also on the bill is Oregon one-man band Right On John.
Right On John is John McColley, who was a part of The Pub Sigs for most of 1996 before leaving Indiana for the Western U.S. “John got a hold of me, like out of the blue, and said he had a gig in Indy and he wanted to do a reunion, of sorts, with The Pub Sigs,” head Sig, Steve Janiak, sitting in his sweat box of a front porch, with a copy of an Eagles biography nearby, explains. “I got a hold of Eric [Brown, drummer] and Chris [Coy, bassist] and so here we are doing a show with the 1996 lineup. It sounded like fun, so why not?”
1996 was supposed to be the break-out year for The Pub Sigs, with a trip to L.A. for an industry showcase, high-profile local gigs and media attention and a solid lineup that included McColley, who added a strong second voice and guitar to the mix, helping to expand the group’s sound. “That was fun,” says Coy, who’s perched at the door making sure the group’s equipment is safe. “We could do so much more with John in the band.”
“It was a pretty exciting time,” Janiak declares. “We had lots of label interest, but they all said, ‘You guys sound great, but take ‘Retread,’ ‘Do What Ditty’ and ‘Skank’ and write an album of songs just like that, then we’ll talk,’” Janiak chuckles. “We told them all to fuck off, because our music was diverse because that’s who we were. They had to take us as we were or not at all. They chose not to, and we ended up in a drunken haze to cope with our disillusionment for the next few years.”
Back in the day, The Pub Sigs should’ve been, along with Birdmen of Alcatraz, a band to put Indiana on the map. Janiak’s awesome songwriting and chunky Gibson guitar along with Coy’s funkified, yet heavy as hell bass and daring fashion sense, made them an elephant in the room of mid-’90s Hoosier rock.
Eric Brown drummed with the band until 1998, when he left to form the trip-hop group Mab Lab. Brown has since launched the digital-only Audio Reconnaissance label, a Midwestern clearinghouse for hip-hop, jazz, experimental and dance tunes from around the country.
“When I left, Janiak sold me a four-track recorder, and really from that I started to try different things, which eventually led to Mab Lab.” Brown pauses for a second. “But I’m excited to play with The Pub Sigs again. They really were the beginning of me thinking I could make a career doing music.”
Also playing a rare show is Elwood’s finest (and only) breakout heavy band, Hellwinkle. They pioneered the stoner-metal genre here in the cornfields almost a decade before it was cool to do so.
Indiana Bandana is an outlaw country outfit that features a couple members from Chicago’s Rock Star Club, which evolved from The Young Lords. This will be their first Indy appearance. Their outlaw twang will mesh nicely with Right On John’s one-man American roots style.