Music » Local Music

Fonda them



Unless you were living in Amish country or trapped under a woofer for the past two years, you’ve noticed the seismic shift in the world of pop music.

The sounds of stripped-down rock ’n’ roll eclipsed boy-band mania as the ruling pop music art form, and quasi-Stooges and the MC5-type bands flourished on the airwaves and made a quick buck.

Throughout this metamorphosis, members of the Fondas — whose sound epitomizes the “garage” movement — kept their day jobs.

Taking their name from a painting of the storied Hollywood family, the Fondas came together under the most obvious of circumstances: former bands broken up, sleepless nights writing music, hunger to perform.

The members’ years of experience allowed the Fondas sound and ethos to evolve quickly. Their music stokes old rock ’n’ roll fires.

The first album, Coming Now! (on Sympathy for the Record Industry), for example, is a 14-song waterfront coverage of some of rock ’n’ roll’s finest tunes. Hank Ballard’s “Where is Love” and Don Covay’s “Watching the Late Late Show” are cover-song choices that make an album like this work.

“Doing a cover album is a hard thing to pull off,” says one local producer, “but they did it.”

Fondas guitarist Steve Shaw says Coming Now! is modeled after the Stones’ first LP, which had only two original numbers.

Shaw has been at the crux of the local rock ’n’ roll scene for years. And although he is modest about it, he’s played a role in what many would consider some of the finest garage-rock projects to come out of Detroit. One will find him credited on albums and poster artwork of such seminal bands as the Gories and the Dirtbombs.

The Fondas’ lineup reads like a who’s who of Detroit rockers: Guitarist/songwriter Mark Niemenski was formerly in the Hysteric Narcotics; hammy bassist Joe Burdick is best known for his work with the Dirtys and the Buzzards; and drummer Chip Sercombe played with the Hysteric Narcotics and the Sillies.

Sexy singer Julie Benjamin — whose demure stage presence evokes longing for her to shake it, already — has a vocal range that could be considered everything from soulful to come-hither.

“I grew up singing in the shower,” she says.

The attachment to bedrock rock ’n’ roll is what gives them their appeal. They make no apologies — it’s just what they do.

“It’s what we grew up on,” says Shaw.

The Fondas don’t plan to stop until people stop responding to the music.

“We are already excited about making the next record,” says Shaw. “We started getting e-mails as soon as it [Coming Now!] came out from all over the world from people who love the record.”

So as trends change, and fickle lemmings and consumers find their way on to the next big thing, bands like the Fondas will keep doing what they love, day jobs or not.


The Fondas CD release party is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit). Call 313-961-4668 for more information.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail

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