When punk rockers Tsunami Bomb reunited late last year, they tested their footing on the solid home turf of Northern California. But Texas was high on their list of places to revisit and the band had a local, original member already here, ready to go.
She’s Oobliette Sparks, keyboardist and vocalist for the band, which hits Eastdown Warehouse tomorrow night for one of the first shows of Tsunami Bomb’s regrouped effort. She’s been a Texan since she left the band for Austin in 2001 and arrived in Houston just last year to work as general manager for one of the Creek Group restaurants. Now that she’s a local, we asked her to recall her first encounters with the city as a member of one of the top female-fronted punk bands of its era.
“The only memory I have of playing Houston was so weird, I often thought that through the years I had made the story weirder than it really was, but after confirming with others who were there, it was just that weird,” she says. “We stayed at some artists’ lofts, with a big stage in the middle. I’m not sure where we played, but I know we played a show with the owner or manager of Notsuoh. It was a tiny place, maybe a house converted into a bar. Anyhow, we were invited to Notsuoh after the show, and the rest of the night reads like a David Lynch film.
“But the show, there were like ten people there," Sparks continues. "But this was very, very early on. I very well probably played other shows in Houston, but that is the one I remember.”
Tomorrow’s show should prove memorable and better-attended, as some fans have been awaiting a reunion since Tsunami Bomb called it quits in 2005. The latest model features Sparks, Dominic Davi on bass, Gabriel Lindeman on drums, guitarist Brian Bourke and vocalist Kate Jacobi. For the run of Texas dates, which includes Austin on Saturday and a Sunday-night show at Korova in San Antonio, 30footFALL’s Chris LaForge will handle guitar duties for Bourke.
“So we knew we wanted to play Texas, so we reached out to Kevin Lyman to see if he had any openings on the Warped Tour dates in Texas," Sparks says. "We knew it was a long shot because they were days away from releasing the lineup."
The band missed Texas’s Warped shows but was penciled in for a pair of late-summer dates in the Pacific Northwest. Once it plays those dates, Tsunami Bomb will be in the familiar confines of a tour that helped build their audience. They’ll perform on the headliners’ Left Foot Stage. And they’ll be tighter than a hipster’s jeans thanks to these Texas dates.
“I left the band in 2001 and other than our five (recent) shows, I have been able to practice with them one time. One time, and it was my first time to meet Kate in person! Man, I feel insane actually saying that,” Sparks admitted. “Everyone else lives in California, so I practice to recordings of their practices. Technology is a magical thing. So yeah, I kind of just launched right in.”
Sparks said the idea to reunite came from work on the band’s retrospective release, Trust No One. Sparks said some of the band’s earliest songs are also some of its most requested by fans. Rather than have fans settle for online versions of dubious quality, they pulled together 16 tracks for a release with Kung Fu Records.
“Dominic and I had been in talks to form another band," she says. "Nothing crazy since we don't live in the same state, but something fun where we could mainly record and do select shows. Well, once Dominic contacted everyone about the Trust No One release, that opened a whole new bag of worms. We started talking with other members about doing this new band. It seems we thought it would be a new band, all the while Brian thought it was a Tsunami Bomb reunion. In reality, it was a Tsunami Bomb reunion; he just needed to bring it to our attention and tell us it would be stupid to use any other name.”
The most obvious difference is the absence of the band’s longtime lead vocalist, Emily Whitehurst, better known as “Agent M” in punk circles. Although she supports the reunion, she opted to forego the reunion to focus on Survival Guide, her own solo project.
“Plenty of people have been bummed out about M not wanting to be a part of the reunion, but many who have come out and given us a chance have been won over,” Sparks notes. “We understand that to some people, the front person of a band can be the reason they were drawn in. The fact of the matter is, to us, Tsunami Bomb is and always was bigger than one person. Every member of the band ever brought their own unique gift to the band and that, to me, is why it was as unique and well received as it was. I urge fans to check out the show and at least give us a chance; I think you will be pleasantly surprised.”
Sparks says even not playing with the band since 2001 has proven less a challenge than Jacobi's stepping in for Whitehurst. But, she adds, she’s handled it with aplomb and fans have responded well.
“Kate grew up a fan of Tsunami Bomb, and because of that, she is very humble and gracious," Sparks explains. "She is strong and striking onstage, but doesn’t have any sort of pretension about her. You watch her and see how much fun she is having and can’t help but smile. I think the fans pick up on that, [that] she is a true fan and is not trying to be or replace M, and they relate to her.
“She has been a trooper," she continues. "I could not fathom having to learn all these songs, deal with four totally different and pretty crazy personality types, and also deal with knowing that, initially, the fans want M on that stage,” she continued. “She had never performed live. Her second show ever was at a sold-out House of Blues show, and she was ten times calmer than I was. She has a great disposition and knew what she was getting into, and has excelled past all of our expectation. Having Kate in the band, it feels just like the band was in the beginning; it’s insane how well she fits. And, in all honesty, like I said, we have had little to no backlash.”
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As for any new music on the horizon, Sparks says, “I would suggest coming to one or all of our three Texas shows; we may have some surprises in store.” As for old favorites, she said she’s looking forward to dusting off “Invasion,” “Irish Boys” and “El Diablo,” but admits they’re all exciting to revisit, particularly because old and new fans are there to hear them.
“It’s funny — we really thought all of our fans would be around our age, but there are actually a ton of younger, new fans," she says. "I was really surprised by the amount of younger kids either finding us online or having our music passed down from older siblings or their parents. It’s been rad to see the new generation of fans and to see people bringing their kids to our shows and the kids singing along.
“At the 1234 Go show [in Oakland], one fan brought her little girl with her whom she was pregnant with the last time she saw us play. She was also the coolest kid ever and helped me sing some of the songs. I can’t say enough about how great it has been to catch up with the fans.”