the possible professions for a Midwesterner, being a Spelunker
has to be among the most fun. You get to venture into unknown
musical territories and wear a cool hat if you want to. Tommy
O'Donnell is the Spelunker who plays very fast, very interesting
guitar and sings the most, too. John Ganser gets to hit
the drums and other hittable things. Clay Thompson gets
to play the bass and sings lots as well. And all in the service
of great songs that twist and turn like no other musical journey
we've been on.
The story of Spelunkers
is really something, as in The Something Brothers. This
was the legendary live band that has been proclaimed as one of,
actually the, greatest of the last decade in the Midwest.
The Something Brothers were a six-piece band featuring two lead
vocalists/writers that barnstormed the region and served as the
opening act for bands such as Soul Asylum, The Meat Puppets, Uncle
Tupelo and the Goo Goo Dolls. Born in Bloomington, Illinois' fertile
late '80s music scene, the Something Brothers eventually reached
a level of success that resulted in constant touring. Tours extended
to New York City (CBGBs, Kenny's Castaways), and Key West but
their home market extended largely from Minneapolis to the Quad
Cities to Kansas City to Chicago and Lafayette.
instrumental core of Tommy, Clay and John would rehearse together
and Spelunkers became the vehicle for their instrumental writing.
"Iowa," "Grounded To The Soil," "Goodnite Gents" and "Waterline"
were all developed as instrumentals at this time. Whenever there
was a rare night off, these three members would take a busman's
holiday as an all-instrumental outfit: Spelunkers. When The Something
Bros. decided that the band could not break into the big leagues,
the group disbanded. But Spelunkers continued, changed and grew.
After the demise of The Something Brothers, most of the members
briefly played in a band called Skybeard. But Tommy took
off for Los Angeles to pursue a music career and mainly spent
the time writing. "A lot of my songs are pretty personalized.
The melody does come first and the words have to fit the music
foremost." John joined Cedar Falls' House of Large Sizes
for nationwide touring in support of their Columbia Records debut.
But soon the call of Spelunkers drew Clay, Tommy and John together
again. While Tommy and Clay had always been singers, the reincarnated
Spelunkers was now really using their vocal talents. Clay and
John are both writers but are so enamored of Tommy's tunes that
their first two albums, Breakfast Is America and Demand
Your Annual Rent, consists of all O'Donnell compositions save
for Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse," perhaps more popularly
known as the theme music from the "Ren And Stimpy" cartoons.
The band is no more since Tommy joined as a full time member the
now-defunct Mount Pilot. The Spelunkers released a third album
of improvisational instrumentation called AlphabeticalDigit, that's
no longer available. Once in a while any of the members may show
up on a recording or sitting in a live situation but we can only
hope for a full-scale Spelunkers reunion sometime this decade.