Drink Me: 'The Quietest Rock 'n' Roll Ever Made'

The unique sound of the band Drink Me consists of guitars, ukuleles and the rhythmic rubbing of a Fanta soda bottle. Its songs explore topics from singing clams and sleeping accordions to heart attacks and Grant's Tomb. Producer Trey Kay reports on the quirky, poetic duo that plays music billed as "the quietest rock 'n' roll ever made."

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now to music and the occasional DAY TO DAY series Dustbin Bands. These are bands that made a brief splash in the music world at some point but are rarely heard today. Producer Trey Kay found in his music collection a New York City band that once made what was called the quietest rock 'n' roll ever. It was a duo called Drink Me. It was popular in the mid-'80s and early '90s. And here is their story.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. MARK AMFT (Drink Me): (Singing) Let me tell you about a gal whose name is (unintelligible). She's the loveliest gal that there ever was. She's a big bony ...(unintelligible) and talks too much. I'm her road man, and she is my emotional crutch.

Mr. WYNNE EVANS (Drink Me): I would meet people, and they would find out that I was in Drink Me, and they'd say, `Oh, I love Drink Me. I've seen you guys all the time. I didn't know you were in Drink Me.' And there were just two of us. Oh. And so that was become Mark was the show, and I was in the background.

TREY KAY reporting:

That's Wynne Evans, the less visible half of Drink Me. The other half was Mark Amft, a charismatic beanpole of a guy, whose nerdy-cool, horn-rimmed glasses rested on a head that looked like a jolly skull. Mark had a lightning-fast wit and would playfully take on the persona of the characters in his songs. Here he's a sad soul recovering from a heart attack.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) I'm ...(unintelligible) time I got left ain't going to work no more. I'm going down, down, down town, take a walk to the liquor store.

KAY: Or here he's a nut in a booby hatch.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) Seven to 11 or 11 to 10, the night is black, but the night is when I see them, little green men. Hands start shaking, hard to stand still, see the little men, drink ...(unintelligible), take a little white pill, a little white pill. Oh, don't you see them? Oh, my dear, don't you see?

KAY: Wynne and Mark met as roommates at Oberlin College in the 1970s. They moved to New York after graduation and started a punk band. It was then that they stumbled onto their signature sound.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. EVANS: There was a record called "The Nairobi Sound,"(ph) where someone was playing a Fanta bottle and acoustic guitar--I think it's called dry guitar style. It's a couple acoustic guitars and the percussion is--the old Fanta bottles had ridges on them, and you could move a striker across the ridges and get a sort of harachi(ph) sound or just hit for very short percussive sounds. So there might be two people playing Fanta bottles and two people playing guitars and singing. It's a beautiful, simple folk sound.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. EVANS: I think Drink Me was hard to place because it wasn't comedy and it wasn't just weird. It wasn't appealing to people who were saying, `You've got to listen to this. This is so strange.' But at the time, it didn't have a very commercial sound.

Mr. AMFT: A-one, two, a-one, two, three, four...

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) Familiar walls, familiar voices, my folder paid no heed. The silence is unruffled. I am asleep. No sound will ever reach these ears.

KAY: When I tried to call Mark Amft for this piece, he didn't return my calls. Wynne thinks that he knows why.

Mr. EVANS: He really did put more of himself into Drink Me than into anything else. And I could see that it would be hard to be light and easy and casual about it now because I think he had hoped that it would go further and be more.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) I'm very ...(unintelligilble) too.

KAY: Drink Me had help getting signed to the Bar None record label by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants. You can still find Drink Me's music on that label, but the band's timing was way off.

Mr. EVANS: When we started, if we could've driven around in a van and toured for $20 a night, that would've been a big step up for us. And, unfortunately, when we finally did get a chance to make a record and tour--that was, like, 12 years later--we weren't young men anymore.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) Oh, when will they let me go back home? Have they condemned me to this throne?

Mr. EVANS: By the time we toured, I was early 30s, I think. And it's just a terrible life if you're not a kid. I mean, performing is fun, but you perform for an hour after driving for 15 hours. I hated it.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) Gas station, neon sign, our engine ...(unintelligible) winks an eye and it whispers goodnight. Drunk on a train to Chicago, I feel all right.

KAY: Eventually Mark moved away from New York City, and the band didn't last. What's left is unique music on two wonderful CDs.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) I left a New York of gas bills and cigarette burns, wasted days of whiskey and "As the World Turns."

KAY: Although Drink Me's albums were not big sellers, they're among the most prized in my record collection. Every time I listen to them, I learn something new.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) And in my dreams we're careening drunk down the streets of my hometown. The man on the moon is on Benzedrine. Everybody's spinning around.

CHADWICK: The music of the now dustbin band Drink Me. That piece produced by Trey Kay.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. AMFT: (Singing) ...lights flicker..

CHADWICK: And there's more to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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