Do you know The Cucumbers? If not, you should… and we've got a long lost, unreleased track!
The Cucumbers formed in the early '80s and kicked out a few records of perfectly pop new wave music. Their first big hit was "My Boyfriend," which led them to getting signed by Profile at the same time as Cro-Mags, Run-DMC, Motorhead, and a bunch of others. Over the next 15 years, the band cut four albums, starting out with a perfectly palstic new wave sound before morphing into art-rock and then finally into a more folk influenced unit. Memebers Deena Shoshkes and Jon Fried are married and they still cut cool tunes today! (A little while ago we debuted a cool new Deena tune).
Well, following the digital release of the early Cucumbers discography, which was called The Fake Doom Years after their first label, the band has now assembled a compilation of a bunch of long lost tunes! The tracks were literally pulled out from a drawer and represent recordings by the band from the earliest days through the present.
The Desk Drawer Tapes is out June 4 via Life Force Records and will be on all major streaming platforms. You can check out the band's other recording here. But, before that, check out the unreleased "Beauty from Afar." The tune continues the thread that was held by Joan Baez and Carly Simon, maintained by the Cucumbers, and followed through to bands like Laura Stevenson and the Cans and Cayetana. Check out the new song, and a short interview with the Cucumbers, below, right now!
Why did you decide to revisit these songs now? DEENA: With the pandemic lockdown, I had so much time at home, I finally cleaned my desk! It was always in the back of my mind that someday I would sort through the old Cucumbers material. Ordinarily, I keep myself busy with new work, because what I really love to do is write new songs.
Often, listening to older songs can be like looking at high school pictures- they can be simultaneously endearing and embarrassing. What emotions did you have pulling these songs back to life? DEENA: Enough time has gone by so that whatever reservations and reasons we had for holding them back them have vanished and the joy of making them is the main thing.
JON: There are of course plenty of old songs that fall into the embarrassing category….those are back in the desk drawer.
Did any of the unearthed songs particularly stand out? JON: What stands out for me is not the songs in particular but how many collaborations this collection represents: different bands over many years, with great musicians like Yuergen Renner, John Williams, Dave Ross, Kurt Wrobel, Steve Villano, Brett Ollerenshaw, EdNo and the talent of the folks who mixed and mastered it (Rob Friedman and Scott Anthony were just amazing in pulling some pretty messy pieces together). I suppose if I had to pick a favorite, it might be Beauty From Afar. It creates such a mood, and I love the way the guitar line and vocal intertwine. And our dear old friend Roger Moutenot did such a beautiful mix.
To me, the Cucumbers have always had a, what I'll call "new wave" self awareness- what was the artistic philosophy or angle behind the band? DEENA: We felt free to try anything musically, not follow any rules and make it all up as we went along. We wanted to be original and express ourselves. We were trying to be sincere, yet at the same time we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. We couldn’t help but be original because we didn’t actually know how to play.
JON: There was definitely for me a sense that what we were doing was new wave, that we were part of something.
Contemporary interviews and reviews of the Cucumbers stressed a feminist angle was, perhaps "hidden," in the music - specifically with "My boyfriend" and "Susie's getting married." Was this by design, or was it just a natural byproduct of your creative process? DEENA: I was just being my(unintentionally feminist)self, singing about what I felt and describing my experiences. My mother was an early feminist, so I had a great role model. JON: When anything is centered around a woman with a strong and individual artistic sensibility, I think it's unavoidably feminist to some degree.
I have heard that there is a Cucumbers / Public Enemy connection. Is that true? DEENA: Yes! Public Enemy bass player Brian Hardgroove was in the band from 1984-85 and recorded our first album with us (credited as Charles Hargrove). He went on our very first brief road trip/tour and also travelled with us to England to mix the “Who Betrays Me” album. We’re still great friends. Recently, Brian has been producing some recordings with Fred Schneider (The B52s) and invited us to sing some background vocals.
What did the Cucumbers represent to you? DEENA: Freedom, fun and adventure.
JON: I've always made my best music in partnership with other people. I've never had a partnership anything like what I've had with Deena, and the music we've made together over the years, with a lot of wonderful musicians, has been one of the great pleasures of my life.
What can we expect from the band in the future? DEENA: Next up for The Cucumbers may be an acoustic folk album. We’ve been playing lots of duo shows over the past year, via live-streaming and now in person as we return to live performances. I’d like to capture that sound! Plus, there’s a collection of collaborations around the world underway, and another desk drawer to explore - full of quirky experimental home recordings.