Exclusive: The latest video from classic Athens band Squalls

Athens-born band Squalls isn’t always listed among the so-called golden age ensembles of the early ‘80s. They aren’t as well-known in mainstream circles as R.E.M., the B-52′s, Widespread Panic, Pylon or Love Tractor but the quirky Classic City combo is often cited by their peers and fans as one of the very best of the original batch.

“It seemed like there were only about five bands around here when we started,” laughs founder-songwriter Bob Hay. But the scene grew quickly with Squalls becoming one of the city’s most popular live acts. Every few months, the band would pack ‘em in for an energetic, pop-injected psychedelic dance-party at a number of popular venues, with a particular fondness for the 40 Watt Club.

The celebratory feel of a Squalls live show is wonderfully captured in the new release “Live From The 40 Watt.” Coming next month from Strolling Bones Records, the double-LP package captures highlights from five different shows at the iconic Athens nightclub, produced, recorded and mixed by legendary soundboard wizard T. Patton Biddle.

Credit: Courtesy of New West Records

Credit: Courtesy of New West Records

The album is the first new product from the band since 1988. “Yeah, I guess it’s been a little while,” chuckles the soft-spoken Hay. “But I think it’s time to sort of look back on all those 40 Watt shows. We played there over 60 times and I remember how much fun it was to play that place. The first time we ever played on a real stage — and not just in the corner of a room somewhere — was at the 40 Watt. That was in December of 1981. It’s hard to believe it’s been over 40 years now since we started. Where does the time go?”

The classic lineup of Squalls — led by Hay with multi-instrumentalists Diana Torell, “Big Al” Walsh, Mark Cooper Smith and Ken Starratt — toured the country and released a number of independent releases throughout the ‘80s before splintering off into new projects. For the past two decades, Hay has explored the songs and poems of Robert Burns in solo and group performances.

On Aug. 18, the night before the album is officially released, Hay and an all-star line-up of veteran scenesters and guests will gather at the 40 Watt to play a rollicking set of classic Squalls tunes and a batch of Robert Burns material with a special performance by the Pylon Reenactment Society. For info and tickets, visit the club’s website, www.40watt.com.

In advance of the album, Strolling Bones is releasing a series of four digital singles from the 24-track collection. To kick things off, the company issued “Na Nanana”, perhaps the group’s best-known song, originally featured in the 1986 cult-classic film “Athens Ga: Inside / Out.” A kaleidoscopic video for the band’s debut track “Crickets” was issued earlier this month.

Today, the AJC is proud to present the official world premiere of “Cindy,” a unique word video collage assembled by Hay’s partner, singer-songwriter-artist Vanessa Briscoe Hay, co-founder of Pylon. “I wanted to feature a lot of movement and happiness,” she says of the catchy and colorful project. “I just wanted to show the fun of letting go and dancing to a great little song. That’s really how it was in Athens in the ‘80s, everybody danced and we all just enjoyed being there in the moment. I think it goes along well with the song and it really is a throwback to those days. I remember people really loved dancing to that song in the live Squalls show.”

Continuing the Athens history vibe, the titular character of the song was inspired by a B-52′s performance. “I saw the B’s play live, early on,” explains Hay. “I thought they were great, of course. But the thing is, I knew the girl’s names were Cindy and Kate, but I didn’t really know who was who, back then. So it might actually be about Kate Pierson but I called it Cindy — in honor of Cindy Wilson. So that’s the way it’s been ever since.”


Squalls’ “Live From The 40 Watt” will be issued on Aug. 19 via Strolling Bones Records. To purchase or stream Cindy: https://lnk.to/cindyPR or visit www.strollingbonesrecords.com.

For more information about Squalls, see squalls.band and www.facebook.com/Squallsband.

Pylon Reenactment Society plays Friday, July 29, in Sandy Springs with The Smithereens. Details here: https://citysprings.com/events/city-green-live-smithereens.