Inhouse story - Feb. 14 issue of Florida Weekly
Before South Florida artists like the Dillengers, John Ralston, and Surfer Blood toured and had releases on prominent recording labels in the 2000s, acoustic pop/rock quintet Inhouse crafted an unprecedented, snowballing eight-year run through Palm Beach County and beyond in the 1990s.
That snowball grew literally and figuratively. Twin sisters and New York natives Gin Weintraub Blische (vocals, guitar) and Evi Weintraub Scapellati (vocals), influenced by everything from gospel harmonies to Pink Floyd, first formed as an acoustic duo in 1992 to showcase original tunes and select covers.
"I felt like we had a lot of talent, but that it wasn't so much about that talent," says Mrs. Blische. "I always thought, from the beginning, that I had this twin sister and we could conquer the world together. We were strong apart, but I knew that neither of us individually was anywhere near what we were when we sang together. And forming the full band reinforced my belief that we could do special things."
"Gin really started out as the driving force behind the band," says Mrs. Scapellati, "and helped create a lot of our opportunities. I was really grateful for her ambition, and knew the results would be amazing. And they were. It was great fun, and turned out to be a series of great experiences for me."
By 1993, the duo became a trio with the addition of Washington-born bassist Phil Kalasz (the group's only electric instrumentalist), then a quartet by adding native Canadian drummer Steve Williams. It also earned an important weekly Thursday night house gig at the Underground CoffeeWorks, a historic West Palm Beach basement venue that had been a storage unit for illicit alcohol during Prohibition.
That was the site where the original Inhouse lineup -- which reunites on Feb. 22 at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, 25 years after its completion and 20 years since the band's demise -- gelled soon thereafter. A sit-in by New Jersey-born acoustic guitarist Andy Stein, whose maze of effects pedals can make him sound anything but acoustic, was both memorable and solidifying.
"They were concerned, telling me it was all original material, but I told them it would be okay and that I'd improvise," says Mr. Stein. "They were impressed, and I played with them the rest of the night. We all really enjoyed it, and I was happy to join the band."
Independent releases [i]Five Wooden Chairs[i] (1994), [i]The Beautiful Soup[i] (1995) and [i]Waking Juliet[i] (1998) followed. As did appearances at the Warped Tour, Lilith Fair, and multiple SunFests; regional and national touring, opening slots for headliners like Hall & Oates, Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt and Ani DiFranco, and management by Jon Stoll (1953-2008) of Fantasma Productions.
Some of those occurrences were with bassists other than Mr. Kalasz (who left in 1996) and drummers other than Mr. Williams (who left in 1997), but it was the original Inhouse lineup that attracted interest from major labels like Atlantic Records.
Mr. Williams turned down the opportunity to join the international band Boston to stay with Inhouse, and he blends the jazz-influenced rock style of Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) with the unique ideas of Stewart Copeland (The Police). And Mr. Kalasz's hearty tone and empathetic ideas sound like a post-Paul McCartney mix of John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and Dee Murray (Elton John).
"When you play with someone for as long as Steve and I did, everything seems to fit in rhythmically if it's the right blend of personalities," Mr. Kalasz says. "We had some similar influences; we influenced each other with things we were listening to that the other might not be familiar with, and we got used to, and complimented, each other's playing styles."
"We both liked everything from jazz to heavy metal," says Mr. Williams. "There was very little music that we disagreed on, so I think that had a lot to do with our cohesion."
The original Inhouse lineup also created a fan in producer/engineer Tom Dowd (1925-2002), whose credits include the Allman Brothers Band, Ray Charles, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Derek & the Dominos, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Rod Stewart, Cream, Otis Redding and countless others. Mr. Dowd even parked his remote recording truck alongside the Underground CoffeeWorks one night in 1995 to capture the band live -- just as he'd done at promoter Bill Graham's New York City venue in 1971 to help catapult a Southern rock act to stardom with the double-live album [i]The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East[i].
"Their lyrical concept is fresh and the whole band is good," Mr. Dowd said of Inhouse. "There are no weak links."
Sadly, and in hindsight, perhaps mistakenly, those recordings never surfaced. Inhouse eventually released only three studio albums, preferring the precision and control of indoor facilities over the energy and perceived imperfections of any prospective releases captured on stage.
"We listened to what Tom had recorded live, and weren't sure how much we liked it," Mr. Stein says. "There were things we wanted cleaned up, but we probably should have let him do what he wanted with it, because he said he really liked it. That was part of what prompted Atlantic Records to take notice of us."
For this reunion show -- the lineup's first since April 10, 2009 at the Cuillo Centre for the Arts in West Palm Beach -- Mrs. Scapellati returns from Long Island, NY, where she moved to marry Cliff Scapellati in 1999, hastening Inhouse's coda. Mr. Kalasz returns from Savannah, GA. They'll join locals Mrs. Blische, Mr. Stein and Mr. Williams in the newly-remodeled Norton Museum of Art's outdoor garden.
Expect material from all three CDs, unrecorded originals, and Pink Floyd covers, but mostly a healthy serving of [i]The Beautiful Soup[i]. Recorded locally at Saturn Sound Studios in West Palm Beach, the energetic, 11-song disc became Inhouse's best release by sounding like it was recorded live in the studio, by this very quintet, nearly a quarter-century ago.
in the know
When: 7-9:30 p.m., Feb. 22
Where: Norton Museum of Art, 1450 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach
Info: 561-832-5196, www.norton.org