1984 in Redlands, California
Core '80s Band Members:
- David Lowery (born September 10, 1960 in San Antonio, Texas) - Lead vocals, guitar
- Victor Krummenacher (born April 7, 1965 in Riverside, California) - Bass, vocals
- Jonathan Segel (born September 3, 1963 in Marseilles, France) - Violin, keyboards, guitar, vocals
- Greg Lisher (born November 29, 1963) - Guitar, vocals
- Chris Pedersen - Drums
Initially inspired by punk rock and its accompanying indie aesthetic, frontman Lowery and bandmates gradually deemed that form a bit too restrictive and began experimenting with the disparate sounds of folk, country, pop/rock and even world music. Such a freewheeling approach confused some onlookers, but the band's fierce independence found favor in the American underground, a niche that subscribed to few boundaries. Aside from a couple of personnel exceptions, the core quintet toured vigorously to build a following and would ultimately release five studio albums in as many years during the second half of the '80s.
Camper Van Beethoven displayed excellent timing in becoming one of the signature stylistically elusive acts of early alternative rock, but that's not the only reason the college rock community embraced the band so enthusiastically. The group's 1985 debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, just happened to feature CVB's most famous song, "Take the Skinheads Bowling," which also just happens to be one of the most involving, delightful and cryptic rock songs of the '80s. "Everybody's comin' home for lunch these days" and "I had a dream I wanted to lick your knees" are among the tune's many left-field lyrical gifts.
Although some cutting edge music enthusiasts occasionally used their knowledge of Camper Van Beethoven in an effort to establish a sense of superiority over the rest of us earthbound listeners, the band itself never rested on its considerable laurels. On its next two independently released albums prior to signing a major-label deal with Virgin in 1988, CVB made a point of never treading the same musical ground twice. Delighting in resisting expectation at every possible turn, the band used Segel's violin contributions to help open up its palette to all levels of genre-challenging possibility.
Long-Term Camper Van Beehoven Hiatus:
Perhaps it was only natural that one of college rock's most productive groups on a year-to-year basis would not stay together long enough to enjoy the fruits of its labors, as so often happens with trailblazers. Still, it was quite unfortunate that CVB broke up only months into the '90s, well before the explosion of grunge opened the door for a far wider recognition of alternative styles. Luckily, Lowery wouldn't stay silent for long, emerging in 1992 with Cracker, a straight-ahead rock band that found its share of success in the new modern rock landscape.
Legacy & Reunion:
Camper Van Beethoven's pioneering spirit continued to inform - at least for a couple more years - the experimentation and stubborn dismissal of "normalcy" that had helped birth punk rock, post-punk and other growing alternative forms. Even when alternative and modern rock became nothing more than a commodity that hinged on big record labels and a lack of radio programmer adventurousness, indie rock drew much of its slacker, wise-guy vibe from CVB's most direct musical impulses. Since 2000 the band has resumed its career with consistency, even releasing a new studio recording in 2004's well-received New Roman Times.