Bachelors of Art
Columbia has produced a lot of bands over the years, some taking root and holding but most come and go so quickly you can’t even remember their names. I have often wondered about the why and the how concerning this event but I have learned it’s best not to give it too much thought or it will make you crazy.
Of the local bands that have emerged from Columbia’s cradle so to speak one of the very few that remains pristine and crystallized in the minds of Columbia music aficionados is Bachelors of Art. Living outside of Columbia at the time of their glory even I was aware of who they were. Strange rumblings of alternative and progressive music stances, lyrics with substance and spacious and brooding melodies wrapped around songs you might actually have to think about while listening. This was not a top 40 cover band out to make a few bucks on the weekend – this was a full blown project!
Having just got back to SC from California I was immediately taken by BOA the first time I heard them on WUSC and on my next trip to the capital city I bought a copy of their 1984 cassette release “In Nature This Does Not Occur” from, (if memory serves correctly), “X” Records. The band lineup for that release was Keith Woodward (keyboard), Jay Owen (bass), Chuck O'Braitis (drums), Robin Wilson (vocals), and Tom Alewine (guitar). This first effort release was recorded at Media Associates and engineered/mixed/mastered by Doug Baker and the band. For me personally the stand out song from this project was “Everybody Wants To Be Important” and I remember thinking as a whole the release was very different for SC and that seemed to me to be a good thing indeed. Depending on which lineup you count BOA had a solid run of 6–8 years holding closely to Columbia they played out live at all the clubs that were of any importance at that time.
1986 saw their second release to vinyl “This Tribal Courthouse” which was recorded at The Pig Palace with additional recording done at Higher Skys Recording Studio. Engineered by Dave Alewine, Bruce McLeod, and Gary Bolton, mixed by Bruce McLeod, (re-mixed by Gary Bolton and BOA), produced by Bruce McLeod and BOA and co-produced by Dave Alewine. The lineup included Tom Alewine (guitar), Jay Owen (bass), Robin Wilson (vocal) and Hootie’s very own Jim “Soni” Sonefeld on drums.
In 1988 the band released their third to cassette “Descend Again” which was well received by fans and reviewers alike and is noted as one of their favorites to date. The band lineup for this project introduced what is now known as the core membership of the band consisting of Tom Alewine (guitar), Robin Wilson (vocal), Jay Matheson (bass), and Blake Liles (drums). This release was engineered/produced by Jay Matheson with assistant engineering from Dave Alewine.
The fourth and final release from the band came in 1990 with “Love Is Dead” released through Manifest Soundworks a division of Manifest Records local to Columbia, SC. Recorded at both Strawberry Skys and the Jam Room studios by core members Tom Alewine (guitar), Robin Wilson (vocal), Jay Matheson (bass), and Robby Sharp (drums), with additional help from Conrad Hunter (keyboard), and Ken Branham (congas). Engineered by Jay Matheson, Dave Alewine with assistance from Gary Bolton and produced by Dave Alewine and the band.
Bachelors of Art played their last show in 1992 with the core members going their separate ways to pursue family and professional careers. Bassist Jay Matheson went on to own and operate the Jam Room recording studio in Columbia, SC where he has enjoyed a very successful career recording local and international artists too many to list here. His reputation and work in the music community of Columbia has left a unique and indelible mark. Guitarist Tom Alewine is a freelance photographer and graphic artist in and around the city of Columbia and Vocalist Robin Wilson Hall now resides in Atlanta GA. where she teaches. BOA regrouped for a one off show in 2007 celebrating the Rockafellas club reunion show where they played to a packed house and performed as though 14 years away meant absolutely nothing. Then in 2012 the band performed live in celebration of the Jam Room’s 25th Anniversary and 2013 saw them together again at Jake’s just this past October. They will be performing at the Art Bar here in Columbia February 1st so mark your calendars and tell your friends this is a show you will not want to miss. So few bands have the capability to come together and form a sound let alone help define a movement but BOA is one of those bands for this city. They were perfect for their moment and have proven they are viable to the present and they will always hold a special place in the hearts of Columbia, SC.