On the afternoon of September 8, 1995, the members of Sony 550 recording group For Squirrels and their tour manager were en route home to Florida following a showcase performance the previous night at C.B.G.B. in New York. Their van was traveling on Inter-state 95, approximately 50 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, when a tire blew out and the vehicle overturned. Singer Jack Vigliatura (21), bassist Bill White (23), and tour manager Tim Bender (23) all died at the scene, according to the Georgia State Patrol. Drummer Jack Griego (28) suffered multiple injuries, including broken vertebrae; he is recuperating following success- ful surgery at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah. Guitarist Travis Michael Tooke (23) suffered a broken elbow, bruises and lacerations; he was released after being treated at Liberty Memorial Hospital in Hinesville, GA. Funeral services for Jack Vigliatura and Bill White were held September 13 in Palm Harbor, Florida; on the same day, a service for Tim Bender was held in Cary, North Carolina.
A memorial fund has been established in the band's name, proceeds from which will help Jack Greigo and Travis Tooke pay their medical bills. Donations may be sent c/o Rich Ulloa, 8336 S.W. 40th Street, Miami, FL 33155. Checks should be made payable to the For Squirrels Memorial Fund. The following group biography was prepared prior to the accident and is reprinted here without alteration.
The members of For Squirrels are fans of fairy tales. "I think our music should be a book of fables that everyone can relate to," says bassist Bill White, describing the songs on their Sony 550 Music debut album, Example. "Our goal as a band is to have each song take you to a different place," adds lead singer Jack Vigliatura. "It's almost like a novel with each chapter expressing a different thing."
The 10 chapters that make up Example deftly combine the frenetic thrash found on numbers like "Long Live The King" and "8:02" with the soaring guita r-pop of "Orangeworker" and "Mighty K.C." Example thankfully avoids succumbing to the sort of pseudo-angst-ridden hyper-emoting so often heard from rock musicians in their 20s. "We're definitely not downer type people," quips Bill." "We don't have just one emotion," offers Jack Vigliatura, "and we don't see ourselves as a one- dimensional band." While each of the 10 songs on Example is notably different from the next, their melodic quality binds them together in a way that makes the music instantly accessible.
Jack Vigliatura, Bill White and Travis Tooke grew up together in Clearwater, Florida and after high school graduation entered the University of Florida in Gainesvillle. Their musical adventure began when Bill and Travis bought a couple of guitars in a pawn shop. "We would mess around for hours in the dorm--order in food and have all-night sessions 'til five in the morning," Jack remembers. "We'd fool around and write songs about basketball or something, but occasionally a real song would pop up."
The trio began playing open mike nights at an on-campus pub, but the shows were more of a lark than an exercise in musical proficiency. "We were 80% schtick, 20% music," says Bill. "I played most of the shows sitting down while wearing a kayak crash helmet." "We definitely were more of a comedy act than a musical talent," adds Jack Vigliatura. "At our first show we did a hokey folk version of LL Cool J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out.'"
After many more such open-mike nights, the three realized that they had to take their musical development a little more seriously. Recruiting drummer Jack Griego, For Squirrels played their first show as a band in August 1993. They took their student loan money ("broke our parents' hearts," Jack admits), recorded a CD in six days for $6,000, and began toiling away on the Florida club circuit.
With a record out and consistent club dates, For Squirrels were seemingly on the rise. Yet something was still missing from the mix. "We still weren't taking it seriously enough," says Bill. "We had the vision and the ideas, but we didn't have the music to back it up." Or as Travis bluntly puts it: "We had the stage presence but couldn't play worth a damn."
In June 1994 For Squirrels played a show that became their wake-up call. "We were opening for a really good band, and we played an absolutely terrible show," recalls Bill. "We could do one of two things: quit, or work at trying to become a band." They chose the latter, and took some time off from the road to write a batch of new songs. Jack Griego remembers it as an extraordinary time: "Instead of just playing through songs, we took them apart and worked on various parts until we got it right. We really came together as a band during that time."
These developments brought the four musicians closer together and strengthened their mutual love for the music they were making. Four fans who'd once scrawled the names of their favorite bands on schoolbook covers were about to realize a lifelong dream. For Squirrels signed to Sony 550 Music in January, 1995. By May, they were recording with producer/engineer Nick Launay at Compass Point in the Bahamas and at Criteria Studios in Miami.
The band has made it this far on dedicated effort and a love of playing music for its own sake: "We always said we'd play music for squirrels," says Jack Vigliatura in describing the origin of their name. But with the release of Example, people--a great many people, perhaps--will be listening to the music of For Squirrels.