Overview/Interview by Pete Crigler
Eve's Plum were one of the many bands that came out in the '90's during the major-label alternative rock feeding frenzy but there was something more that separated them from the pack. They ended up getting lumped in with bands like Belly, K's Choice, L7, Veruca Salt, Letters to Cleo and others because they had a female singer. Colleen Fitzpatrick was best known to some as Amber Von Tussle from the original Hairspray. After that, she relocated to New York, met up with guitarist Michael Kotch, his drummer brother Benjamin and bassist Chris Giammalvo and together they formed Eve's Plum, a sly nod to Brady Bunch actress Eve Plumb.
Colleen was a dynamic singer, one of the most interesting voices in that era of alt rock- very underrated indeed. After getting signed, the band released their first record, 1993's Envy which launched the hit single and the band's calling card "I Want It All." Michael Kotch also showed off his skills on the second single "Blue" which has one of the best riffs of the whole alt rock era.
While "I Want It All" was a hit, the album as a whole wasn't and sales were slow. The band parted with Giammalvo, off to join wanna-be's Madder Rose, and they replaced him with Theo Mack. They also contributed a song to the soundtrack of the film Higher Learning. After supplying a cover of the disco classic "If I Can't Have You" to a Rock for Choice benefit album, they began recording their second record with producer Fred Maher, who'd worked with everybody possible. The band underwent a bit of an evolution on this disc. When Cherry Alive was released in 1995, the music was heavier, the guitars a bit grungier and the band had a stylized look where they never had before. The first (and only) single, "Jesus Loves You (Not as Much as I Do)" is one of my favorites but the record landed with a thud and the band began seeing the writing on the wall.
While touring for the record, the band began crumbling. Benjamin left and they carried on for a while with a replacement. During this time, they began recording songs for a potential third album, including a dynamic version of Duran Duran's "Save A Prayer," which became their last known released recording, appearing on an otherwise awful Duran tribute record in 1997.
After the band broke up, Michael Kotch hooked up with alt-rockers Ruth Ruth and played with them until they split in the early 2000's. Colleen, on the other hand, underwent a transformation and became a pop diva under the name Vitamin C. Releasing two records for Elektra in quick succession, she ended up having two more hits, "Smile" and "Graduation (Friends Forever)," which for anyone in my age range was a guaranteed tear jerker at graduation ceremonies. After Vitamin C ended, she worked behind the scenes, eventually landing a prestigious gig at Nickelodeon.
While Eve's Plum have been gone for nearly twenty years, the music still lives in those who always enjoyed it and those who are just discovering it for the first time. In June 2016, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Kotch and I took the time to ask him some questions about the band.
PSF: When did you become interested in music?
Michael Kotch: As a kid always loved music, my parent had an old reel to reel that I would try to make work. I took piano lessons as a kid and then moved to the guitar. But I really didn't get totally into it until I was about 12 or 13, then I couldn't put the guitar down.
PSF: How did you meet Colleen and what led to the formation of Eve's Plum?
Kotch: I met Colleen at NYU, she was in my Shakespeare Survey II class. Then later, completely coincidentally, she answered an ad we put out in the Village Voice looking for a singer. That's the way we had to do things pre-internet, use newspapers.
PSF: How did you get signed to Epic and what was that like?
Kotch: We were playing out and writing and we recorded a few demos. A friend of Colleen's, Richard Reines who later started Drive-Thru records shot a video for "I Want It All" and it got sent around and the next thing we knew labels were calling us. It was pretty incredible at the time for us, but looking back it's much more obvious that that was just a first step towards success.
PSF: Did you guys enjoy your success or was it more than you anticipated?
Kotch: Well that's interesting, from my point of view, we didn't quite hit that mark of "success." Yes we put out records, yes we toured, but we never quite broke through in the way we would have liked, for a variety of reasons.
PSF: What happened with the first bass player?
Kotch: We just had a mutual parting of ways after the first record, nothing major.
PSF: Was the cover of "Save A Prayer" one of the last things the band recorded?
Kotch: Hmm. It may have been, I'm not sure quite honestly! We recorded a bunch of songs in that session and then I remember we did some live recordings after that too.
PSF: What caused the breakup of the band?
Kotch: The second record didn't do as well as we'd hoped, and we received not-so-subtle hints from our label that they weren't going to support us with it shortly after it was released. So there was a morale issue for sure. Then my brother Ben the drummer decided he didn't want to stay with it and that pretty much killed the whole thing, though we did play a number of shows without him.
PSF: How did you come to join Ruth Ruth?
Kotch: I had become friendly with those guys while we were touring and Chris Kennedy called me up because he wanted to add a second guitar for touring, and then they just couldn't get rid of me! For a few years anyway.
PSF: How long have you and Colleen been together and what are you guys up to?
Kotch: Well, we meet in the early '90's so more than 20 years!! We've been married for 11 years now. I compose music for TV commercials and Colleen is currently VP Music for Nickelodeon.
PSF: What is everyone else up to?
Kotch: Theo works at DTS the audio codec company and Ben is an Internet/Mobile Development Director
PSF: Any chance for a reunion in the future?
Kotch: Well we are all in the LA area, so if it's going to happen, now's the time!
PSF: What do you hope the band's legacy will be?
Kotch: I don't know, it was a particular time and place and when I listen now it brings me back to that time and those places. There were a lot of great bands and places to play, I hope people who hear the music can be transported and inspired, and maybe some kid out there can chop up one of the tracks and turn it into something incredible and new.
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