Who’s who in Queen’s Sci ’87 Swollen Members R & B Band

15 11 2012

The year was 1983, the place, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada.  A student band, was formed, The Swollen Members, to celebrate the music of James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Wilson Pickett, Jake & Elwood/Blues Bros and this would fuel Science ’87 to return back to their hallowed grounds in Kingston, year after year. 

Approaching their 30 anniversary since forming at Queen’s,  Sci ’87 R & B Band, Swollen Members share what they have done since graduating, how music has influenced their lives and more. 

First up, let’s hear from Guitar, Lead Vocals, band founder and the Grand Poobah himself.

Jeff Arsenault – Band Founder, Lead Vocals/Guitar

Jeff’s current employer is Halla-Visteon Climate Group where he is working as a Sales Manager in Plymouth, Michigan, USA.  He is married to, and still madly in love with, Renata (Ettel) Arsenault, also of Science 87.  They have two beautiful children, Samantha and Jeremy.

Why Queen’s?

The decision to attend Queens University in Kingston in 1983 over McMaster and Waterloo was quite easy; based on visits to all three places I estimated that Queen’s had 20 times as many beautiful women as the other two and then of course there was the charm of the town and Campus itself. When an old friend Marcie Woroby introduced me to a math professor at Jeffrey Hall who proceeded to give a tour of the crawl spaces between the classrooms I knew this was the place for me.

How did you start the band?

So after surviving Frosh week and starting into the routine of classes I made the decision that I had to make something more of the next four years I was planning to spend here. So about one month into first term I placed an ad in the Golden Words paper under Sci 87 for anyone interested in getting together to play music…. at the time there was absolutely no pre-conception as to what type of music although I was and still am primarily a folkie with a heavy Rastafarian influence. So after a week I had not really heard anything when Sue Anderson mentioned to me that some dude named Roger Shirt in her Frec group was a saxophone player…. so I call this guy up in Leonard Hall and it turns out he had seen the ad and was thinking to call so we began.

First year engineering would not be the same without Engineering Graphics class and who should be sitting behind but this really “boss” looking dude in a stray cats jean jacket…. Rich Arthur. I mean this guy just looked like a guitar player so I ask him…. “hey dude, do you play guitar?”… and of course it turns out that he has just taken up the old axe…. perfect. But Rich had to leave the Stray Cats to come and play in our band…. a decision he would never regret. So it turns out Rich knows a couple of other guys in his residence…. Mike Leipe (bassman) and Ewen MacPherson (keyboard)…. and then there were 5.

But it did not stop there… through the ol buddy system I had met Marc Lalouette and learned that he also was a keyboard player…. so Marc is in like flint. Meantime with only one horn I remember that an old friend Mike Winn from Ottawa is also attending Queens and so I ask if he has brought his trumpet?….. and then there were 7.

What did I say about first year engineering and graphics???… first term graphics mid-term before we get going I yell across to my buddy Wayne Dephoure (the Popper) … “do you know this Chris Catterall guy ?”. I think I was interested in playing water polo or something like that. Turns out Chris is the guy sitting across from me…. so he asks about the band? and what does he play…. trombone!! It was at that moment that I realized we were on a mission from GOD… in the span of few weeks all of the key elements of the Rhythm and Blues band had been assembled…. all we needed was a drummer.

The bands first meeting in the basement of Brockington residence … Rich Arthur of Kingston has a good pal from high school (Dave “Bones” Bowering) who would temporarily take the role of drummer…. so the first version of the band began.

What was the inspiration for your band name?

The name…. SWOLLEN MEMBERS… was so perfect for an R&B engineering band; it was Roger Shirt who gets the credit for bringing the name to the band; he may to say his brother gave it to him but I think that the band owes it’s name to Roger.

After many hours of practicing in Brockington we finally got to play our first gig at Clark Hall Pub in January 1994…. I don’t think that any of us knew what to expect but we learned very quickly that Science 87 was not a year that would sit down and watch. I could not believe how intense that first smoker at Clark Hall was… it seemed like all 200 people in Clark were dancing and drinking their faces off…. so when we played what would be perhaps our signature tune … SHOUT... I thought that the stage would come down for sure.

Without going through the details of all the changes that the band went through over the years it is crucial to mention that 1984 brought several key MEMBERS into the band, namely Rich Woodruff on drums and Jeff Hudson on alto sax.  The addition of female vocals was the finishing touch that would round out the band… Sue Rimmer in 85 and then Kim Perrin in 86….  After graduation, in 1987, Marc Lalouette (on keyboard) left the band and was replaced by Alan Gaensbauer, from Sci 86… we gathered momentum and have been unable to stop since.

What is Clark Hall Pub?

First opened in 1971 (and officially established as a student pub in 1975), Clark Hall Pub is not only the oldest bar on Queen’s University campus, but also the first student-owned and operated bar in Canada.

What does the band mean to you?

For me the SWOLLEN MEMBERS has been far more than a band but it has really become a social institution for everyone who has been a part of it over the years. The friendships and camaraderie of the band combined the incredible people would come out to party with us year after year have been the cornerstone of the band. When you imagine a group of eleven musicians teaming up to play a collection of classic R&B tunes you have to understand that there is an incredible potential for conflict and disagreement … yet in the years since 1983 that we have been playing I can only think of nothing but great times, laughing, drinking beer, etc. When I look at the band repertoire I realize that every single MEMBER has chosen and brought a song into the band; and of course every MEMBER who wants to sing and take lead does it. The band has all of the elements of a successful enterprise; friendship, trust, mutual respect, cooperation, etc, etc…. so maybe it’s no surprise that we continue to play today.

Inspiration and influences?

For those who have seen us play it should be obvious that we have many but the two big ones…. Jake and Elwood Blues (the Blues Brothers) and of course the Godfather of soul, the hardest working man in show business, soul brother #1 …. Mr. James Brown. If there is anyone out there who has not seen Mr. James Brown live in concert I suggest that you get on up (like a sex machine) and see this guy and his 25 piece R&B machine… this is entertainment people!

So when do we quit?

When does this all stop? I guess the question that I ask is why should this all stop? As most of us are now married (some with kids) the SWOLLEN MEMBERS reminds us all that it is important to make time for friends, make time for fun and of course make time for music…. music is food for the soul. As Bob Marley says “one good thing about music when it hits you feel no pain”.

Life is for the living so live long and prosper friends…. and the next time the SWOLLEN MEMBERS rise to the occasion we will be looking for you to be there with us.

SWOLLEN MEMBERS – October 2012 line up

Back: Mike Leipe, Chris Catterall, Roger Shirt, Richard Woodruff, Alan Gaensbauer

Maribeth Casey, Richard Arthur, Jeff Arsenault, Kim Perrin

Now let’s hear from all the other band members:-

Roger Shirt – Saxophone

A long time ago in a residence far, far away I met a group of guys who were coming together, on a mission from God, to form a band that would spread the good name of Science ’87 (and friends).  In order to impress girls our bandneeded a name.  I reached deep into my alcohol fueled mind and borrowed a lesser known British Punk band name that my older brother had told me about- the Swollen Members.  Sure, the name has been copied since but it quite literally is big enough for all to enjoy.

Since graduating from Queen’s I’ve mainly hung out in Western Canada, and am currently living in the great little town of Squamish, BC.  However, when the call comes every five years to return home to Kingston, my sax and I are
ready to go and reconnect with a truly amazing group of people in the band and our loyal fans.

Rich Arthur – Lead Guitar/Vocals

In 1983 I was a 17 year old freshman engineer with bouffant hair and somewhat aberrant clothes.  I was not really sure if I wanted to be an engineer or perform.    Well thanks to Queen’s I got to do both.  My engineering degree took me right into a job in a fast growing company where I could find my own way, and ultimately took me to south of France where I now live with my wife and two boys and work for HP.

However, back to 1983:   before the Swollen Members I didn’t have the confidence to really work on the guitar.  Joining the band, and working with Jeff, really gave me that confidence. Though I realized later that inebriated engineers are not the most accurate critics, the praise we got was a huge self-esteem builder.

Subsequently, playing on stage set me up for my work, which morphed quickly from engineering to product management, people management and marketing.  In these latter roles I am frequently required to perform on stage in front of large audiences (albeit holding a slide clicker instead of a guitar!)   Playing in the Swollen Members gave me that self-assurance to go out and do it.

As well as playing with the Swollen Members I have my personal project Zylin – featuring songs composed and recorded in my home studio – and I am currently playing with a rock cover band in France called Jam’s Band that performs regularly.

In 29 years, we’ve come a long way from hauling speakers through the Kingston snow, but if Mick Jagger can still rock in his 60’s I’m sure we can too.     The Swollen Members act as a catalyst to keep Science 87 and Nursing 87, as well as some loyal Arts students and 88’s and 86’,s coming together.    I always have fun, and a little nostalgia, every time I get back together with this great band and amazing group of people!  Will we even see some grandchildren next reunion?

Chris Catterall – Trombone/Vocals

Luckier than smart is a fitting explanation of how most of the goods things in my life have come to me.  The winter of 77-78 must have been cold because a friend convinced me to join the school band so we could stay in at lunch times.  Seven years later, this climatic twist of fate set the stage (no pun intended) for my first meeting with Jeff and his idea for what would become the Swollen Members.

I love music but by most standards I am no musician.  However the Members have  given me the privilege of playing with some truly gifted players and entertainers and living the experience that many with much greater talent will never know.  Equally important our time together has always been a much larger collective experience of a group of people who are both exceptional and ordinary.  Above all, my friendship with Jeff over distance and time has been the greatest gift coming out of this experience.

I marvel at the collection of people, places and circumstances that have been part of the Swollen Members.  The Members thrive because of the butter tarts, t-shirts, websites, basements, the cottage with the deck, strategically planned holidays, student residents, supportive spouses, ghetto houses, engineers and nurses turned event planners and a whole lot of love.

Away from the stage (i.e. 99.9% of my life), I have been blessed with a truly amazing wife who picked me out of the crowd back in 1991 and has loved me ever since despite myself.  I love my woman, the three children we created and all the wonderful things we have lived together in Montreal.  I have been working for the last 15 years in the public transportation industry and this year, I teamed up with two partners to purchase our company, ISC Applied Systems, from its Calgary based owner.  The decision to commit my heart, soul and most of my net worth to this venture was not taken lightly but was ultimately made without hesitation when I recognized in my partners the same quality of character that I have known with my band mates from the Swollen Members.

Mike Leipe – Bass/Vocals

Mike Leipe graduated from Queen’s to pursue an undistinguished career in the hi-tech business in Ottawa.  He is currently a development manager at IBM but that’s only because he likes to eat – he prefer to focus his time and energy on family, friends, physical activity and, of course, music.  Since moving to Ottawa he’s played with the Tyrell Underground, ice9, New Tricks, docweissband and Rothwell & Moffatt, and has contributed what he hopes is soul-infused Swollen-Member-esque bass work to CDs by the latter two.  He continues to work as a freelance bassist and plays some electric and acoustic guitar on the side.  Mike resigned from the Swollen Members in October of 2012 and is grateful to the band for 29 years of camaraderie, fun and mutual passion for music.

Richard (Woody) Woodruff – Drums

(Content to follow soon)

Al Gaensbauer – Keyboard/Vocals

I have had an interest in Engineering, Music and Art since a very early age, and could have used 3 lifetimes to pursue them all to my liking. Like many kids I started with piano lessons at an early age, but stopped within a couple of years. This left me just enough knowledge to pick it up later when I was 14 or so. I heard a Supertramp record and was hooked. It was tough to go back and learn to read music notation but I stuck with it. Having a brother 4 years older that also played the piano acted as friendly competition. We often challenged each other by playing the same songs.

During University at Queens for engineering I regularly played piano between classes and kept up my artistic activities as well by doing paintings and portraits to keep up my drawing skills. As a member of Sci86 I heard about the Sci87 band Swollen Members in my 3rd year.  I met Jeff Arsenault and found out we had a shared interest in Classical Rock, e.g. Genesis, ELP, etc. We played at the engineering talent show in my 4th year.  The rest of 4th year was a blur for me as I was the Art Director for the science formal. It wasn’t until after graduation that Jeff asked me to join the members and I have enjoyed being a member ever since.

Since graduation I have pursued my engineering career and music career in parallel and at times been a full-time professional musician. However, I always get drawn back to engineering as my main interest. I am now the owner in a engineering product development company with staff working on a variety of internal and client projects. This has allowed me the flexibility to work remotely from home in Collingwood, Ontario.

I look forward to playing with the Swollen Members as long as we can keep doing it. Where else can you get so much personal enjoyment and provide such enjoyment to the audience at the same time.

Kim Perrin – Vocals

Actually if the truth be known, I applied into the Queen’s Music Program majoring in performance on the piano as my first choice.  Nursing Science was my second choice.  I am glad it turned out the way that it did or I would not be writing this biography.

It all started in Frosh Week Sept 1983.  The nurses were put with the engineers that week and that is when my relationship began.  In fact, we all married one during a ceremonial ritual on Summer Hill that first week. The nurses attended Friday afternoon ritual, Science ’87 smokers and hayrides during Engineering week. We couldn’t get away from them!!!! Then, I had heard that they had put a band together and that sparked my interest and after seeing them perform for the first time, I immediately became a fan. During Frosh week of 2nd year, a few of us “Capes” and “Frecks” were gathering to celebrate the end of a well organized Frosh week and Jeff Arsenault suggested that we go down to the lake and have a camp fire sing-along.  There were  8 of us and we called ourselves the “Fireside 8”.  Jeff started strumming on his guitar and singing and I couldn’t help myself and I burst into a harmony and he turned to me and said “you should sing with the Swollen Members”. I was honoured to be asked but I didn’t join the band until 1986 because I didn’t want to be the only girl. Once Ashleigh Banfield became a swellette I was there.  Jeff then took me downtown Kingston to buy my tambourine and I was all set.

26 years later I am still singing with this incredible group of talented musicians/ friends and have many, many fond memories of our times together.  I have enjoyed partnering up with other swellettes such as Daphne Williams and my current partner MB. During the shows, I really enjoy seeing our loyal friends having such a great time together.  It’s like we have never left!

Since graduation, I married Ernie Perrin in August 1987 and moved to Mississauga where I still reside. Throughout my nursing career, I have worked at the Credit Valley Hospital delivering babies, a private fertility clinic and currently at a Family Health Team. I have 2 wonderful children Alicia and Mark.

I have made sure that music continues to enrich my life and have kept it as my hobby. I have sung at many weddings over the years and some funerals. I continue to sing regularly in a choir and a band playing keyboards as well. I also direct a children’s choir.  I have  been known to get up sing with random bands in our local pubs in Streetsville from time to time.

But……when our Loyal Grand Poobah calls us to return to our homeland, there is no hesitation. We all come together for more good times, good music and to make more “member”able moments.    It’s been an awesome journey and I look forward to the next time we meet.

Maribeth Casey – Vocals

(Awaiting content)

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Previous members included:

Dave “Bones” Bowering – Drums; Sue Rimmer – Vocals; Ewen MacPherson, Keyboard; Marc Lalouette- Keyboard; Jeff Hudson – Saxophone; Ashley Banfield – Vocals; Daphne Grenill – Vocals; Robin Purohit – Saxophone; Mike Winn – Trumpet; Matt (The Trumpet) Ginser – Trumpet; Mike Hiscocks – Trumpet; Mike Leipe – Bass.

So what kind of music do Swollen Members play?

See them in action at the

“Faux-Cumming Reunion tour” 2012 Clark Hall Pub, Kingston, ON, Canada: 27 October 2012

Here’s the set list from their latest reunion gig at Clark Hall Pub, Kingston, ON, Canada.

SWOLLEN MEMBERS

The 2012 FauxCumming Tour

Clark Hall Pub, Kingston, Ontario

Saturday October 27, 2012

First Set

2001: A Space Odyssey

Blues Brothers Intro

Gimme Some Lovin

Midnight Hour

Psycho Cleaner

Doin it Right

Do Right Woman Do Right Man

Brian Wilson

Flip Flop & Fly

Second Set

Green Onions (Jam session)

Mustang Sally

Great Balls of Fire

Clark Hall Pub Blues

Chain of Fools

Brown Sugar

Sugar & Spice (I Got You)

Shout

Suffragette City

Encore – After Hours Set

No Woman No Cry

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Johnny B Goode

Jailhouse Rock

Devil With the Blue Dress

Mercury Blues

Blue Suede Shoes

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Tube Snake Boogie





Queen’s Sci ’87, R & B band Swollen Members, still rocking

13 11 2012

Queens’s Sci 87 Swollen Members Reunion Gig Review 27 October 2012

Back in the fall of 1983 who would have thought that a group of spotty,

testosterone fired youth studying engineering degrees, at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada, would not only build

a reputable Rhythm & Blues band at university, but still be playing almost

30 years later in 2012?  The band added glamour and beauty by recruiting

various female students (including at one point, the now famous CNN news

journalist, Ashleigh Banfield).  Their contribution added depth to the vocal

delivery and sound.

Well that’s exactly what happened with the amusingly named Swollen Members, the Queen’s university Science ’87 R  &B band.   At Queen’s, Applied Science is the Engineering program, which at the time counted around 400 students in its various undergraduate disciplines.

Formed by student Jeff Arsenault (Engineering Physics 87, M.Sc. Electrical 89), this band has indeed been rocking to dance floors with a loyal fan base in pubs of Kingston, Ontario for all those years.   Their winning formula drew from The Blues Brother’s reverence of classic R&B music:  familiar feel good songs, classic themes and a modern touch; presented by a front man combining Bob Marley’s unifying warmth and James Brown’s showmanship.

October 2012 marked 25 years since graduating and this group’s homecoming was nothing short of pure energy, magic and fabulous music that rocked the socks off all attendees.  Clark Hall Pub was packed to maximum capacity as 150 alumni returned once more to their hallowed stomping ground to share one more beer and re-live their lost, forgotten youth.

Certainly, nothing beats the R&B sound of a band with a full horn section, backing singers, magic keys and a rock solid rhythm section. Top it off with vocals led by the inimitable Jeff Arsenault and you know you have a recipe for success.

Over the years, the group has also played at various pubs and clubs in Kingston and the venerable Lee’s Palace, Toronto, Ontario; Gaensbauer’s Cottage, Peterborough, on the shores of lake Ontario and even Victoria Island, Ottawa.  Residents of Stormont Avenue, in Kingston’s Strathcona Park, are familiar with the hoots and hollers of this R&B band, as they rehearse every five years or so in the basement of the lead guitarist’s mother’s home.

To mark the 25th Faux-Cumming Tour or rather the Science ’87 reunion, bandleader and lead vocal, Jeff Arsenault composed a soul-searching ballad called Clark Hall Blues.  This ten-minute song rolled out the history of the band and the Science year that spawned it.  As everyone swayed and digested the lyrics there were few dry eyes left in the room.

The show commenced with a slide show of highlights over the past 29 years and the nine piece strong band entered the stage to the music of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (the 2001 Space Odyssey theme).

Beyond the new composition, the band featured their classic repertoire with the Blues Brothers styled introduction and “Gimme Some Lovin” by Booker T and the MGs and moved quickly to R & B, Blues and Rock favourites such as Midnight Hour, Chain of Fools, Doin’ it right, Green Onions, and Brown Sugar.  In the other Swollen Member original, lead guitarist and composer Rich Arthur belted out “Psycho Cleaner.”  This song had been inspired by his time studying at Macintosh Corry Hall.   This R&B song finishes with a segment of the Talking Head’s “Pyscho Killer” – a popular song in the 80’s with the entire audience joining “fa, fa, fa!” in the closing.  After all, this was a party that has been repeated many times over the years and most attendees know the words, perhaps better than the band.

Allowing the band a well-earned mid-show rest, the Manager of Clark Hall announced that the band had raised just over 1000 dollars, from ticket sales, for the “Make a Wish” Kids Charity in Kingston.  Quick thinking leader, Jeff Arsenault, invited the willing pub manager and bar staff to join him on stage to help raise further dollars.  All in the name of a good cause the lads made a show for the ladies in doffing their shirts to receive their new Swollen Members t-shirts while women lined up to offer “tips”, with a few cheekily slipping their notes into the top of the youth’s trousers.   Two hundred dollars more were raised for this worthwhile charity.

The party continued with a final encore set commencing at 2.00 am.  The band realizing that the end was nigh, finally closed with a set of familiar songs such as No Woman No Cry, Johnny B Goode, Jailhouse Rock, Devil in the Blue Dress, and Should I Stay or Should I go, before declaring they were out of material at 2.35 am!

So who will be back in five years time?  Time will tell, but in the meanwhile here is the insider-potted history on how it all began and the low down on who’s who in the Sci ’87 Swollen Members:

Swollen Members

Back row: Left to Right: Mike Leipe, Chris Catterall, Roger Shirt, Richard Woodruff, Alan Gaensbauer

Front row: Maribeth Casey, Richard Arthur, Jeff Arsenault, KimPerrin.

The low down on who’s who in the Sci ’87 Swollen Members follows in new report due 14 November 2012.

_______________________________________________________________________________________