There are some things you never forget. Your first kiss. Your worst job. The impact of a song.
It is with those thoughts I can say I will always remember the first time I saw and heard– now keep in mind, the two senses must be mentioned seperately when talking about this band– Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and The Pons. It was the summer of 2005. We’d moved back to Wisconsin and were exploring the never-boring live music scene around Madison. This particular night, we decided to check out the shows at High Noon Saloon. And when Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and The Pon roared on stage, I realized the effect on my ears and eyes, were forever being changed. It was a refreshing welcome home.
But, at the blink of an eye, time passes and this Madison-based band is getting ready to say “goodbye for now.” I recently had the opportunity to ask the co-founders, lead singer and keytar player Shane O’Neill and Cynthia Burnson, singer and lead guitar player, about their own changes ahead.
And if there’s some things about their time together, they will never forget.
TERI: It appears this is it for Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and The Pons. How does everyone in the band feel about it?
SHANE: Well, Teri. This is more of a “farewell” than a “goodbye,” despite the title of the show. That is, if we had our druthers we’d still play as a band all the time. But with me now halfway across the country, living in New York, the logistics of playing frequently are prohibitive. I, for one, am incredibly sad to no longer practice every Tuesday with my best friends in the world and will miss getting in our attractive van for weekend trips of music fun.
CYNTHIA: I think it’s fair to say we are all sad about Shane moving away. But New York could really use a little more personality.
TERI: What is everyone planning, musically, or on the working front?
SHANE: Steve (Steve Shah, drummer) is in the early stages of a music project with a friend that should be pretty rad. I’m doing “Shane Shane” here in New York and am apprenticing with a milliner who is paying me in hats. I need a job.
CYNTHIA: Christian (Christian Burnson, bass guitar and singer) and I are students and Christian has a small child that I can unbiasedly report is the best kid ever, bar none. In terms of music, I have shifted entirely to spectator/appreciator for now but am on the lookout for new opportunities, as is Christian.
TERI: What is the band most proud of accomplishing?
SHANE: I’m most proud of just having been a band for as long as we have. And we’ve all managed to stay really close friends. I thank Cynthia’s preschool teacher-honed communication skills and determined diplomacy for helping us communicate and resolve problems with a minimum of hurt feelings and name-calling. I guess that’s not a very rock and roll answer, but I’m proud of how well we get along with each other. And the songs we’ve written. I’m proud of those, too.
CYNTHIA: The band for me has been an excellent vehicle in which to live out my twenties. It combined traveling, creative expression, drunkenness, parallel parking experience, light electronic repair, interpersonal skills, costumes, and learning which road-side restaurants are the worst. I’m most proud we are all safe and sound and still love each other along with most of our songs and at least half of our outfits.
TERI: I remember talking with you about living in the Twin Cities. How did Madison become your home base?
CYNTHIA: Christian and I are from Madison originally. Steve is from Kenosha. Shane from Chicagoland. The Twin Cities comes in because Shane and I went to college together there. Christian did too, but he pre-dated us by a year. After a year and a half of college, I moved back to Madison and convinced Shane to spend the summer in Madison, in 2003. As fall semester approached, Shane cancelled his study abroad plans to Spain and stayed with me and my friend. Madison had wrappied its lakey progressive tentacles around Shane! He later went back to St. Paul to finish his incredibly valuable English degree that he does so much with now.
SHANE: I have used that degree to communicate effectively with customers and thereby ensure repeat business. That’s what my resume says!
CYNTHIA: Then he moved here for the long haul. Hence the Twin Cities connection. We still play there a lot and some of our dearest friends live there. Now, In terms of Madison as our home base, Madison is like living in a ball pit. Fun to be in, hard to get out. And, um, comfortable and maybe has someone’s pee at the bottom.
TERI: Your home-spun songs about Madison really resonated with your fans. Who can look and listen to for this type of fun?
SHANE: It seems like Madison has an appetite for bands on the sillier and more performative end of the live music spectrum. I think you can see that with the repeated success of touring bands like Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, Peelander Z, Leslie and the Ly’s and Monotonix. Locally, there are a lot of great bands to look to for fun shows, like Zebras, The Hussy and Venus in Furs. I’m particularly excited about Samantha Glass right now. And anything that Joel Shanahan is involved with is a good bet for a fun show.
CYNTHIA: Lots of touring bands we have played with over the years comment on how, friendly and fun-loving the people of Madison are. They always make time to come back because they know Madison is unpretentious, will give anyone a chance, and that any band who puts a little energy in their shows is likely to do well here.
TERI: You always had a great crowd at your shows. What would you say to those who will be very sad to say “goodbye for now?”
CYNTHIA: The hole must be filled! Make your own band!!
SHANE: We’re sad to be putting the band on hold, too. But seriously, if we were able to scrape together a band that people wanted to see I feel like literally anyone can. So do it yourself. Although it really helped that when we started, we were under the beautiful spell of self-delusion. That really helps with self-consciousness.
CYNTHIA: Going over old videos to put something together for the “goodbye for now” show, I saw a lot of people in the crowd that we still see today, yelling and dancing and singing along. Considering the train wrecks some people have been gracious enough to sit through, I would like to say the following to our fans: you are troopers Thank you. We’ve had more fun than anyone has a right to have.
TERI: Anything else you’d like to share?
SHANE: On the same idea of gratitude, I’d like to add that we are forever indebted for all the help we’ve gotten from our friends along the way. There are too many instances to list, but every step of every project we’ve done has involved really talented sweet people donating their time, sharing their knowledge, lending their support, and–perhaps most importantly–being super duper patient with us. It allowed us to learn so much about everything from screen printing to car maintenance to amp repair to clothing construction. It has been a huge pleasure to get to meet and learn from so many wonderful people in Madison. Madison: I love you. A whole lot.
CYNTHIA: In terms of the show on Friday, December 9th, we have been working hard to put together something we hope people will enjoy, as per usual, at the expense of our own dignity. We have video footage from a looong time ago, photo montages– like at a funeral or wedding depending on how you look at it; old songs and new songs, old outfits and new outfits, and tons of special guests. In terms of old videos, my favorite moments include one of our first shows at the Anchor Inn in which the sound guy tells me to be careful with the microphones, and I say, “sorry.” Also Shane ripping off his shirt and some choice crowd dancing moments. It really will be a great way to say “goodbye for now.”
Screamin Cyn Cyn and The Pons “Goodbye for Now” show is Friday, December 9, starting at 9:30 p.m. at High Noon Saloon.