America's next top band

Wouldn't you like to share a puce moment with Puce Moment?

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Musician and director Gary Gregerson of Puce Moment steps behind the camera to capture his band's beauty

arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC Gary Gregerson of Puce Moment has made an important discovery about bears of the human variety — many of them used to be new romantics. "Back in the day, they were wearing broaches, long shirts, and stirrup pants," he says, discussing friends' teenage photos in the kitchen of bandmate Jon Rueter.

The season finale of America's Next Top Model is about to begin, but for now, it's interview time, and there's no better moment than the present to discuss the origins of Puce Moment. "I wanted to do an Altered Images-type band, and I told Jon, because he knows how to synth it up," Gregerson explains, when asked about the group's beginnings. "I said, 'I want to be Claire Grogan!' Then we decided we'd be more like Belinda [Carlisle] and Jane [Wiedlin]."

"Right, you said, 'As long as I get to be Belinda,'" Rueter concurs.

The referential and the reverent (and irreverent) commingle in the world of Puce Moment. It couldn't be any other way, considering Gregerson's and Rueter's intense and specific appreciations of pop music and culture. (When it comes to vintage TV, Rueter is a Knot's Landing and Family guy, while Gregerson favors Police Woman.) Their band — with bassist Suresh Chacko and drummer Tom Marzella — takes its name from a 1949 fabric-fetish film by Kenneth Anger. It's a brash gesture, considering Anger's hostility toward those influenced by him. "Someone was like, 'You don't want to be cursed by Kenneth Anger!'," Gregerson admits.

Puce Moment's name is emblazoned on not one, not two, but three new four-song cassettes: Ready for a Date, Essence of Mann and Avoiding Certain Topics. Recorded at Wally Sound in Oakland, the collections showcase a sound that Gregerson labels "neo-psychedelic" and Rueter calls "swingin' and groovy." Ironically attuned to what one song title calls "Changing Formats," as well as the current tape revival, the releases also suit Puce Moment's affinity for C86-era Creation label bands such as Revolving Paint Dream. Rueter's numbers use striking everyday images to tell stories of wavering friendship and love. Gregerson directs his attention to specific memorable characters: an activist named Maryanne; a prissy and meddlesome downstairs neighbor; and the artist Christo, who his lyric deems an "active Greek" just for the fun of it, since Christo is actually Bulgarian.

Puce Moment's two songwriters trade off lead vocals in a manner similar to the early days of Orange Juice, when comical Edwyn Collins (that would be Gregerson) and effete James Kirk (that would be Rueter) took turns at the mic. The pair's very first songwriting effort became Ready for a Date's opening track, "The Citrus Smelling Man with a Tight Wristwatch." Its lengthy title is inspired by a real-life person. "Jon figured out [the background of] that song when we recording it," says Gregerson. "It's about having sex with a married man who wanted me to drive him and his wife and kids to the mall when I had a van."

Both Rueter and Gregerson have performance punk backgrounds, Gregerson in Sta-Prest and Rueter with way-ahead-of-their-time new wave revivalists the Primadonnas, the best band from "Sussex, U.K." ever to be based in Austin, Texas. Rueter's moniker in the Primadonnas was Nikki Holiday, but he insists that when he was singing with crushed-velvet Martin Gore softness about being "stoned like a white balloon," he was serious. "It's harder for me to depersonalize lyrics, though our song 'Girl' is actually about a boy — a gay friend."

"Even in the Primadonnas, my lyrics were sincere," Rueter continues. "There was this contrast of my bandmate Otto being an asshole, a total jerk, and I was his foil. I still feel like I'm doing that, a little bit."

"Um, I'm the hyper asshole?" Gregerson asks.

"No, but I'm the straight man, for sure."

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