The Aaron Sarlo Tapes: “My Musical Beginnings”

March 27, 2019


I told you a lot about my beginnings as a musician, but I think I should fill in a missing gap. This is the story of Aaron Sarlo and Clay Bell before Techno Squid Eats Parliament. 

I met Clay in 9th grade in civics class. It was “Crazy Hat Day,” a school event wherein students were encouraged to wear a “crazy” hat, and then at the end of the day, the “craziest” hat would win a prize. Across the room, I noticed that the new kid was wearing an army helmet that he had glued or taped a bunch of random household items onto. One of the items was a spray can of Lysol. I thought the hat was great, and I went over and introduced myself, “Hey, man. Great hat. I’m Aaron.” He said, “I’m Clay. You think I’ll win?” There was a wry look in his eyes. I knew from that look that he thought “Crazy Hat Day” was dumb, and that he was making fun of the whole concept with his hat. I said, “Oh, you, you got this.” I then asked, “Do you mind if I blow a fire ball off your helmet?” I pulled a lighter out of my pocket. He said, “Go for it.” I made sure the teacher wasn’t looking, and depressed the nozzle, and held the lighter in front of the spray, and a massive jet of fire spewed upwards, towards the ceiling. A couple kids saw us, laughed, and came over to us. We all watched the teacher, and when he wasn’t looking, we did a couple more fire balls. 

So, Clay and I were friends immediately, I guess you could say. He was a recent transplant from California, and I identified with that, as I was a fairly recent transplant from Illinois. Not long after, we began playing guitars together, and wiring songs that made us, high school males, laugh. After not too long, we had a whole set of songs, many of which were joke songs, like “The Pick Up Truck Song” and our cover of the theme song from Pettycoat Junction. Clay’s dad, who as I mentioned as a musician, booked us gigs at The Oyster Bar, and we would get up as “Aaron and Clay,” and play our joke songs, and the occasional serious song — all originals, except for Pettycoat Junction. We were, essentially, Tenacious D, but instead of being overweight, metalhead stoners doing an act, we were geeked-out nerdboys who belted acoustic songs from our hearts with lyrics like, “I like baked beans, and I like gravy, and I like Twinkies on a sunny day.” 

Then we found a drummer and bassist, neither of whom were a great fit. After a couple of Vino’s shows (as The Lemmings), we met Mark Pearrow and Shayne Gray, and TSEP was formed, 1992. 

P.s. Clay won “Crazy” Hat Day. First prize? A visor.

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