It doesn't take brains to make it in the music industry. Or talent for that matter. Just look at Bon Jovi or Tiffany and you'll get the picture. So, it's a pleasant surprise to find them both (brains and talent, not Bon Jovi and Tiffany) in a new band, and that's what you'll find in Stanford's very own band, Merv Spiegel and the Penguins.
The Penguins formed in the winter of 1985 when bassist Pete Adamy, guitarist Mark Crimmins and drummer Mike Heller enlisted the vocal chords of Marty Arnest. (Marty isn't really in the band, just his vocal chords are.) Pete and Mike have since graduated from Stanford with degrees in French and Economics respectively.
Marty is completing an English major, and Mark is currently a candidate for a doctorate in philosophy. In case you're wondering, Merv isn't in the band any more. Like many bands, the Penguins were originally a cover band, but have since evolved to recording their debut album, "The Spitting Tree." During the past three years, the band's development has taken them from covering tunes by such varied bands as the Carpenters, Hüsker Dü and Aerosmith to creating their own rock 'n roll sound.
That sound comes from the way the Penguins compose their songs. When the Penguins started composing original songs, they tended to sound very different, depending on who wrote them.
As a remedy, the Penguins now write songs as a collective effort, with Marty composing most of the lyrics. (His vocal chords have to sing them after all.) Band members come to rehearsals with half-baked ideas for songs and let the band as a whole give them a coherent finished sound. This gives continuity to the band's music and creates a tighter group.
Last summer, the band had saved up enough money from their gigs in the Stanford area to go into the studio and record a demo tape, hoping that a major multi-million dollar deal would be forthcoming. Luckily for the Penguins, a friend gave a copy of their demo to Epithet Productions, an independent record company. Epithet was so impressed that they decided to release the album for the Penguins.
Not only did the Penguins get a label to release their debut album, "Spitting Tree." They also signed a three-record contract with Epithet.