A San Francisco garage band
made up of Sam Coomes
(vocals, guitar), Reinhold Johnson
(bass) and Melanie Clarin
(drums, vocals). Coomes was their chief songwriter. Their first album, "The Donner Party", was released independently on Cryptovision Records
in 1987. They came to the attention of David Lowery
, who was then still with Camper Van Beethoven
. David immediately signed them to his label, Pitch A Tent Records
. The Donner Party released their second album
(titled--you guessed it
--"The Donner Party") in 1988. Their third album, quirkily titled "The Donner Party" was recorded in 1989 but not released until 2000 on the anthology The Donner Party: Complete Recordings 1987-1989
which contains all three albums plus some live tracks. All songs were recorded by Greg Freeman
in San Francisco at Lowdown Studios
The Donner Party was always small--their biggest gig was probably opening for the Meat Puppets in San Jose. They played a few regular clubs in San Francisco, usually attended by friends and the other bands. They were indie rock before the term had been invented and long before fame could spread via internet Mp3's and chat-rooms. The few records they actually pressed out are mostly long gone (I lost mine in a house fire long ago) and fans were always few and far between.
That being said, The Donner Party is a beautiful band with a They Might Be Giants cleverness and an honesty that comes through in licks. Their sound, while stripped down and simple, was produced extremely well and subtle samples--rare in those days--crackle in the background. They always matched their wit with psychedelic touches similar to an inexpensive Stone Roses jam. It's good stuff...take a chance.