The Neanderthal Spongecake
T. Rex's "Get It On (Bang A Gong)"
It is hard to believe only two years has passed since the formation of the Czech Republic’s greatest band --- The Neanderthal Spongecake. Not since the massacre of the dogs has so much excitement been generated. The Prague Beat summed up the enthusiasm best: "The feeling is almost surreal . . . seeing bohemians in awe of the same music that makes girls swoon . . . Single-handedly, The Neanderthal Spongecake has not merely changed the face of the Czech music scene, but culture as well. Prague will never be the same."
The events that preceded The Neanderthal Spongecake’s dominance are equally stunning. As a boy, band founder and lead singer Cevin Soling helped the underground resistance against the Communist rule. After the Velvet Revolution liberated Czechoslovakia, there was still lingering political turmoil. These events shaped Cevin’s outlook and are evident in his writings including his first published work: Onen Svet (The Beyond). While well received by critics, and hailed as classic by fellow Czech Milan Kundera, the audience was limited and Cevin realized the best way to reach people would be through music.
One night at Klub Ujezd, Cevin caught a show which included keyboardist Bill Brandau. Bill had been working as a volunteer fire fighter in Moravia and was filling in that night with the house band. Nevertheless, he clearly stood out. After the set, he introduced Cevin to Austrian ski instructor / guitarist Andy Thunder and before long the three formed a band intent on forging a new sound imbued with their distinct perspective. They played out with various drummers until one day when they were visiting the local hospital trying to cheer up recovering patients when they ran into Dan Kornfeld. Dan, an American, was in Prague for the International Motorcross competition, but had been thrown from his bike during a collision. They hit it off immediately, and, when the band saw Dan drum after his recovery, he was in.
The band played a number of gigs, but success was not immediate. They kept their sense of humor during these lean times, though, and even named the group "Zvetraly Chleb." Properly translated, this means "Stale Bread" which was the bulk of their diet at the time until Dan’s mother began making sandwiches for the band. Improperly translated, as the case was, they became known as The Neanderthal Spongecake. After some time, they developed a small following which including Mark Tomase. Mark’s father was a world-renown paleontologist who insisted that Mark follow in his footsteps. Despite years of study, Mark and his father’s interests could not have been further apart. When Mark asked the band if he could join as bass player, his father refused to speak to him for 6 months. During that time, though, the band’s sound really came together and Semyon Tomase came to appreciate his son’s passion and eventually became a fan.
After only their third show at Futurum, word on the band had spread and nearly 6,000 people showed up to see The Neanderthal Spongecake. The following night there were more than 15,000 fans clamoring to catch a glimpse. They were presented with a record deal that night, and within three months The Neanderthal Spongecake was at the top of the Czech charts with "Knock You Back." The phenomenal follow up successes of "This Thing" and "Boss God" cemented their place in history. Introduction to dignitaries, the key to the city, and even a "The Neanderthal Spongecake Appreciation Day" followed. Through it all, the band has kept their humility and sense of humor.
Despite the unprecedented achievements at home, The Neanderthal Spongecake decided to tour the United States. The news was met with both profound disappointment among Czechs sorry to lose their hometown band, and an outpouring of support and well wishes.