This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here
The Story of Crossfire Choir
By Jay Pounders
originally published: 02/26/2018
Crossfire Choir is a band that began in South Florida in the 80s with Jay Pounders, Eddie Freeze, Brad Peet, and Dennis Ambrose. The band moved up north, settling in New Jersey, and became part of the New York City CBGB scene as well as one of the most popular bands in New Brunswick.
The band found themselves amidst a label bidding war and eventually signed a record deal with Geffen Records. They toured with popular bands like Culture Club, The Thompson Twins, Midnight Oil, Love & Rocks, Flock of Seagulls, The Alarm, and others. As with many bands of the era, being signed was more of a curse than a blessing. After a few records, the band broke up for good in 1998.
Jay Pounders now lives in Nashville and has a residency at Belcourt Taps beginning on March 7th. He contacted New Jersey Stage to give his side of the story and let people know that he’s still writing music and would love for people to hear his new work. His story details the pitfalls of the music business that largely remain true today.
Here is his story…
In 1982, I created a band called Crossfire Choir.
The article continues after this ad
Starting out in West Palm Beach, Florida as a two-piece synth-pop recording project with my best friend from high school, we soon added a bassist and drummer and set our sights on the record industry, which still existed in those days. We headed north in search of the “golden ticket” , ie. the ever-elusive recording contract that we were sure would bring us fame and fortune. We headed north up I-95 towards New York landing in an exhaust polluted two-story house just inches off Rt. 27 in Edison, New Jersey. We were quickly and graciously adopted by the burgeoning New Brunswick, New Jersey music scene that produced many notables including The Smithereens, as well as MTV’s Matt Pinfield, who, at that time was a local DJ on the college radio station at Rutgers. Quickly becoming known for our quirky pop songs and our punk-rock attitude, we soon caught the eye of Hilly Kristal, the late owner of the already legendary CBGBs in lower Manhattan.
Hilly began managing the group and began having us open for all the big-name and up-and-coming acts that played CBGSs, especially those that he knew would draw industry folks. After a brief and enjoyable bidding war (there is nothing like being wined and dined at the Russian Tea Room!), we signed a 2-album deal with Geffen Records in their offices overlooking Rockefeller Center in 1984. At the time, it was rumored to be the largest contract ever offered to an unknown band.
Geffen asked us to make a list of the producers with whom we most wanted to work. Near the top of our list was the famed producer, Steve Lillywhite, whom we had loved for his production of Peter Gabriel and XTC and had recently been catapulted to the upper echelon of sought after producers for his work with U2. Geffen flew Steve to New York from London on the supersonic Concord to see us perform at The Peppermint Lounge and before long, we were off to London to make our debut album.
Upon finishing the record, the first feed-back we received from the label was that it was so good they were thinking about a rush release in the spring. However, after a shake-up in the A&R staff in LA at Geffen, they decided it sounded too “English” (funny in light of the fact they flew us to London to record with an English producer). Instead of rushing the release, they wanted us to re-mix it and/or re-record some of the songs with an American producer. And while we were at it, could we write some new songs that might be more of a single for American radio? We remixed and recorded several songs with Stefan Galfas, who had recently worked on hits for Stevie Nicks and John Waite. The end result was our first record - one that neither the band nor the label was happy with. Geffen dropped the band.
What was once the band with the Midas touch was now the kiss of death to industry insiders. As people tend to do when things go wrong, we blamed others. We fired Hilly and signed a management deal with a big-time entertainment manager David Sonenberg who represented Meat Loaf, Jimmy Iovine, Southside Johnny, etc. and was later won an Oscar as an executive producer of the film When We Were Kings. We signed a publishing deal with Jerry Love at Famous Music and soon had our second “big break” with a new label in Seattle called Track Records. The album (Back To The Wall) featured the single, “Canary Song” for which we recorded our first video that was featured on MTV’s 120 Minutes and we thought that finally, things were turning back around for us. But alas, the Crossfire Choir story had no happy ending. Track Records went bankrupt soon after releasing our record. We found ourselves again facing the bleak cold truth that it may never happen for us.
By this time, all of the band’s frustrations began to turn inward. Co-founder, Eddie Freeze and I decided that each other was the problem and another of my old friends from high school, Ron Desaram, joined the band on guitar. We stripped down our sound, ditched the synthesizers, added leather jackets and marched into the 90s as new and hopefully improved Crossfire Choir. We returned to Hilly with our hat in hand. Just as before, he orchestrated an industry buzz that helped us secure a development deal with Epic Records and signed another publishing deal. This was just enough encouragement to keep us chasing the dream.
We released a third album on CBGB Records, called Dominique (named after Hilly’s dog that was a constant presence as we recorded the album at CBGBs). We actually received a great deal of college radio airplay with Dominique and continued to tour and play in and around the Northeast for several years. At some point, we decided to drop the Crossfire Choir name thinking that the name had too much bad history attached. Probably too little too late. The band continued as a three piece for a while, with me and the original drummer Brad Peet, and bassist Dennis Ambrose playing and recording as The Pounders. I think we stayed together at least another year or two longer just because we loved getting together, having fun and bullshitting. In the end, that really was what it was all about. That’s all anything is about.
I have continued writing and recording since that time. Like Jake Gyllenhaal says in Brokeback Mountain, I just can’t quit.
I moved to Los Angeles for several years and tried to get my music placed in film/tv projects and played regularly at Genghis Cohen, a small venue that features singer/songwriters and acoustic acts. Over the years, more and more people suggested I try my wares in Nashville as my songs turned more and more into ‘story songs’ and my influences changed from the Sex Pistols to Townes Van Zandt. So I moved back to Tennessee, a place I never thought I’d live again since leaving Memphis at age 13. While billing myself as a singer/songwriter, upon hearing all the talented singers in this town, I now call myself a songwriter/singer. I have been mellowed by all of life’s humbling moments, but I think I’ve finally figured out how to write a song and I feel like I still have a lot to offer.
If I were a religious person, I’d say that my whole life was planned in order that I could show the world the power of perseverance and that life doesn’t end with one’s youth. The only advice I would offer young musicians is to not be too easily puffed up by success or discouraged by failure. Always remember that it’s all about the music. That’s the thing.
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Presents Motor City Live: A Motown Christmas (ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City has extended Motor City Live: A Tribute to Motown through the month of December with a special Motor City Live: A Motown Christmas. Along with your favorite Motown classics, you’ll hear some Motor City versions of your favorite Holiday songs sprinkled in like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from The Temptations, Aretha Franklin’s “Winter Wonderland,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” from the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson’s “Jingle Bells” and much more. Wisin & Yandel To Perform At Prudential Center (NEWARK, NJ) -- Latin music’s most iconic duo, Wisin & Yandel, announced their first U.S. tour today since their five-year hiatus with the Como Antes Tour 2019. The 15-city tour will kick off May 23 and make a much-anticipated stop at Prudential Center on Sunday, June 16. Yandel is managed by Andy Martinez and Wisin is managed by Walter Kolm.Grunin Center Presents Canadian Brass (TOMS RIVER, NJ) -- The award-winning Canadian Brass takes the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts on Friday, December 14 at 8:00pm to present “Christmas Time is Here.” Now in its 47th season, the Canadian Brass has performed in virtually every major concert hall in the world, has been seen by hundreds of millions of people on television, sold two million of its approximately 100 albums worldwide, and contributed nearly 600 new works and arrangements to the brass quintet repertoire. Renowned for genre-bending versatility and joyous performances, Canadian Brass is almost single-handedly responsible for elevating the art of the brass quintet to what it is today.Papa Roach To Perform At Stone Pony (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Alternative rock quartet Papa Roach will bring their summer 2019 headlining run, the Who Do You Trust? Tour,with Asking Alexandria and Bad Wolves to The Stone Pony Summer Stage on August 9, 2019. The tour will also have an area date at Philadelphia's Metropolitan Opera House on August 7th.Uli Jon Roth To Return To Newton Theatre (NEWTON, NJ) -- Uli Jon Roth returns to The Newton Theatre on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 8:00pm. During his five year tenure as a member of Germany’s number one rock band, The Scorpions, Uli built the foundation for his status of guitar legend. He quickly established himself as one of the main songwriters in the band and soon gained an international reputation as one of the most important innovators of the electric guitar.
An Interview with Chip Davis Of Mannheim Steamroller Christmas You can experience the magic of the holidays — Steamroller-style — when Mannheim Steamroller Christmas by Chip Davis makes a tour stop this Thursday, December 6, 2018, at New Brunswick, NJ’s historic State Theatre.Max Weinberg’s Jukebox LIVE! at the Grunin Center Something is different about tonight’s November 18, 2018 concert at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts starring Max Weinberg, celebrated drummer from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band!PHOTOS: Matt O'Ree Band at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- The Matt O'Ree Band returned to The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Friday, November 16 and photographer Estelle Massry of Coucou Photography was on hand to take some photos. David Bryan from Bon Jovi was one of the special guests that night."How Could You Not Love Them?" The Buckinghams and Herman's Hermits LIVE! at BergenPAC Although it’s a chilly Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 evening in Englewood, NJ, music lovers are lined up outside the Bergen Performing Arts Center waiting to hear classic songs of the ’60s as performed by two quintessential groups of the era — The Buckinghams and Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone!If It Ain't Baroque... Bach's Brandenburg Concertos With Symphony in C You know the old joke: If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it? Well, put away those tools, dear reader. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos ARE Baroque, so no fixing necessary.
This Saturday, December 1, Symphony in C is performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 2 through 6 at the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts. Officially presented in 1721, these collective works are considered to be some of the finest orchestral compositions of the Baroque era (generally 1600 to 1750). These six concertos are among the most recorded, performed and beloved works by Bach. – And that’s J.S. Bach, for those of you keeping score at home. There are a LOT of Bachs.
Event calendar Wednesday, Dec 12, 2018
SONIC 5 @ Lobby Bar at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 7:00pm