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Photograph by Linda Ozaki and Liz Agee

Patience of a Saint: Trash City Saints will be right back, after this short maternity break.

Trash City Rockers

San Jose's Trash City Saints is part band/part mutual appreciation society

By Sarah Quelland

'THIS HAS JUST BEEN the best year!" Celeste Alexander says with amazement. "I've got two major things in my life that I have always wanted and have been so afraid of. And I've got them both, so I'm in this great place in my life right now."

Alexander sings for local rock band Trash City Saints. The two life-changing events are (1) getting ready to have a baby and (2) working with an original band project. "I couldn't ask for anything more," she says, almost apologetically. "It sounds so sappy but it's true."

Trash City Saints formed in February of this year and played its first gig in July but its members have a long history with the South Bay. Guitarist Jef Tyler used to front Smashtones, a band that was active for almost 12 years, along with TCS' guitarist Dave Benjamin and bassist Matt Eskew. Folks may remember drummer Mo Herringer from bands like Never Say Never, Plumloco, Sugarbombs and Social Club.

After playing in an adult contemporary band and singing backup for an Elton John tribute act, Alexander fronted Three Dicks and a Jane, an alternative rock cover band. After two years, Alexander decided to go the original music route. Joining Trash City Saints proved to be the perfect opportunity. Band founder Tyler says it took just three days to set the lineup in place.

"Everything just sort of fell right into where it needed to be," Tyler says. "It was one of those things where everybody is in the right place geographically and emotionally and musically and everything."

"It was effortless," Alexander agrees.

TCS has a cool rock & roll sound with upbeat '80s punk and pop influences. Alexander takes a narrative approach to her lyrics. On "Sister Girlfriend" she celebrates bonds between females ("When I was drowning and about to give/ I remember looking up/ I saw your face/ It was your hands that reached in/ Pulling me out so I could breathe again") and on "My Destination," she sings of settling down ("When did I get so cozy in this cliché lifestyle?/ Feels so good/ Little boy blue/ I look at you and know I've found my destination").

It took conquering "terrible self-confidence" for Alexander to front an original band. "I was so afraid to put myself out there and to go and audition for bands and to show anybody lyrics and to put my own creativity in something," she reveals. "It was a huge leap for me."

The band's live performances are casual affairs, full of smiles. Alexander has a strong rock & roll voice that she credits to the coaching she received from San Jose Civic Light Opera. "That made all the difference in the world," she says. "When we were doing covers, we would do four-hour gigs and I never had a problem losing my voice."

Alexander respects PJ Harvey, Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Björk and her teen idol, the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde. Recently, under a doctor's supervision, Alexander tore another page from Hynde's playbook by performing while pregnant. Her doctor advised, "Just go until you're not comfortable anymore." While she's been fine for the past six months, Alexander says the baby was moving around a lot at their most recent show at the Voodoo Lounge in San Jose. "It felt like she was just standing straight up and down and pushing on my stomach. So it felt physically a little bit uncomfortable."

While Alexander takes maternity leave, the group plans on recording a full-length, fine-tuning the music in time for a post-birth record release. Because of the shared wisdom of past band experiences, the members of TCS are remarkably supportive of one another. The guys in the band made an effort to alleviate Alexander's fears of abandonment.

"Our band is a huge geeky mutual admiration society," Tyler says. "Celeste hates when we say this, but every guy in this band will tell you that our main purpose for being on the planet right now is to make music so that she can sing. We all just basically stand in awe."

Look for new MP3s and baby updates to be posted on the band's website, www.trashcitysaints.com.

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From the October 23-29, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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