Pete Stillman - Guitars
Geoff Gorton - Bass
Michele Schillace - Drums/Programming
Bristol's Santa Cruz were never going to be accused of being prolific exactly but the brace of singles and a stunning album they left behind after their short career as recording artists for major US label MCA during '96 - 98 was well worth the long spaces in between.
We say short career, in fact the core of the band had been playing for well over a decade. Fishponds lads Geoff Gorton (bass), Pete Stillman (guitar) and Steve Yabsley (guitar) first burst on an unsuspecting Bristol (rather the youth clubs of Fishponds) as The Groovey Pineapple. Embarrassment over the glaring misspelling of their own name prompted them to change it to The Harpoons, they cut a single and recorded a session for Janice Long's Radio One show. Losing their singer to film school they recruited Scott Jarrold who not only inherited his opera singer mother's lungs but was famed for a sensational record collection. Soon the band lost their drummer, Jon Brockenbrow, and replaced him with Cris Warren and added a keyboardist, Andy 'The Colonel' Purnell. In light of the personnel changes the name of the band became Rorschach, in honour of the anti-hero of groundbreaking comic book Watchmen. Making a racket that was on the right side of listenable their 'Two Busted Flippers' EP was a fuzzball of harmonic pop that won NME and John Peel approval and helped the band become an audience puller at local gigs.
It wasn't to last long. As the band's knockabout tendencies came to be replaced by more serious intentions Warren and Yabsley left. The band played on as Rorschach for a few months with new drummer Michele Schillace (who arrived from the infamous and fabulous Colonel Kilgore's Surf Formation Team band) and ace guitarist Specs. The Colonel left and the name changed to Critical Mass which everyone admitted was a terrible choice of moniker. The music though was another matter, graduating from goofy punk to soaring and intricate pop with influences that ranged from delta blues to obscure Italian House.
Specs left the band and they stayed as a four piece but still changed the name, this time to the much more exotic sounding Santa Cruz. The last two incarnations had been gaining the band quite a lot of attention from major record labels and deservedly so since they now had a set of swooning songs that were lushly arranged, beautifully crafted with some outstanding (and, praise be, subtle and short) guitar solos and neat production flourishes that stood them apart from their unsigned contemporaries at the time.
Now being represented by Fruit Management - who also looked after Portishead, the first shots of the bidding war were fired followed by a protracted round of A&R showcases and contract wrangling. Eventually they signed to MCA ("it stands for Music Cemetery of America" points out a former member of the band) and released their one and only album "Way Out". Despite having everything going for it - intelligent songs with great melodies, zeitgeist surfing artwork and a gorgeous looking singer, not to mention excellent press reviews - MCA appeared not to really 'get' Santa Cruz and when they did it was too late and SC became victims of a label buyout which left them without A&R representation. A shame because of all the bands who could have made it from Bristol, Santa Cruz REALLY could have made it. A second album was recorded under contract to MCA and despite remaining unproduced is potentially even better than Way Out. The band disbanded at the end of the 90s. (Taken from, Bandsconnect)