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It's a Hard-Knock Life

In a gesture that summarizes its star-crossed career, Annie on My Mind releases a CD, then calls it quits.


Certain rock shows stand out from others, whether it's because a band member made a teary farewell or because the gig was played for a good cause. Displaying uncharacteristic efficiency, local pop-punk group Annie on My Mind will combine both of these defining characteristics at its El Torreon show on Saturday night. Not only will this be the band's CD release party, but it'll also be the final time Annie on My Mind takes the stage.

The irony of unveiling its new disc the same night Annie on My Mind calls it quits is not lost on Steve Orth, hyperactive singer and former second guitarist. "I think it's kind of like an exclamation point on the fact that we could really never do anything right," he says. "We would always wait until the last minute to do everything. It just seemed like a lot of times we could never get it together, like if we were trying to do something, one person would be out of town and when they got back someone else would leave. Or sometimes, we would get taken off bills of shows because they would find a hardcore band to play instead of us."

The boys started their erroneous ways in December 1997, when they were known as The Ritalin Kids. With the original lineup of Pat Hermsen on bass, Paul Brannon on drums, and Josh Allen singing and playing guitar, the band promptly started destroying area basements the next February. The trio hooked up with Orth in July 1998, and on January 29, 1999, The Ritalin Kids played their first nonbasement show at Gee Coffee.

That summer, guitarist Ashley Miller took Josh Allen's place, leaving Orth, who had been singing here and there when duty called, as the full-time vocalist. It was also discovered at this time that the band had made one of its trademark errors, selecting a name that previously had been claimed. After being harassed by fans of the Texas version of The Ritalin Kids, the group, which had been crafting new songs since Miller joined the group anyway, brainstormed for new monikers and settled on the title to Nancy Garden's young-adult fiction piece on teenage lesbians. "It got banned in Olathe schools, I believe," Orth offers.

The current and final lineup came into being when Hermsen decided to quit and John Greiner stepped into his shoes this past March. In June, Annie on My Mind headed into the studio to cut some songs for a split disc with The Neophytes, with whom both Greiner and Hermsen were playing at the time. However, misfortune struck again, as The Neophytes broke up, leaving Annie on My Mind with a handful of songs. Rather than letting these tunes go to waste, the group decided to release them as an EP.

Even as they recorded these tracks, the boys knew the group would soon go the way of The Neophytes. "It actually took off a lot of pressure because we were pretty much just doing it for ourselves," Orth says. "We were just trying to have fun and make it as good as possible. Paul and Ashley decided that it was time for them to go away to school, and I don't really want to be in a part-time band and neither does John, so we just decided to end it now while we're still young and vital."

As proof of its vitality, Annie on My Mind recorded and mastered the four songs at The Rainmakers' Steve Phillips' house in fewer hours than older folk put in during an honest day's work at the office. "Steve Phillips actually burped on a few tracks," Orth reveals. "He thought it would be funny." He then confides that one belch is still audible on the end of "Every Drink I Take." "I don't really know if he wants me talking about it," he says covertly. "We're going to give him credit for it in the CD, but he told us not to. Maybe he won't read this."

Should someone who is reading this become concerned that the members of this now-defunct band won't find a proper outlet for their exuberance, Orth says he and Greiner have already started playing country music together in a band called The Not Tonights. Perhaps this new outfit will be able to escape the curse that plagued Annie on My Mind to the very end. In a fitting conclusion to its star-crossed story, the group won't have actually gotten the discs by the time of the show. "The CDs are actually just going to be the promo CDs," he mentions, noting that the band still has 200 of the real deal on order. "I don't really know what we're going to do with them -- hopefully, just put them in stores around town and give a lot of them away, I imagine." However, while other bands might curse their luck and rue the lost profits, the members of Annie on My Mind are content to know that a permanent document of their group's brief existence exists. "The reason we did it is just so we can look back on this and have something there to show what we did and something for our friends to have," Orth says. "We didn't have any other agenda than that."

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