Kelley returned to Boston University to finish off the degree which she had put on hold three years before when The Drop Nineteens had begun to take off, and, starting afresh, formed a new group-Boy Wonder.

The early Boy Wonder went through various personnel changes, but by 1997 had settled in the line-up that consisted , as well as Kelley and Caporal, of Zavracky on guitar and Natale on bass. A self-produced single 'Mission to Destroy', a punchy diatribe on relationships with Kelley on bittersweet vocals. was released by the group early on that year and attracted the interest of small Boston indie label, Cherrydisc. 'Wonder Wear' came out later on in 1997.

Of the fourteen tracks on 'Wonderwear', Kelley wrote ten of the songs, and the other four are by Zavracky. Kelley's songs on 'Wonderwear' are poppier in tone and on the surface lighter than both 'Delaware and 'Speed Danger Death'. The lyrics, however, are direct and often have a bitter quality and the tunes, a powerful combination of punk numbers, rockers and ballads, merge fully with the sixties-style arrangements and vocal harmonies that have become the band's most focal characteristic. Less refined than what was still to come with 'Break the Spell etc', 'Wonderwear' nevertheless shows a talented artist finding her musical forte, and these talents reaching fruition. Zavracky's songs in contrast with Kelley's numbers were reminiscent of both 'The Cars' and 'The Knack'. 'Wonderwear' proved an instant hit with many critics, and with both Kelley and Zavracky receiving good reviews for their songs, it received both local and national acclaim.

Cherrydisc had wanted Boy Wonder to sign to for three records. The band were, however, cautious about commiting themselves to anything so long term,and when 'Wonder Wear' came out it was as a one-off deal.

"We didn't want to be legally bound for a long while to a small label with virtually no money. We never actually ended up signing anything-which is great because we can now record those songs again if we want to. We are friends with a band who signed for six records with Cherrydisc and were completely miserable."

Cherrydisc, not being able to impose the contract they wanted, however, did little to promote 'Wonderwear' and it sold only modestly. They also became affiliated with another larger independent label, 'Roadrunner', and this has caused the band further problems.

"Wonder Wear was the first release on the joint label. Roadrunner, however,specialise in hard core/punk music (of which Cherrydisc has a lot in their catalogue) so I don't think they were familar with how to market a band like Boy Wonder either. A year or so after Wonder Wear was released, Roadrunner dropped Cherrydisc, and shortly after that Cherrydisc folded. Roadrunner stilll own that record though. Alas, we can't afford to buy ourselves off it !"

'Wonderwear' therefore, remains on Roadrunner's stock, and currently deleted from its roster while the band waits to see what if anything the label choose to do with it.

In the months following the release of 'Wonderwear', both Zavracky and Natale quit the group. Kelley and Zavracky had been having differences over musical direction for some time, and at the end of 1997 Zavracky opted to leave.

"We were just on different planets entirely." Kelley says reflectively. "Now he's in his own band, and they're kind of hard rock. He could have gone either in one of two directions with his songwriting. "

It was, however, an amicable split. "The good thing about Jake is that he just always said exactly what was on his mind, and it didn't really leave a lot of room for tension to build. We're still friends now. We go and see each other's respective bands. It was pretty obvious why it wasn't working." When Paul Natale also left Boy Wonder a few months later to work with the 'Replacements' influenced Den Mothers, the break was again unacrimonous. The Den Mothers supported Boy Wonder recently at the launch party for 'Break the Spell' in February.

Now working with the line-up she has always wanted, and having produced some of the finest music of her career with 'Break the Spell etc', Paula Kelley has never felt more musically accomplished.

" 'Break the Spell etc' has been attracting strong interest.'It's selling well around here. We sell a lot at our live shows. We do more on merchandise than we do getting paid for our shows,and the EPs doing well as regards reviews and things go. It's given us our best feedback."

While understandbly wary and cautious, she would like Boy Wonder to eventually work with a label with more financial backing, but is delighted in the interim that 'Break the Spell etc' is being put out on Aaron Tap's shoestring Jackass label."We may not have the distribution and a lot of funds and extravagent things like videos, but is is really nice to know exactly what is going on with the record, and to have a total control of it."

As well as Boy Wonder, she is concentrating on various other musical projects also.

She has recorded two atmospheric and haunting fifties-style love songs as a solo artist. The first of these , '5.01', came about as a result of her long-term friendship with Greg Jacobs, who fronts a Boston band, 'Weeping in Fits and Starts', and also runs another small Boston label, 'Rhubarb Records'.

"Greg and I have known each other since we went to the Boston University together. I played in Greg's band for a while, and one day I was stringing along on the guitar, and playing '5.01' and he said 'What's that song ? That's really great. I want to record that. I thought "It will never happen"but you know ? It did."

'5.01' was recorded in January 1997 as one of the tracks on a Rhubarb Records split single and also features songs from Jacobs and producer, Pete Weiss, who let out his Zippah Studios to the project.

The follow-up, 'Left and Right' was recorded a few months later, again with Pete Weiss at Zippah, and appears on 'A Place to Call Home', a Boston bands charity compilation album for the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange .It was also going to be put on 'Break the Spell etc', but was removed from the EP just before its release.

"I recorded it as a solo record, and played almost everything on it . It wasn't necessarily a 'Boy Wonder' recording. We also thought about putting one of Josh's songs on the EP as well, and we figured if weren't going to have one we weren't going to have the other. We may end up rerecording one or both of them later."

Kelley plays regular solo shows, supplementing her set with old Hot Rod songs, and would eventually perhaps like to record a solo album.

She also performs in a 'Bee Gees' tribute band, 'The Boy Joys' ."Aaron and I are both in the band, and there's a fellow from 'Permafrost', Adam. Adam and Aaron and I comprise the three brothers, and then Cindy from the group 'Jumprope' plays keyboards, and another person plays the drums. Wehave been focusing on the sixtes stuff, and the earlier stuff, but we've just started venturing into 'Saturday Night Fever' territory. We're about to debut 'How Deep is Your Love'." The band are "playing a couple of shows a month now."

She also has an all girls' group, 'That Girl' in the pipeline. Until recently she played drums in another occasional all female band, 'The Page Boys'. "Unfortunately we're now defunct, but it was four girls. One of my best friends in the world is Robin who's a make up artist and I met at a Boy Wonder photo shoot. She and I are going to start another band. We've been rehearsing already with Cindy from Jumprope ." Kelley is once again the drummer, and That Girl will play their debutt show in August.

Boy Wonder, however, remain her prime concern and passion. The revitalised band's next step is going to be an album, and Kelley has already been working on songs to use towards it. The group will be using 'Break the Spell etc' as a demo, and in the late summer/early autumn they will be sending it out to record companies to hopefully muster up interest. "We'd love it if we got somebody with lots of money to come and help us" Kelley says, but promises that whatever follows "we'll do it somehow or other. I'd like to do it in the next year". Paula Kelley has rarely had the breaks in music, but one can only hope that this is is a start of a new era for her and Boy Wonder and she will now get the opportunities she and the band deserve.

Related Links:

Commenting On: Wonder Interview Part 2 - Paula Kelley and Boy Wonder

ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment

First Previous Next Last