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Group Members: Ross Beach
All Music Guide:
The Athens, Georgia-based Gerbils emerged as part of the second wave of bands linked to the Elephant 6 Recording Company collective, a coterie of like-minded, lo-fi indie groups -- including the Apples (in stereo), Neutral Milk Hotel and the Olivia Tremor Control -- who shared musicians, ideas and sensibilities. The Gerbils comprised singer/guitarist Scott Spillane, drummer John D'Azzo and bassist Will Westbrook, who together attended grade school in the Elephant 6 breeding grounds of Ruston, LA; Spillane and D'Azzo first joined forces in 1992 in the group Smilin' Joe Fission, which also included violinist John Fernandes (later a member of Olivia Tremor Control) and guitarist Ross Beach. After a series of roster changes, the original Gerbils lineup -- a five-piece also featuring Beach and future Azalia Snail cellist Penny Burbank -- recorded its first demo; slimming down to a trio, they released a series of singles on indie labels like Spare Me and Earworm before signing to Hidden Agenda to issue their 1998 full-length debut Are You Sleepy? Spillane, D'Azzo and Westbrook all additionally pulled double duty as reserve members of both Neutral Milk Hotel and the Olivia Tremor Control.
The Gerbils are an indie rock band that formed in Athens, GA in 1998. Part of the Elephant Six Collective, the band released two albums and toured nationwide during their tenure.
The band consisted of Scott Spillane, John D'Azzo and Will Westbrook, who were college roommates in Ruston, LA, along with cellist Penny Burbank. They released a couple singles on different independent record labels between 1996 and 1998 before recording an album (which included the four previously released songs) in 1998 on Hidden Agenda Records.
Spillane's Neutral Milk Hotel bandmate Jeremy Barnes eventually joined as drummer, which drove the somewhat twee pop sound of the band's first album towards a more energetic hard rock. The members of the band soon decided to call it quits unofficially with a farewell show in 1999 in Athens. While D'Azzo pursued interests in California, Spillane and Westbrook (with the help of members of Of Montreal and Elf Power) finished mixing the album that was completed with Chris Bishop prior to their separation. After the album, The Battle of Electricity, was completed, the Gerbils did a national tour with Elf Power before again separating. The band eventually reformed in 2004, playing regularly and becoming fully active.
Guitarist Will Westbrook died on Monday, December 11, 2006 due to an undisclosed illness. After his death, The Gerbils disbanded, with Spillane and D'Azzo occasionally performing Gerbils' songs together afterwards.
Along with various contributions to compilation albums, the Gerbils have released two albums and three singles on a variety of labels.