In the do-it-yourself punk era of the late '70s, Pylon rose to fame almost completely by accident.
The band started when Michael Lachowski, the current public relations coordinator for the Georgia Museum of Art and former bassist of Pylon, started the group with his then roommate Randall Bewley, Pylon’s guitarist.
When the musician duo were still undergrads at the University of Georgia, they were both art majors: Lachowski studied photography and Bewley studied sculpture. However, the two never tied themselves down to one discipline and supported each other when they attempted new projects.
The punk to post-punk era was trying to get away from “how ridiculous [rock n’ roll] had become” according to Lachowski which allowed the two to explore creating music.
“They didn’t really care how good or virtuosic you were as a guitar player,” Lachowski said. “They just wanted you to get up there and have something more raw and direct.”
After Lachowski and Bewley found a drummer, Curtis Crowe, they auditioned a few guys to be their lead singer but none of them worked out. Then they thought of their friend Vanessa Briscoe Hay.
Briscoe Hay met Lachowski in an independent study art class while she was an undergrad at UGA. She said the students had critiques every Wednesday, and Lachowski had put his piece on the floor and there was a footprint on it. People said the drawing would’ve been better if the footprint had been in a different place so Briscoe Hay looked at Lachowski and said, “How can a footprint be in the wrong place?”
After the critique, the two got pizza and beer with some friends and went dancing afterward. It became a weekly occurrence for them.
When Briscoe Hay joined the band, she knew its goal was to get into the men’s’ favorite music magazine, the New York Rocker.
On the group's journey to be written up in what the boys considered their “Bible,” the band skyrocketed to success they couldn’t have dreamed of. Early in their existence, the band got the chance to play in New York with the B-52s. After playing in New York, the band drove down to Boston and played at The Rathskeller to open for Gang of Four, an English post-punk band, according to Briscoe Hay.
Pylon then got written up in Interview magazine, which was “way more established and just as cool” as the New York Rocker, Lachowski said.
After the Interview Magazine article the band decided to keep playing until they were featured in the New York Rocker. Then got written up in the publication and decided to keep performing as long as it was still fun for the members.
While playing shows in New York, Pylon met a few big bands which the group eventually opened for on tour, like the Talking Heads. However, opening bigger shows wasn’t something it sought out because, at the group’s level, the band could make more money headlining club shows. Pylon also got more of the type of attention they wanted at the club shows, Lachowski said.
“The crowd was there just to see us. So we weren’t there playing for crowds that really wanted us to get off the stage,” Lachowski said.
Pylon’s tour with U2 in 1983 proved to be a turning point for the band. At first, the band didn’t want to tour with the Irish rockers but were talked into it by its booking agent. However, it was “also the thing that just made us sour on the whole industry,” Lachowski said. The band didn’t like being told it had to take every opportunity which came its way or that the group’s album needed to be out faster.
Eventually, the band broke up when the members were no longer having fun, Briscoe Hay said.
“We were having a lot of pressure put on us to do certain things,” Briscoe Hay said. “We wanted to do everything our own way in our own time.”
Velena Vego, management and talent buyer for the 40 Watt Club, said everyone in town was “super sad” when the band broke up because the music scene was pretty small at the time and the group was an Athens favorite.
After Pylon broke up for the first time in 1983, Lachowski began his DJ career. He made mixtapes out of record collections and brought them to parties to play over the sound system. Eventually, the 40 Watt Club convinced Lachowski to DJ there and it became a monthly thing. Then he started doing more shows to the point he became the regular DJ.
“He was a really kind of famous DJ,” Vego said. “and he had a whole different life than I’d say he has now.”
Lachowski came back to UGA because he was worn down from always searching for new clients or projects as he declared himself as “not a good business person.”
So, the former Pylon bassist decided to apply for a job which would “appreciate the talents” he’d built up over time and got hired as the public relations coordinator for the Georgia Museum of Art.
Vego still sees Lachowski at various board meetings but not as often as she did in the old days or as much as she’d like. Briscoe Hay is working with Lachowski on a reissue project for Pylon so she sees him a little more often while they’re going through old documents.
“They’re friends for life. They’re family. I can’t imagine not having that,” Briscoe Hay said. “You know, they’re like my brothers."