Stefanie Naifeh and Paul Lacques started The Underthings in 1988 in Echo Park (a pre-trendy, funky, kinda hazardous but lovely EP), writing songs in their tiny garret in an old Victorian on Kellam Avenue. Richie Lawrence from polka rebel band Rotondi soon joined, along with hard bopping jazz saxophonist Mike Rose, multi-instrumentalist Ray Symczyk from Rotondi, and two Bonedaddys and first call session bass players: Simeon Pillich and Eric Gotthelf.
In 1990 the band, augmented by drummers Jerry Angel and Keith Miles (who became the band's full time drummer) went into the studio with engineer Dennis Moody and released their eponymous debut on vinyl.
The elegant arrangements of the LP were a sharp contrast to the wild, gritty live show, led by a fearless, caterwauling, mesmerizing Stefanie Naifeh, a hard hitting and edgy groove by the band, and dazzling solos by Mike Rose, Richie Lawrence, and Ray Symczyk. The band played neo cabarets like the Pik-Me-Up, Cafe Largo, Al's Bar, The Anti-Club, the Paradise Lounge, and graduated to CMJ Festival and outdoor festivals all over Los Angeles.
Despite heavy airplay and many live appearances on flagship station KCRW, and interest from big labels, the music biz couldn't quite figure out what to do with The Underthings. In 2016 it's pretty clear that the band was a decade or two ahead of its time.
"...for those who enjoy real music, The Underthings' avant-garde sensibility puts them head and shoulders above the pack." -- LA Weekly
"[The songs] ...dreamed up in the obviously fertile yet evidently twisted minds of Lacques, Naifeh, and Lawrence." -- BAM Magazine
"Naifeh, a classically-trained, loose-laughing, lullaby-lilting, tantric vaudevillian-like singer, surely must be possessed by every living and deceased musical spirit, from Bach to Bob Dylan's dog..." -- Strobe Magazine
"The real treat is classically trained opera singer, Stefanie Naifeh, whose voice can seemingly do anything (and does)." -- LA Weekly