San Francisco's Switchblade Symphony formed in 1989, when vocalist Tina Root and composer Susan Wallace were introduced by mutual friends in the local goth music scene. Frustrated with the musical projects they were currently involved in, the duo began collaborating and performing, and soon won a devoted audience.
As Switchblade Symphony, Root's musical theater training and Wallace's film-scoring experience showed in their theatrical vocals and orchestrated, dreamlike sound. Early, self-released cassettes like 1991's Fable and 1992's Elegy were sold at shows and caught the attention of influential forces in the darkwave scene, such as Propaganda magazine and Cleopatra Records.
Cleopatra signed Switchblade Symphony and the group issued their debut album, Serpentine Gallery, for the label in 1995. Serpentine Gallery featured lusher, fuller versions of many of the songs on the group's initial recordings, mixing a poetic, ethereal sound with hints of harsher, industrial beats. The album gained critical acclaim and provided Switchblade Symphony with opening dates on tours with labelmates like Christian Death in 1996, and other prominent darkwave acts like the Sisters of Mercy and Type O Negative.
1997 saw the group return with Bread & Jam for Frances, technically Switchblade Symphony's first new material for Cleopatra. A heavy electronica influence permeated the album, which featured dub loops and trip-hop beats mixed into their dark, ornate signature sound. Bread & Jam for Frances also kept the group's critical momentum going, receiving great word of mouth; two singles, "Clown" and "Drool," followed in its wake, along with a limited-edition tour album, Scrapbook. After spending much of 1998 on headlining and supporting tours, Switchblade Symphony released their third album, Three Calamities, the following year. A fusion of Serpentine Gallery's opulence and Frances' futurism, it reflected the group's advances as songwriters and performers. ~ Heather Phares