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Affordable Floors

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The Affordable Floors were Pittsburgh’s most popular new wave dance band during the 1980s and early 1990s. They packed clubs like the Electric Banana and Grafitti in Pittsburgh and they toured Mid-West. The Floors won the Tri-State Rock Competition in 1986 and were named “the best rock band” by the readers of the weekly paper “In Pittsburgh” in 1989. Songs from their three albums were heard on college and commercial radio stations across the U.S. They received critical praise from Penthouse Magazine, the CMJ Journal, and the Alternative Press. Their recording of “Wedding Ring” prompted MCA to sign them. But their MCA album went unreleased when MCA was taken over and downsized. They continued to record and perform until 1995

The Floors Hit the Ceiling in Pittsburgh

The Affordable Floors began in 1984 as a writing duo of keyboardist Harvey Coblin and lyricist/keyboard player Kirk Botula. Working together they composed slow ambient synthesizer music aimed for movie soundtracks. Bored with that sound they added bass and drums sounds to create funky beat nine minute instrumental pieces. When guitar player Steve Morrision joined them they wrote shorter 4 minute pop tunes with radio airplay in mind. Adding drummer Ken Zenkevich and bass player Eric Riebling they became a five piece band. The Affordable Floors danceable new wave sound became a synthesis of their individual tastes. The band had two other guitarists during their existence. Eric Hertzog replaced Steve Morrison went he left and Jeff Backcock replace Hertzog.  Rich Rust replaced Krik Botula in 1994. They took their band name from a flooring store on Pittsburgh’s Banksville Road called “Affordable Floors”. .

The Affordable floors began playing live at the Electric Banana in 1984. Moving down the hill they became the most popular Pittsburgh band at the 500 seat Graffiti Showcase. In 1986 the Affordable Floors beat out 15 other bands in a live competition to win the Tri-State Rock Competition at the Graffiti Showcase. Their prize was a recording session and the pressing of 1000 CDs. John Antimary, the promoter of the Tri-State Rock Challenge, released their debut album "The Sounding" on his independent label AWOL in November of 1986. In his article about the CD release Scott Mervis of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette described the Affordable Floors as "the most British sounding of all Pittsburgh bands" with a style in between New Order and O.M.D

Radio station WXXP aired several of the Floor’s songs. The title track “The Sounding” reached number one on WXXP's Dare Ten Countdown. It was the most requested song for four straight weeks on the University of Pittsburgh station WPTS. As a result of the radio exposure they drew capacity crowds to the Graffitti and to clubs and colleges in the mid-Atlantic region. They also opened shows for the Hoodoo Gurus, Concrete Blonde and Shriekback.

Drumming on the Walls Brings National Attention

The Floors released their second album “Drumming on the Walls” in 1989 earning nationwide airplay and critical praise. The album kept the Floors on top in Pittsburgh. They beat out Joe Grushecky and Billy Price to be awarded “The best band in Pittsburgh” title by the weekly paper In Pittsburgh.  Botula was voted Pittsburgh's best songwriter and Riebling was voted the best bass player. The album broke out nationally with airplay on 150 college radio stations and many commercial stations, The single “Wedding Ring” reached number 1 in the rotations of WUFI in Miami and KTOO in Juneau. The album was a critical success with several publications writing that the Affordable Floors had great potential to make it nationally.

"There are two types of local bands on the scene: those who will always be a local band, and those who will launch themselves into the mainstream. The Affordable Floors are the latter type of band…..Their talent and their music can easily go toe to toe with any band on the scene today. The music is energetic and powerful, danceable and memorable.” –Alternative Press

“They craft intelligent, worldly tunes that are definitely danceable. In terms of Pittsburgh, these guys have it made. With a little bit of luck, the rest of the world will follow”. –Penthouse Magazine Jul 14, 1989 

“The Affordable Floors fuse a keyboard- and bass-dominated pop sound with elements of jazz and lite funk, sounding at different times like Peter Gabriel, Pierce Turner and Eurythmics…. An impressive, subtle record that is a great progression from its predecessor. Drumming On The Walls shows a band with depth whose potential has apparently only been scratched. Top cuts: The Red Room, Blackout and Wedding Ring. –CMJ Journal July 14, 1989

MCA Records Comes and Goes

To promote the album to college radio stations, the Floors paid $600, to place their song “Wedding Ring” in the compilation CD that the College Music Journal (CMJ) sent to colleges across the country.  Marty Scott the president of MCA Records, a subscriber to the CMJ, made it a habit to listen to every song on the CMJ compilation disks. After hearing “Wedding Ring” Scott contacted the Affordable Floors in September of 1989 to offer them a recording contract. In May of 1990 they signed a one album deal with MCA receiving a $113,000 advance to pay for studio time.  Working with producer Hank Lawson they recorded at the Audiomation studio on Pittsburgh’s North side. The Floors recorded the songs ‘Wedding Ring”, “Blackout” anfg with others from their first two albums along with a cover of New Order’s Temptation. The album titled “A Thousand Days” was to be released in January of 1991.

Trying to cash in on the Affordable Floors before their MCA release John Antimary tried to re-release the Sounding CD on his new Zanzibar record label. But the Affordable Floors moved to stop him saying Antimary was infringing on their copyrights. Their attorney said the Antimary only had the right to release the first 1000 CDs. They squabbled with Antimary over the master tape and licensing rights for four years.

MCA’s promotion department sent out pre-release cassette sample tapes to several college radio stations. It looked like the album was a go. But then something changed. According to the Monday Correspondent Blog MCA told colleges that the tapes were released by mistake and requested that they be sent back.  In November of 1990 MCA/Univeral was taken over by the Japanese firm Matsushita Electric for $6.7 billion. Under its new management MCA decided to focus on more commercial main stream acts. MCA dropped 44 alternative music acts from their roster including the Affordable Floors. Their MCA album was never released. The band hoped that they could find another label to release their recording.

Anthem Records Gets Floored

After a two year struggle the Floors were awarded the rights to the songs that they recorded for MCA and the rights to their "Sounding" album. They re-recorded some of those songs for their third album. Signing with Anthem Records the Floors released the “All the Things I Meant to Be” CD in the summer of 1992. Anthem also reissued their first two albums “Sounding” and “Drumming on the Walls”.

With strong reviews and airplay on Pittsburgh radio the album sold well in Pittsburgh at the National Record Marts and Camelot Music Stores chains. The band went on tour again to promote the release.

In 1994 doctors diagnosed Kirk Botula with repetitive stress injury in both of his hands. He was unable to use his hands play or write music. Keyboard player Rich Rust replaced Kirk for six months.

The Floors Collapse

On his return to the Affordable Floors in 1995 Kirk Botula wanted to change the sound of the band. He wanted to move away from the short dance tunes to longer slower album compositions. Only guitarist Jeff Babcock supported Botula. The rest of the band did not want to go in that direction. Despite the conflict over their direction, they kept playing gigs as they were making good money. But they were slowly losing faith that the band would go on to bigger things. They all had full time jobs. Botula was a software engineer. Ken Zenkevich was a mechanical engineer and Harvey Coblin was a banker. Sitting together in a Taco Bell after show in Erie, Pa. Ken Zenkevich proposed that they quit. The band agreed. They all felt relieved that it was over. They made their last performance at Nick’s Fat City in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1995. The Floors went off in different musical directions.

Kirk Butulo and guitarist Jeff Babock started a new band called Cloud that played atmospheric music. Bassist Eric Riebling joined Bill Deasy’s band the Gathering Field in 1995. In 1994 the Gathering field had a regional hit with their song “Lost in America”.   It was the most requested song on WDVE for six months and was played in heavy rotation.  With that success Atlantic Records signed Gathering Field in 1995 to release their 1996 debut album “Lost in America”.  But Atlantic focused itd attention on Matchbox20 and did little to promote the Gathering Field. The band asked to get out of their ABC deal. Freed from their Atlantic contact Gathering Field released the "Reliance” album on Onoma Records in 1999 and releases two albums on Mudpuppy:  “The Gathering Field” (1999) and “So Close to Home (2001). They broke up in 2002 when Deasy went solo.

After his Bloomfield apartment burned down in the late 1990s, guitarist Steve Morrison moved to New Orleans. There he worked for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and wrote music.  Morrison returned to Pittsburgh in 2005 after Katrina wiped out New Orleans. Back in Pittsburgh he formed the power pop band Aviation Blondes, recorded some songs, and entered the Graffiti Rock Challenge. The band was selected to compete live but lost in the first round. They released a debut album on Get Hip records titled "Edge of Forever. 

The Affordable Floors reunited for one night to perform at the WXXP anniversary show in 2002.
The Bridge at Graffiti 1989
The Sounding Album
Drumming on the Walls