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The Beginning of The Rainbow.

June 6, 2011

Images by G.W. Miller III. text by Kelsey Doenges.

They bonded over Blur in a mutual friend’s apartment in Blacksburg, VA. That’s it. That’s the love story of Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia, the couple who make up the two-piece garage punk band, Reading Rainbow.

There were no elaborate tales of Peter Gabriel songs spilling from a boombox that Rob, now 28, held above his head for hours (or at least until the songs’ competition). There were no stories of Sarah, 27, falling in love with her summer camp dance instructor. No stories with roses, conveniently kissing in the rain or any of that Hollywood romance stuff. This was no Nora Ephron movie.

Four years ago, there was just Blur, a couch and a friend in common who thought Sarah and Rob might just get along.

“My really good friend Josh, who I have known since middle school, he went to Virginia Tech and I went down to visit him,” Sarah remembers. “He just met Rob and they lived in the same apartment complex.  Josh said, ‘Hey, lets go over to visit my new friend Rob.’ So we went over and that’s how we met.”

Sarah and Rob’s common love for the English alternative rock band was just the beginning of their relationship, which led to their relocation to Philadelphia, a marriage, the formation of Reading Rainbow and, this year, and a cross-country tour playing with the likes of The Dodos and Dum Dum Girls.

They sit in the backyard of the Rocket Cat Café in Fishtown to tell the tale. It is an overgrown garden with flowers blooming amongst weeds and neglected garden equipment. Paint is chipping away from the turquoise aluminum chair that Rob sits in. A tattoo on the inside of his arm creeps out from underneath his black t-shirt, which seems like it would clash with his navy pants and brown shoes but somehow he seems to be pulling it off. Sarah sits on a wooden bench beside him, dressed in black tights, black shorts and a striped blue and white t-shirt. Her tattoos are much more obvious than Rob’s – a tiger on her shoulder, a bird on her chest and arrows running up her right arm.

They arrived in Philadelphia by default – it was urban and relatively inexpensive. They got married because Sarah, then a grad student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, needed health insurance.

“She’s my best friend,” says Rob, an engineer by day. “It’s not that I don’t love her. I just don’t believe that you need to be married.”

“We aren’t religious or traditional,” Sarah adds.

With hopes to downplay the ceremony as much as possible, their wedding took place in what Rob describes as a “God-awful courtroom” somewhere in Maryland.

“The reason why we did it in Maryland instead of Philadelphia,” says Rob, “was because in Philadelphia you need a thirty day marriage license thing or something like that.”

The courtroom was filled with church pews. Painted clouds covered the walls. Fake ivy crawled up faux Roman columns.

“It was sometime in April,” Sarah says. “Actually, it might even be today. Honestly, today could be our wedding anniversary and we don’t even know.”

“We thought you would just walk in and sign a paper,” Rob says. “But there was this whole ceremony.”

“They didn’t even ask us what we wanted,” Sarah adds, still bitter. “The judge came up to us and said, ‘I’m going to be marrying you today.’ And we thought, ‘Oh cool.’ And then she reappeared in a robe and made us hold hands. It was so forced.”

Rob wore dress clothes. Sarah didn’t wear white.

“I was wearing this empire waist thing that made it seem like I was hiding a pregnancy,” she says with a laugh. “Looking back, that was probably a bad choice. I almost wore jeans and a T-shirt just to prove a point. I thought I was real smug, thinking Rob’s family is going to feel real silly because they all wanted to be here while we sign some papers.”

After a fancy dinner with the family on their wedding night, the couple slept on a pullout sofa in Rob’s sisters’ living room.

“It was the most awkward day of my life,” Sarah states. “I could not stop laughing.”

The following Monday, Rob started his job as a green engineer in Center City.

Before there was Reading Rainbow, Sarah and Rob were part of a band called Forensic Teens with their friend Corey Saunders. Rob played keyboard, Corey played drums and Sarah played a circuit bent keyboard. They describe it as more of an art project than an actual band.

“The songs of Forensic Teens were just so over the top and super spastic,” Rob comments.

They had two shows booked in Virginia, but their drummer Corey had moved to Philadelphia and wasn’t ready to return back to Virginia. Rob and Sarah scrambled together to make something work. Within two weeks, Sarah taught herself how to play the floor tom and snare and they recorded eight songs, some of which appear on their first album, creating the formation of what is now known as Reading Rainbow.

Now, Rob plays guitar. Sarah is making her way up to playing a full drum kit. Everything is sung in unison and the music is loaded with reverb, creating a harmonized rush of energetic sound.

They released their second album, Prism Eyes, on HoZac Records last year. They went into the studio with all intentions to record an EP but the songs kept coming and everyone encouraged them to flesh out an entire album.

“What fueled us for writing really fast was feeling like we were on the edge of something and we wanted to put all of ourselves in that,” Rob remembers.

The inspiration for their songs comes from what they are experiencing in life at the moment.  The whole second album deals with growing up and the responsibilities that come with being a grown-up – for example, the couple had recently bought a home in Fishtown.

“It’s all about anxiety but still trying to stay positive even though the future is really uncertain and you are just really freaked out,” Sarah says.

Rob grew up around music. His father and uncle played in jazz bands. Rob started to play piano as a child. He also played alto sax, took guitar lessons and played in a big band in high school.

Sarah, on the other hand, has no formal musical training and so far, has taught herself everything she knows. She believes that girls are often discouraged from picking up instruments. Around the ago of twelve, she really started to get into music and she longed to play the guitar.

“My brother played the violin,” she says. “In my house it was more like, ‘Well Sarah’s the artist. She’s good at drawing. Andy plays the violin and he’s good at music.’ I wasn’t outright discouraged but everyone acted like it was this stage I was going through and so that instantly shut it down.”

Lately, she has also been teaching herself how to play guitar – with a little help from Rob.

“Sarah’s inner punk doesn’t let you tell her how to do anything. She wants to learn by herself,” Rob says. “She found this book from the 60s from this jazz guitar player. She found it at a thrift store and it has all these chords in it. So between making up these chords and sounding totally like Sonic Youth to learning these weird chords from this book, it sounds awesome.”

Sarah’s ultimate dream is to be able to play a full drum kit on all of the songs and be able to simultaneously sing and play guitar on at least one song.

“I think it’s cool when people are in bands and they learn as they go,” she says. “I think that is the only real way to do it. To fully immerse yourself and say, ‘Fuck it,’ and just do it. It is also really scary because you are learning in front of all of these people. But it’s important because you are saying, ‘Look I can do it, so you can too.’ Anybody can do it.”

Maybe it was fate that brought Rob and Sarah together. Maybe the stars aligned and everything made sense. Maybe, but Nora Ephron isn’t writing this story. The truth is there is only one person to thank for their relationship, for the formation of Reading Rainbow, for the fulfillment of Sarah’s musical dreams. And that’s Josh, Sarah’s best friend and Rob’s former neighbor. Without him, Sarah would probably be teaching art somewhere and Rob would only be working a nine-to-five job.

Josh made the connection. He brought them together. The rest is history.

And an unpredictable future.

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