The Tragic Story of For Squirrels
Today Rock N’ Roll True Stories takes a look at the tragic history behind the band For Squirrels. Hailing from Florida, the band was on their way up the rock ranks when tragedy struck. Check out the full story below!
What’s going on my fellow rock n’ rollers. Don’t forget to hit the bell notification icon to be notified every time i put out a new video on my channel. September 8th of 1995 marked a dark day for the up and coming post-grunge band For Squirrels. Hailing from Tom Petty’s hometown of Gainesville, Florida they had just signed their first major record deal and were about to release what would be their biggest album of their career, but it all came crashing down. What happened? Stay tuned to find out.
Formed in Florida in 1992, For Squirrels came together after several students at the University of Florida met and decided to form a band. There was one minor lineup change with the band’s original drummer leaving and the classic lineup would be made up of Guitarist and vocalist Travis Tooke, bassist Bill White vocalist Jack Vigiliatura and drummer Jack Greigo The band’s name was inspired by the large amount of squirrels that were seen on the University of Florida Campus. Originally the band was called “the four squirrels” but changed it to “for squirrels” after another band in Ohio already had the name. The band soon enough started playing around college dorms and campus and while they were rough around the edges, there was a glimmer of something emerging with Tooke telling Diffuser.com
“At first it was like, ‘This is neat. You can make songs up like a jigsaw puzzle, attach it to your feelings iand then play it for somebody,’”. “But we just wanted so bad to get it to a place where it was like art.”
By 1993 the band had solidified their lineup and repurposed $6,000 of their student loan money to record their debut record Baypath Road that was released through indie label Y&T Music. The band’s debut album was heavily inspired by American history. Songs like Flagboy would be inspired about a young boy who would carry the American flag into battle during the civil war. If injured or killed another boy would take his spot. Upon first listening to the band you can easily hear the similarities to other alternative rock acts like REM, but you also hear sounds of some other alternative rock bands like Nirvana, Toad the Wet Sprocket and The Pixies.
The band would eventually find a manager named tim bender who took a liking to the band and helped them get the attention they deserved. He flew the band around the country and booked a 2.5 month long tour during which they started to get major label attention. The band would eventually sign a 2 album deal with Sony and 550 Records in early 1995 and work promptly began on their major label debut titled Example. The band would work with producer Nick Launay who was best known for his work with Public Image Ltd, Kate Bush and Talking Heads. The band would record Example in both Miami, Florida and in the bahamas.
During the first week of September in 1995 the band performed at the infamous new york landmark CBGB’s during the CMJ Music Festival. The reaction to the band was positive and following their appearance they got back into their 15 passenger van with their gear and headed home for Florida. During the late afternoon of Sept. 8, while on Interstate 95, just south of Savannah, Georgia a horrific crash happened. Keep in mind this was 2 weeks prior to the group’s Example album coming out. The band’s van’s rear tire blew out resulting in a crash that claimed the lives of singer Jack Vigliatura, bassist Bill White and their tour manager Tim Bender. White and Bender were 23. While Vigliatura was 21. Tooke and 28 year-old drummer Jack Griego who had joined the band two years earlier were the only two survivors of the one-vehicle accident.
Tooke would remember “Jack the singer was driving, Jack the drummer was the co-pilot and (White) was behind the pilot in the bench. (Bender) was sitting behind the co-pilot and I was in the back,”,. “I’m not uncomfortable with people knowing that. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I should’ve been sitting where Bender was.”
The van, once a day-care bus, had an extended rear section, heavy with equipment, Tooke would also claim in the same interview that the band rotated positions in the van with each member taking a turn driving. Tooke would reveal that road manager Bender let him remain in the back of the van to sleep an additional hour stating “He was just being selfless as usual.” Tooke was asleep when he heard a massive boom, remembering “The tire didn’t pop, it disintegrated,” “When the metal wheel well hit the ground, it pulled the van to the right and I think Jack instinctively turned the wheel the other way. When he did that, the side of the van caught and we just started flipping down the highway. When we came to rest, I was still awake. I had glass in me, I had broken my elbow and I was in shock. But I knew right away that my friends were dead. I remember being outside the van and just screaming it over and over” he’d say
Tooke would be airlifted to a nearby hospital for a broken elbow and lacerations while Griego would undergo surgery for a broken neck and nerve damage in both his spine and arm.
The label would put out a statement following the crash that read
There are no words to describe our grief at this terrible loss. For Squirrels were at the beginning of a long and successful future in making music. In our too-brief time together, the Sony 550 staff had come to know Jack, Bill, and Tim for the incredible talented and dedicated people they were. With Example, For Squirrels leave behind a truly great album, one which captures all of the personal and musical qualities which endeavored them to us.”
With the band having lost half of their lineup due to the horrific crash and their new album several weeks away from release, the band’s label moved ahead with releasing the album.Tooke has mixed emotions about whether the album should be released revealing “I thought people should still hear the music. If it were to get on radio or MTV, that would be a good thing,I looked at it like even though it’s a tragedy, at least people will be introduced to the music. Now, looking back, do I have some regret about it? A little bit. I don’t like the thought that people automatically align the tragedy with it, but the music is cool and we did our best with it. That’s what the guys would’ve wanted people to hear. It definitely sucks that they’re dead, but it doesn’t suck that a lot of people got to hear their music” he’d say.
Since the album was put out in late September of 1995 and the internet was still in its early days not a lot of people who heard the band’s music or became fans were aware of their tragic history. The label would end up releasing Mighty K.C as the album’s single, and put out an accompanying music video. The song was originally penned about the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, but soon took on a new meaning following the tragic van accident with haunting lyrics including “”Ship me off to the morgue / I’m ready to be buried,”
“Mighty K.C.” would peak at No. 15 on Billboard‘s Modern Rock charts with Example selling over 100,000 copies. Tooke and Greigo did end up touring to support the album bringing on bassist Andy Cook and having Tooke performing vocals. Griego would end up having a pulley contraption made for him so he could drum on tour and reduce pressure on his arm. For Squirrels would eventually change their name to Subrosa aftera few years later not feeling right about using the same name with Greigo telling a Jacksonville paper “That’s like walking on the bones of your friends,” “We weren’t that band anymore. We’d buried our friends. The tribute we made to them was to support that record that we made together. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right, for us to continue on.” The remaining members released their follow up 1997’s never bet the devil your head under the monicker Subrosa. The band’s sound was a lot angrier and more aggressive understandably so given the recent tragedy that unfoldedin 1995 .The album met decent reviews, but poor sales
Not everyone was happy with the band changing their name as it proved to be a source of contention for the band’s label who still had the surviving members signed under their original contract. When the band refused to revert back to their original name following their second release they were subsequently dropped by their label. The band got a high profile slot opening for Creed, but soon after Griego left the music business and a few years later Subrosa finally broke up in 2001.
Griego would go onto study architecture in college Tooke stayed part of the Gainesville music scene, putting out new music under the name Helixglow. While For Squirrels could have blown up into something bigger Tooke doesn’t live his life in hypotheticals revealing “I try not to think about it too much,” “It’s the kind of thing that can really drive you crazy.” Longtime fans of the band did see a partial reunion as Griego recently performed with Tooke after 15 years apart including performing For Squirrels music as well .That does it for today’s video guys thanks for watching. Be sure to hit the like button and subscribe. If you guys have suggestions for future topics let me know in the comments section below. Take care.