Loose. That's how the Delusionaires play. That's how the Delusionaires make you feel. That's how the Delusionaires do. Echoing the dirty jazz vibe of the kind of stripper R&B that the niche Las Vegas Grind compilations famously collected (like so many sex-driven digits scrawled on bar napkins), the drunken sway of this disappearing/reappearing Orlando band stumbled along for 14 years thanks to the allure of their flooze party instincts. (Flooze Party, incidentally, is the name of their 2013 LP.) As Delusionaires guitarist Artie Mondello puts it, "We forgot to break up after the first show."
The band began as a four-piece in early 2000, featuring Mondello, upright bassist Nadeem Khan, drummer Brian Maguire and tenor sax player Jim Ivy, after Khan headhunted his Numb Right Thumb bandmates Ivy and Mondello. Ivy didn't even play the tenor sax at the time – but he owned one, and had been playing alto sax with Obliterati. So when Khan and his wife AnnMarie booked the Dels' first show without consulting the band – because at that point, there was no band – they had exactly three weeks to not only practice material, but also to find out what kind of sound Khan was going for. As Mondello describes it, "Loose drums, flopping bass, the drunken sax careening through it all, and this moronic guitar kind of barking out."
They gathered after hours at the Film Society, the video store Mondello managed (which was where Peacock Room used to be), to practice. Mondello cued up old stripper loops and vintage girlie movies on the store's big screen, and they would play to match the mood the ladies coaxed. Primarily due to Khan's confidence in the project, their original gig backing a Tampa burlesque show was mostly a success (despite the scheduled burlesque troupe showing up late and the car trouble that scalded Maguire), leading to a single release in 2000 and an LP, Destination Poon, in 2003, both on Zanzibar Records.
"We were much quieter and more instro at the beginning, but slowly we found ourselves heading into a more raucous space," Khan says. "Our shows eventually became utterly mayhem, filled with nudity, excess, destruction of instruments, including one in which my neck broke clean off the bass. There was anger involved."
Turns out they didn't forget to break up. They remembered to do that in 2003, when Mondello and Khan found themselves literally at each other's throats after band drama at a Polynesian pop festival called Hukilau. Mondello rejoined the band days later, only for the band to break up again in 2005, at a New Year's Eve party they played with the Legendary JC's at Will's Pub – which is exactly the show they've booked this week: same day, same venue (fingers crossed for a happier ending).
Luckily, it seems they break up just to make up. It was local promoter Jessica Pawli who brought the boys back together again for a Southern Fried Sunday in summer 2007. Unfortunately, that year got dog-eared for Delusionaires for other reasons, due to a gut-punch when Maguire suffered serious brain damage in a near-fatal motorcycle accident on Dec. 10, 2007. The band finished the dates they'd committed to through 2008 but, still stricken by grief for their friend's injuries, disbanded again that year.
Mondello moved to Atlanta the next year. It again seemed like the natural end to the Dels' romp, until Khan stopped through Atlanta performing with the Tandoori Knights and schemed with Mondello to schedule a reunion show in 2012 when a mutual friend's wedding brought Mondello to Orlando. The Delusionaires were suddenly back at Will's with now-drummer Dennie Carter – a musician Mondello credits for the band's continued performances due to Carter's enthusiasm, which flickers with that hot-and-bothered flame for sleazy music that Khan has carried since they started. Even during gigs that actually set his instrument on fire.
"Nadeem had that fucking upright bass that we have hated from day one, just because it's always falling apart; it always sounds like wet cardboard," Mondello says. "We eventually grew to love it, because it refused to die despite our best efforts. Nadeem accidentally set it on fire some show, and somebody from the audience had to put it out."
This New Year's Eve, the Delusionaires are still blazing the Will's Pub stage with their pungent, unpredictable music – the set's erratic even for them, Mondello says: "After 14 years, the song titles still don't mean much of anything to any of the guys." It's ideal revelry for the Mills 50 crowd and appropriately timed proof that (resolutions be damned) things don't always go as planned year after year. That's for the better, in this case.
"It was only meant to be for that one show," Mondello says, despite more than a decade of Delusionaires' unique ruckus.