Pylon front woman Vanessa Briscoe Hay made a decision not to continue the Athens, Ga. group when founding guitarist Randall Bewley suffered a fatal heart attack in 2009, just as the band was mounting a promising comeback after a 1983 breakup.
“You’ve finally got your family back together, and then a member of that family suddenly passes away?” she asks, rhetorically. “At that point, I had no intention of ever doing Pylon again.”
But time, and a cult of serious fans that included James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, who had been playing the group’s singles in his DJ sets for years, changed her mind; with all-new members, Hay returns to San Francisco this week as the Pylon Reenactment Society, whose introductory single “Messenger” (b/w “Cliff Notes”) still burns 1980s-retro bright.
It didn’t happen overnight.
Murphy helped by reissuing Pylon’s crucial first two albums, 1980’s “Gyrate” and 1983’s “Chomp” (as “Gyrate Plus” and “Chomp More”) on his DFA imprint.
It was around the time Hay was busy re-securing band publishing rights in 2009 and Bewley was spending what would be his last few weeks unearthing bonus tracks.
“When DFA contacted us, they didn’t know that we were already working on re-releasing those two albums,” says Hay. “We’d done a few shows to promote ‘Gyrate Plus’ and were working on ‘Chomp’ — all that we needed was the graphics — when Randy passed away. So it took awhile, but we finally got those graphics done.”
Hay returned to her day job in nursing, helped her two daughters Hana and Victoria as they entered the Athens entertainment industry from different angles, and continued her side career in painting, in oils, acrylics and, lately, colored pencils.
In 2014, guitarist-producer Jason NeSmith informed her that the festival Art Rock Athens was recruiting historically significant groups. She agreed to sing Pylon classics like “Cool” (which soundtracked a 2016 Lexus RX TV commercial, as relevant as ever) if he assembled a backing band, so NeSmith used his own, Casper & the Cookies.
“I really wanted Pylon to be represented at the thing — I didn’t want Randy to be forgotten,” she says.
He wasn’t. The performance was a hit, and the next year they did it again, gleaning members from legendary Athens outfits The Glands and Love Tractor.
Today, Pylon Reenactment Society is six tracks away from completing its debut disc, and Hay, at 63, feels like she’s firing on all creative six. “I still think of odd things at 5:30 in the morning when I’m writing lyrics,” she says. “And nobody but me knows what I’m thinking of.”
IF YOU GO
Pylon Reenactment Society
Where: Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Dec. 7
Tickets: $15 to $20
Contact: (415) 800-8782, www.ticketweb.com