Squiggly Wigglies

Squiggly Wigglies were an American zolo band from Portland that released five singles and three albums on Sforzando between 1991 and 1994.

Members: Terry Sharkie (guitar, banjo, percussion, vocals), Toby Korder (xylophone, piano, synthesizer), Ezra Doyle (bass, vocals), Igor (drums), Mimi Giddy (vocals), Victoria Fifi (slide whistle, backing vocals)

Squiggly Wigglies formed in the summer of 1990 when musician, songwriter and conceptualist Terry Sharkie teamed with technician and multi-instrumentalist Toby Korder and haberdasher Ezra Doyle.

Sharkie (b. 1972) took up guitar at age 13, influenced by classic UK progressive rock, punk, and new wave. By 1988, he’d stockpiled numerous songs, mostly in the mold of The Jam and Buzzcocks. After absorbing the early works of Split Enz (Mental Notes, Dizrythmia) and Gentle Giant, he envisioned a band with colorful, harlequin-like attire (ala Enz) with abrupt musical changes and tuned percussion (ala Giant).

He shared his ideas with PSU classmate Korder, a classically trained pianist and xylophonist who made effects pedals in his spare time. Korder manipulated the wiring in a vibrato pedal to create a boing sound, which he and Sharkie used for their respective instruments.

Meanwhile, Sharkie drew a batch of costume designs — wide-jointed, tight-cuffed, zigzag-adorned suits in opposing primary/secondary colors — intended as the visual accompaniment for the music. Doyle, who ran a local outdoor clothing stall, asked for some prototypes. Sharkie found a seamstress, Mimi Giddy, to make male and female versions of the suits, which Doyle modeled with his girlfriend, Victoria Fifi, for a feature in the Clinton Street Quarterly. Early customers of the jagged, multi-colored suits included members of Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, a Residents-influenced avant-rock band.

Doyle, an aggressive salesman, offered to manage Sharkie and Korder’s group, which now included Giddy as co-vocalist. Igor, a friend of Korder’s from the music department, stepped in on drums. When they couldn’t find a bassist who suited the band’s aesthetic, Doyle picked up the instrument and nailed the parts within weeks, despite no prior musical experience. 

As a complement to their boingy sounds and jagged aesthetic, they named their band Squiggly Wigglies: a name first suggested by Sharkie’s mother (possibly influenced by the Southern supermarket chain Piggly Wiggly, mentioned by Dolly Parton’s character in the 1989 drama Steel Magnolias.) 

Squiggly Wigglies hit the local club circuit, but found the prevailing NW rock scene in-conducive to their aims. Doyle convinced the management of Music Box, an oldies cinema on SW Broadway, to give the band a Thursday night showcase. He sent out a press release for the December 1990 event, where the band performed before local onlookers and media as a six-piece with Fifi on backing vocals and instrumental sundries.

Backstage, as Sharkie and Doyle pinned springs on their jackets, Doyle noticed a clutch of Zolo toys that Sharkie brought along as stage props. He said to Sharkie, “we’re going to rock the house zolo style.” After the show, when a local reporter asked Sharkie to describe the Squiggly Wigglies’ musical style, Doyle came up behind him and said “we play zolo rock.”

The event received several write-ups in the local papers, which emphasized the band’s combined music and visual concept. “Look out, the Zolos are Coming!” read one headline. Doyle immediately started using the word on promo posters. Over the next two weeks, his stall was frequented by curious youth who stripped his racks of zigzag-lapel jackets. Overwhelmed by the buzz, the Music Box re-booked Squiggly Wigglies for a January showcase.

Meanwhile, members of Plop Plop Fizz Fizz splintered into two bands: The Whirligigs and Swizzlefodder. The former named itself after spinning props, which they used as adornments for their rehearsal space. The latter got its name from a quote in a 1930s slapstick: “I think it’s all poppycock and swizzle-fodder.” Swizzlefodder debuted with a New Year’s Eve show at a SE dive, the Garlic Gulch.

The January 1991 showcase turned into a three-act event, where Swizzlefodder went on first with a 20-minute set, followed by the live debut of The Whirligigs. Then came Squiggly Wigglies, whose set included a mix of Sharkie originals, covers of select art-rock faves (XTC, Gentle Giant, Sparks), and free-form jams.

The Wigglies arrangements now consisted of jerky beats, bleeping synths, arpeggiated xylophone/piano runs, and vibrato-laden guitar/banjo licks. Sharkie’s hiccuping, Ferry-esque phrasing traded off with Giddy’s high-pitched scat singing. Bridges and interludes were typically played in odd meters like 7/8 and 5/4.

One number debuted that night was “Eye Popping Psychosis,” a jittering xylophone rocker set to lyrics that Sharkie described as a Cubist poem. Their show drew an over-capacity crowd and got coverage on the local news. As Doyle later remarked, “when I looked across the queue, that was the first time I saw zolos that I hadn’t already met.”


  • “Fizgig” / “Flora’s Secret” (1991)
  • “Eye Popping Psychosis” / “Boogaloo” (1991)
  • “Jolt and Swing” / “Una Can’t Deve” (1992)
  • “Time In Eversion” / “Inversion/Eversion” (1992)


  • Discogs: Squiggly Wigglies

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