At some point, Cobra Starship mastermind Gabe Saporta is really gonna have to decide if having a keytar player in his band is worth it.
Sure, the keytar is totally awesome — name another instrument good enough for Donald Fagen, Prince and"Weird" Al Yankovic — but in getting to the bottom of the Starship's split with 'tar player Elisa Schwartz (a less-than-harmonious parting of ways involving stolen iPods, clandestine spa sessions and late-night Britney Spears-fueled dance parties) you start to wonder if perhaps Saporta would be better off having never hired a keytar player in the first place.
"The keytar is an integral part if Cobra Starship — and we definitely want to always have one in the band," he said. "But now that all this stuff has come to light ... I've definitely questioned my dedication to the keytar."
Let's get everyone up to speed on just what "stuff" Saporta is referring to. Early Thursday morning, a statement by Saporta — and a lengthy response from Schwartz — began to make the rounds on the Internet. In the statement, Saporta announced that Schwartz was leaving the band "to focus once again on her solo career," calling her "amazingly talented" and thanking her for rocking the keytar "every night" for the band.
Of course, Schwartz saw things a little differently, writing that she didn't leave the band of her own volition, but rather that she was "replaced," and that during her time in Cobra Starship she was subjected to constant verbal abuse and treated like an outsider.
"At one point, everyone was taking digs at me and insulting me and just overall disrespecting me. I was very isolated by the band at that point," she wrote. "They would all hang out together, and then when they saw me, they would say little sarcastic comments or insults, and then just walk away. There was nothing I could do right in their eyes.
"They would all go to sound check and tell me about it when they were already on the stage, because I couldn't handle hanging out with them because of the constant verbal abuse," she continued. "And then I would get screamed at for missing it, when they could have texted me. I was the only person who wasn't allowed to have a friend on the bus, so me and my best friend had to drive behind in a car, while all the bandmembers' girlfriends were staying there."
Schwartz also contends that she's yet to speak with her former bandmates about being replaced, that Cobra Starship continue to write songs and rehearse on equipment that she paid for and that the whole situation has left her disappointed and "deeply saddened."
Not surprisingly, Saporta was itching to respond to all this, detailing a long — and incredibly detailed — list of beefs he and the rest of the Starship had with their former keytarist, starting with her decision to leak his statement to the 'Net in the first place.
"We wrote that statement as a way of announcing that she had left the band, and we sent it to her to take a look at it, and change around whatever she wanted," he said. "But rather than doing that, she posted parts of it online and wrote this response that aired all this dirty laundry. She's forced my hand. If she wants to say she was fired, then I'll have to explain just why we fired her."
All right, then. Saporta explained that his problems with Schwartz started almost from the minute she joined the band, because he said she began to "act in ways people in bands aren't supposed to act."
"She always expected people to carry her stuff for her, she would disappear for the whole day — and go to spas — she would miss sound checks all the time," Saporta said. "I'm sure she felt insecure, she never toured before, and there's a certain way about it ... and she refused to get acclimated to it. Plus some of the guys in the band have a very specific sense of humor, and she would get offended by it. But I personally never subjected her to any verbal abuse. I deny that wholeheartedly."
When the band set out on the Gym Class Heroes' Jerry's Kids Short Bus '06 jaunt, Saporta said Schwartz started inviting strangers onto GCH's bus, which lead to several, uh, awkward situations and some unsanctioned late-night dance parties.
"The Gym Class Heroes were nice enough to let us share their bus, and it's their tour, it's their bus, so none of us were bringing anyone on the bus. But Elisa would bring people on the bus who were lurkers," Saporta said. "Plus, she would turn up Britney Spears and have dance parties each night." After the behavior continued on Cobra Starship's second tour, which resulted in someone absconding with Starship bassist Alex Suarez's iPod, the band stripped Schwartz of all "inviting people on the bus" privileges.
Despite the keytarist's best efforts to convince the group she would change — including writing a nine-page apology letter, according to Saporta — the band decided to part ways with her officially earlier this month.
Saporta said that Schwartz's claims that she never spoke to anyone in the band about her dismissal are bogus, as are her assertions that the band has stolen her equipment ("If she wants her keytar back, it's totally at the Crush Management office right now," he sighed). He's also looking forward to getting the Starship back on the road, with a new keytarist — Victoria Asher — onboard for the ride.
When contacted by MTV News for a rebuttal, Schwartz declined to comment, but she did write in an e-mail that she has not been paid by the band and they have still not returned her keytar. She also maintained that while she was on tour with Cobra Starship, she was treated like "garbage," and that she would really like to tell her story, but didn't want to sound "too negative."
It's a good thing, too. Because we think the good name of the keytar has already been sullied enough by this sordid split. As if Jan Hammer hadn't caused enough damage to its rep already.