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2 YEARS

Drummer for Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Sues After Being Expelled

New lawsuit says that hit indie band is an "oral partnership" that can't simply be broken on other members' whims.

Ariel Pink Stage - P 2012
Getty Images

Drummer Aaron Sperske wants to stop his former band Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti from continuing on without him. Sperske has filed a lawsuit in California federal court against his former bandmates, alleging that they can't simply oust him from the critically praised group thanks to an oral partnership they agreed to in 2008. He's seeking a declaration of his partnership rights and assets.

Band members quarrel with each other all the time. Like with marriages, there's sometimes divorce. If an individual's name also acts as the band name, like the J. Geils Band, that individual can sue to protect his trademark.

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But what about the drummer -- whose beat might be replaceable -- even if Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's first album, ""Before Today," was rated by Pitchfork as the ninth best album of 2010 and the song, "Round and Round," as the best song?

As Ariel Pink gets ready to release its second album "Mature Themes" on August 21, which Sperske says he co-wrote, he's challenging whether the band can survive without him on partnership grounds.

According to the complaint filed in court, he along with Ariel Rosenberg ("Ariel Pink"), Kwang Nam Koh and Kenneth John Gilmore formed the group and entered into an oral partnership in 2008. He says that profits and expenses, including proceeds from live performances and royalties from records, were shared equally.

The group co-existed for a hit first record and a forthcoming second, but around May 15, he says, the other band members attempted to "expel" him while continuing to "use the partnership name and assets to perform live shows, collect income, make arrangements for a national tour beginning in September 2012."

Sperske also says that he hasn't been provided information about those activities and revenues.

The plaintiff doesn't provide too much detail about the discussions that led to the partnership, nor such possibly essential features of the partnership like governance rules and how votes on business decisions are made. But he believes himself to be an equal partner, seeking an undivided 25 percent share of the copyright in songs and the right to profit from other assets of the partnership. Sperske also alleges that his other bandmates have breached a fiduciary duty to him and is seeking $1 million in punitive damages.

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 "Through several years of hard work, travel, rehearsals, live shows, recording, press activities, and the like, the music group rose from relative obscurity at the time that plaintiff joined the group, to international prominence," says the lawsuit. "Despite plaintiff's hard work and diligence, however, Rosenberg, Koh, and Gilmore acted willfully and capriciously to attempt to exclude plaintiff from APHG, in May 2012."

The other members of the band couldn't be reached for comment.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner