Tag Archives: Sub Pop

On and On and On

sdrephxfrt

I wrote another piece for The Boston Phoenix, this time about… Sunny Day Real Estate. Whoda thunk it?

For folks wondering about A) all the reunion hubub and why it’s happening 2) what’s the big deal with the band C) just how the band got back together and 3.14) the details of the reunion and how the seeped online, head over to the article. (I did say I’d write up a little something tracking the whole thing, so there you go… and concise too.)

Big thank yous go out to Marco Collins, Brian Perkins, Davey von Bohlen, Jonathan Poneman, and Jeremy Enigk for the wonderful interviews: I feel like I really got a wide variety of voices that weren’t really heard in the din of the “yaaaay reunion” hollers and usual Q+A with SDRE bandmembers. Not that those aren’t great, just a little familiar. And yes, I traced the reunion meme starting with Mr. Perkins’ initial tweet, and got some pretty great info out of folks for that section… If only I could fit more.

Speaking of fit more, I got a few particularly interesting answers from Jeremy that didn’t fit in with the piece… hopefully I’ll be able to get those out in the near future.

But, enough of that… read on!

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Origin Story

I came across this odd post entitled “The Origin of Emo” on an unusually blank WordPress blog (though the thing appears to be written by a Thom Lloyd, which is the gmail address at the bottom of the article). It’s the only post, and it’s written in a pseudo-term-paper light, with citations that don’t really say much of anything or connote to any one article/book/etc (though some of the names provided can be linked up via a quick search). It’s all very odd.

What’s even odder is Lloyd’s thesis statement on the origin of emo, which he sort of drops in at the end:

Rites of Spring and Sunny Day Real Estate did not start the emo genre.

Eh? Lloyd continues to throw out vague, inconsistencies, many of which I can agree with (genres are a culmination of the sounds that have influenced the bands), and some that are rife for contradiction. Namely the last point:

With all of these factors in place a band and or a label had to start the wheels in motion forming the emo genre.

Huh? Didn’t he just say Rites of Spring did not start emo? And Dischord doesn’t count because emo didn’t rise solely out of it?

This happens to be an ongoing problem with people seeking a solid definition for emo: the fact that the genre/sound exists as a fluid and evolving concept that many individuals ignore simply because of the condescending nature of the term makes it damn hard to tack a pin in it and call it a done day.

But, those irrelevancies aside. Rites are duly credited for starting emo: that’s where the term as a definition for a musical sound came from. Period. Not Husker Du, who Lloyd credits as an important factor. The fact is, Zen Arcade came out after Rites were a fully formed band with an entire pedigree of songs (1984 to be exact). Rites were listening to all sorts of hardcore (nothing I’ve read remotely mentions Husker Du though), and sought to challenge the trends within their own community by embracing a poppier sound. They took from many a British popper: The Buzzcocks are most credited as an influence there. But nothing about Husker Du.

And Lloyd’s idea of indie rock fusing the gap between Rites and Sunny Day is… well, a bit much. Lloyd also calls into play grunge as an important influence on emo and bridging these two bands: hardly. As far as grunge goes, the only role that played was its skyrocketing popularity behind Nirvana led to sale numbers that helped Sub Pop move out of the red zone and avoid bankruptcy so that they could go on and sign SDRE: grunge’s influence on emo is really relevant in a business capacity. Emo was a complete change from grunge, which is why Sunny Day startled so many people in Seattle: it was different. They were different. They took from hardcore, took from bands like Rites, Fugazi, Lungfish, Shudder To Think, and many of the DC bands that Lloyd overlooked. Yes, as Lloyd mentions, there are too many bands to name, and many of them he overlooked when trying to tie these two distinct bands (ROS + SDRE together). Since when do you need to fill in a time blank in terms of bands that came about that were important and led to another important band of the same sound anyway? How many of the new shitgaze (or whatever you want to call them) bands actually took other sounds and used them in their own songwriting? It’s always possible, and often an excellent appeal to change. But I can’t see Vivian Girls having taken lots of notes on IDM when they wrote their fuzzy, 60s surf garage rock sound. (It’s possible, but after the interview where they dissed bands that use a dancey drum beat, I doubt it.)

But there are plenty of bands that “filled in those years.” Just on Dischord there were a bunch (again, Embrace, Happy Go Licky, One Last Wish, Nation of Ulysses, Fugazi, Lungfish, Shudder To Think, Jawbox etc etc). And then there’s Jawbreaker’s take on the sound from DC. And then there’s Drive Like Jehu’s take on the DC sound and it’s impact on the San Diego scene: that whole arty-hardcore-meets-DC-emocore is indebted to the DC scene. Gravity Records, Heroin, Antioch Arrow, etc etc. And all of this in the years between 1984 (Rites of Spring) and 1994 (release of Diary).

That’s a lot of time, and many of these bands aren’t remembered because, in terms of folklore or the progression of a genre, only a few – those considered to be important for one reason or another – are consistently remembered and repeated to the next person, and the next person, and so on and so forth. That is an evolution of a genre, not some influential indie band that has nothing to do with these groups: no offense to The Pixies or Sonic Youth, but those bands hardly share anything with the first wave of emo. And because genres evolve, and many within different spheres and cultures (aka underground or mainstream), it may sound different at different points along the way. So, of course emo sounds different than it did before: it’s not static. Some things grew, other bands made their individual changes, and other bands made changes on other bands’ changes. Though the definition is rather fluid, a general line is fairly recognizable (one that doesn’t exactly include Sonic Youth, who were more no wave affiliated and who’s experimentation is mostly left out of many an “emo” act, or The Pixies, who tend to have a fairly basic pop sound that, as it’s well known, is more a grunge influence than an emo one) and observable.

Kaboom!

I recently uncovered a load of random Sunny Day… well, everything. For example, I’d been trying to find a picture of the infamous Nordstrom ad the band did when they first got together, and the searches would usually be futile. But, with the website sunnydayrealestate.net fixed up, it’s online, as clear as day:

That SDRE ad that was supposed to be a joke... notice the singer they hired on the left

That SDRE ad that was supposed to be a joke (from the band's perspective)... notice the "singer" they hired on the left

The big treasure trove I came upon is thanks to a little hint from Verbicide magazine on Twitter. It lead to enigk.com (as in Jeremy Enigk) which contains a variable treasure trove of little heard songs from their previous incarnations, Jeremy’s solo stuff, live recordings, demo tapes etc. Again, something of a conundrum in many ways, and now that Sub Pop is reissuing their first two albums with a handful of those rare tracks, I’ll probably buy them in a remastered version.

But, all things aside, literally a treasure trove for super-fans, and a lot of the stuff has been online for quite awhile. Sure, The Empty Set and Chewbacca Kaboom didn’t quite have what Sunny Day had (it was the trio of Dan, Nate, and William before Jeremy joined, with various name incarnations before settling on SDRE, starting w/Empty Set and then going to Chewbacca Kaboom), but it’s a fascinating listen nonetheless. And the self-produced Flatland Spider 7″?! That thing isn’t even getting the reissue treatment, which makes it an even more fantastic find.

There is plenty of material on there to keep any super fan happy and overwhelm anyone with a case of the SDRE curiosities. It was also a great reason to delve online, looking for some of the members previous bands. (Reason For Hate anyone? The hardcore band that had Jeremy on guitar and William as part of a drum team bears a resemblance to their later work together only in that it cemented their status of having been reared in hardcore.) May the great finds continue!

Sunny Day Real Estate – “Flatland Spider”:

Reason For Hate – “Kill The Itch”:

Quick Sunny Day Real Estate Reunion Announcement Reflections

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You can say that again Brian!

Our old Twitter buddy dropped the hint back in March about the potential reunion, which I promptly picked up and got a screen shot. One month later and BAM, instant SDRE reunion meme… possibly fueled by the combination of Marco Collins’ tweets and blip.fm entries, Travis Hay’s bit on Collins for the Ear Candy Blog, and whomever combined these elements with my blog entry and Brian’s tweet (jeez, still can’t believe I’m saying stuff like that) into Wikipedia… Actually, methinks it was probably the wikipedia stuff that really spread the word to the blogs and then the bigger blogs.

Well, how does it feel having seen everything come to fruition in sets of 96 hours (the Kollective tweet on Saturday), 48 hours (all the info released on Monday), and 24 hours (the official announcement from Sunny Day Real Estate and Sub Pop)?

Relieved for one thing. I’d come upon this reunion stuff as a fluke, merely searching for “Sunny Day Real Estate” on Twitter when I joined up. But once people flooded the blog and turned my questioning of the possibility of a reunion into a reality, some folks had a stake in my words. It was because of these people that really fueled my interest in (un)covering all the SDRE reunion rumors and facts, not just my own interest as a fan of their work.

When you’re one of two sources that people credit for a rumor, that’s a lot of pressure. No, it’s not like my words potentially saved folks or potentially put people in harms way, but diehard fans sought it out and put their faith in these words. And that’s a bit scary and a big responsibility in and of itself, especially speaking from a fan’s point of view. In that, I’m glad it’s all come to fruition. Not only because I’d like to see SDRE, but because those who’d opened up their calendars for a potential concert date, who may have saved up vacation time or allowance money, who have re-injected LP2 or How It Feels To Be Something On or Diary or, hell, The Rising Tide into their listening cycle, were clinging to a couple of paragraphs of unconfirmed internet chatter about their favorite band. And for them, I hope it’s everything they’ve wanted.

Be on the lookout for a more detailed overview of how everything has come to fruition with the Sunny Day Real Estate reunion, a reflection on the rumors that have cropped up, and the reunion debate that’s been tossed around in the general music scene.

Tracking the SDRE Rumors

So, months after my first post on a potential Sunny Day Real Estate reunion, and having recently come to realize how much of a hoopla my words have caused and the potential anguish I could cause in many an SDRE fan, and the reunion rumors are still bubbling. A little while after some newer rumors declared that Sunny Day might be performing at Bumbershoot, I’ve decided to help folks navigate all the newest rumors out there. So without further ado, here goes:

On May 20th, Dusty Henry reviewed Jeremy Enigk‘s show at Neumo’s in Seattle for The Falcon. Henry had this little tidbit to add to the rumor mill:

Throughout the evening, diehard fans would request Sunny Day Real Estate and The Fire Theft songs. Enigk denied, saying he would not play any of those songs.

When someone requested the Sunny Day Real Estate song “Television,” he started to sing the first few lines of the song a cappella then stopped and said, “I won’t play that song. I’d need a full band for that song.”

He then went on to say, “I don’t know. I have heard some rumors,” and then intentionally mumbled and laughed.

Does it mean anything? Well, it certainly helps provide those diehards and hopeful fans with some oil for their reunion-dreaming machine’s gears…

I tried to take things up on my own and email one of the places that might be a location for the potential reunion: Bumbershoot. I emailed the general info line, but instead of asking “will SDRE be performing at Bumbershoot?!?!?!??!!?!?!?!!!” I asked when the last additions to the festival’s lineup will be announced. Here’s what I got as a response:

We will continue to make lineup announcements into the summer. To receive
the most up-to-date information about all things Bumbershoot, including
lineup announcements and Insider Deals on tickets, please be sure to sign
up as a BumberFan. It’s free and easy!
You can sign up at:
http://www.bumbershoot.org/bumberfan/

BumberFans are the first to know about lineup announcements. Its the best
way to stay informed about who will be coming to the Festival.
Hope this is helpful and we hope to see you this Labor Day Weekend!

-Bumbershoot

So, unless an official announcement is made by someone at the Sunny Day camp anytime soon, fans may have to wait until September to see if the Bumbershoot rumors are true. And it may be in your best interest just to sign up rather than check on the Bumbershoot site day in and day out… if that’s what you’ve been doing since that particular rumor came to fruition. As of now, nothing on the site about SDRE performing on the first weekend in September.

Which brings us to the original rumor mill for the recent rumors: Twitter.

Not only Twitter, but, yes, good ole’ SDRE-reunion-rumor-guy Marco Collins. Though this tweet was deleted from his profile, it’s somehow still searchable on Twitter:

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Curious and curiouser… The “fiction” is probably in reply to the recent Bumbershoot rumors, as in there would be announcement relatively soon. However, Collins appears to not be avoiding the idea entirely, as he says the band mentioned they were in… Then again, they could have been pulling his leg.

Collins and his recipient, TylerBlue, have deleted all tweets of the nature concerning SDRE. But why did TylerBlue, aka Tyler McPherson, get rid of any scent of this SDRE reunion back-and-forth? Take a look at his profile:

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The SDRE reunion-rumor hunting may not have been in his best interest as a Bumbershoot intern… I just hope this post won’t jeopardize any of the work he’s doing, but I feel curious people really aught to know!

The next connection is a bit of a round-about-combo. The Ear, Eye, Nose Candy Blog recently had an insider look at another emo band’s reunion: The Jealous Sound. Here’s the info there:

Star Parts drummer and good friend Tom Ackerman mentioned to me recently that he was offered the chance to audition for a Jealous Sound reunion, drum spot…what that ultimately is a reunion for, is a possible Sunny Day Real Estate reunion tour.

But what’s the connection between The Jealous Sound and Sunny Day Real Estate? Well, it could be original SDRE bassist Nate Mendel. Nate did not return for the original SDRE reunion in 1997, and made the hard decision to stay in Foo Fighters instead of trying to juggle both bands. For those who scanned Brian Perkin‘s Twitter after I posted his tweet on the SDRE rumor may have found that post deleted, but this one still online:

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And it remains online. And though it is summer and no tour dates have been announced, there is still something of a connection. What is it exactly? Enter Rory Felton, who had this to say:

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So it appears that, at least according to Felton, Nate is working with the Jealous Sound on their new record and an exciting tour announcement soon. Considering Mendel is rumored to be involved in the rumored Sunny Day reunion, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to see them tour together. Conspiracy? Wishful thinking? Probably the later. And considering it sounds like The Jealous Sound may, in fact, be reuniting (at least, according to their myspace post and a bunch of blogs), I’ve certainly got my fingers crossed…

The last piece of reunion snooping comes in the form of a tweet from Lee Martin, a website developer for bands who’s worked with another emo act – Jimmy Eat World. Which makes me wonder what this means:

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Are Sunny Day Real Estate setting up a website with the help of Martin? Well, considering that the only current websites available for the band are: 1) a rarely updated fan site, 2) a fan-created MySpace page, and 3) their Sub Pop site that hasn’t been updated since their last album was released on the label – their live album. In this day and age, it certainly would be beneficial for a band to get some properly-updated website in order…

Again, this may all be wishful thinking on my part, but the more you dig, the more hopeful one can get…

We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks and months; as I said before, I hope no one gives their hopes up, but digging sure has proven to be interesting…

Don’t (Touch and) Go

From the looks of a post early in the day by Stereogum, one would have thought it was the end of the aural world for fans of underground music. Although the reports later in the day dismissed the rumors that Touch and Go Records was finished; instead, the still dreadful news that the label will no longer be able to distribute the collections of numerous smaller labels and will be letting go of  20-person staff. Here is label head Corey Rusk’s statement:

“It is with great sadness that we are reporting some major changes here at Touch and Go Records. Many of you may not be aware, but for nearly 2 decades, Touch and Go has provided manufacturing and distribution services for a select yet diverse group of other important independent record labels. Titles from these other labels populate the shelves of our warehouse alongside the titles on our own two labels, Touch and Go Records, and Quarterstick Records.

Unfortunately, as much as we love all of these labels, the current state of the economy has reached the point where we can no longer afford to continue this lesser known, yet important part of Touch and Go’s operations. Over the years, these labels have become part of our family, and it pains us to see them go. We wish them all the very best and we will be doing everything we can to help make the transition as easy as possible.

Touch and Go will be returning to its roots and focusing solely on being an independent record label. We’ll be busy for a few months working closely with the departing labels and scaling our company to an appropriate smaller size after their departure. It is the end of a grand chapter in Touch and Go’s history, but we also know that good things can come from new beginnings.”

This is a big news story in many circles, and not just music fans. Touch and Go will be known for its service of providing and fostering a wealth of great artists, be they Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Slint, TV on the Radio, Ted Leo, Pinback, !!!, Polvo, Bedhead, Naked Raygun, The Meatmen, Yeah Yeah Yeahs…. the list could go on.

Touch and Go logo

Touch and Go logo

In many ways, Touch and Go is a representation of a narrative of a time since passed, having turned from a seminal hardcore zine into a full-fledged independent label breaking some of the hottest oddball bands from the 80s until today… it grew to a tremendous point for a small operation, and without the need for “world domination” ideals and hype-mongering use and abused by what is arguably the other “big” independent American label today, Sub Pop. Despite it’s operation, Touch and Go remained in a low-down mindset similar to Dischord that was more about fostering a community than forwarding some music revolution agenda… no wonder Ted Leo found it to be a great place to call home.

Today’s event is remarkable only because whatever the mish-mash of events – be it the recession or downloading, etc – this is the first big-name, independent label that’s been hit in ways that hasn’t been publicized… meanwhile, it’s nothing but Armageddon talk with the majors. But unlike the majors, Touch and Go isn’t primarily a business, in that it’s all about the benjamins… it still sticks to its guns and original notions of putting out music. The changes at the label seem to be on level with that occurring at newspapers nationally, though with potentially better prospects: during boom-times, these entities grew to enormous proportions to fill a potential want/need, but now that there is no necessary need or ability to cover it, they must withdraw from their growth a little and focus on regrouping and the very idea holding their entity together. In the case of newspapers, it’s keeping the public informed; in the case of Touch and Go, it’s keeping the public artistically and musically endowed.

Obviously, the big loss is to all those labels who no longer have the distribution network and base that Touch and Go has/had. In years past, this could (and did) kill off many a smaller label, as record stores were a predominant method of selling music. However, with the tight network of online sales, the decline of record stores… this part basically writes itself. Still, some of the smaller labels might be in harms way. Perhaps not Jade Tree, the emo label that came to fruition in the 90s and brought emo acts such as The Promise Ring (who inversely helped bring Jade Tree some cred, as an earlier post states), Cap’n Jazz, Lifetime, Jets to Brazil, Texas is the Reason, as well as other bands such as… My Morning Jacket. Perhaps other labels like Kill Rock Stars, Merge, and Drag City may survive on their own. But what about Flameshovel, home to post-emo-ers Maritime? How about Robcore, home to Rob Crow’s 5,031 side projects? What will they do? Perhaps Southern Records, the European label of independent choice that has been helping small time record labels (notably Dischord) with distribution in Europe, could pick up key missing pieces. At this point, it’s too soon to tell… but hopefully, something will come to fruition for these tiny labels.

TV on the Radio – “Dreams” (video):

Lionize the Losers

The NFL regular season wound down yesterday, which left me pretty excited seeing as the Baltimore Ravens have made the playoffs and have a pretty good chance of taking their season beyond their Wild Card spot. The Detroit Lions have finally gotten national attention where there was none previously by becoming the 1st team to go 0-16 since the season was expanded from 14 to 16 games. Just as the Patriots were celebrated for their undefeated regular season last year (which we all know the ending of), the Lions have gained a bit more publicity than any other season in the past decade… and they go out without tarnishing their defeated season as the Pats did last year (tarnish depends on your perspective of the Pats from the fan’s seat).

There’s something so endearing about the state of teams/players in competitive sports, where the losers get just as much attention and adoration as the winners do. Even in a state of mind where there can only be one winner, there are so many stories that fill a season/year, because otherwise, we might just be bored with the competition. But the “loser” narrative is so intriguing, mostly because it isn’t celebrated by its fans.

In music, there’s nothing quite like it. Sure, “loser” became a catchall term for the grunge/alternative scene of the early 90s, epitomized by Sub Pop’s flagrant hype machine printing out t-shirts of the term by the truckload.

But the question I’m thinking of remains: who celebrates a “loser” band, aka a bad band? No one would willingly plunk down any money to go see a band they absolutely hate (never mind one’s own limits for spending money on bands one likes). But there must be some celebrated band that people love to hate, and I’m not talking just Nickelback (they still manage to sell millions of albums and play amphitheaters). I’m talking a band that sucks so much that people off all backgrounds detest them with the mightiest passion, hate every song, buy their merch just to burn it. Methinks – and probably because the underlying subject of this blog might tip it off – of an emo band immediately, as there have been hundreds of thousands of bands to soil the name of the genre in no time. But nothing stands out in particular, and even what I feel are the most idiotic and contemptuous emo groups have their own devoted, rabid fanbase, ready to tear apart haters at a moments notice. But there must be one out there…

So where is this mythologically bad band?
I can only think of Manowar, but come on, their whole package is too hilarious… or maybe that’s the right qualification…