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Slint
Spiderland
The album cover for 1991's Spiderland,
depicting all four members at the time.
Background information
Also known as Small Tight Dirty Tufts of Hair
Origin Louisville, Kentucky, USA
Genres Post-Rock, Math Rock, Post-Hardcore
Years active 1986 – 1990, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, 2013 - 2014
Labels Touch and Go Records, Jennifer Hartman Records
Associated acts Watter, Bush League, Maurice, Squirrel Bait, King Kong, The For Carnation, Evergreen, The Breeders, Palace Brothers, Dead Child, Interpol, Solution Unknown, Papa M, Tortoise, Zwan, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Royal Trux
Website Slint's Official Page

Slint were an American rock band originating from Louisville, Kentucky. Forming in 1986 the band had prior experiences performing in hardcore and punk bands, with their musical sound shifting more into sounds resembling math-rock and post-hardcore, with spoken word word vocals complimenting intricate and complex music. Though largely unknown during their original run the band would gain a major cult following well after their break-up in 1990.

Slint are best known for their 1991 album Spiderland that would pin them as one of the most influential and far-reaching bands to emerge from the American underground rock community of the 1980s, often frequented as the progenitors of post-rock. Though the band's music heavily influenced that genre, post-hardcore and the Louisville music scene as a whole, Slint's style of music would be influential to all sorts of styles of music as the members went on to independent projects of varying styles.

Slint would also return for a series of reunions in 2005 and 2007 which would be appraised with positive reception, followed by 2013 and 2014 reunions surrounding a reissue of Spiderland and the documentary of the band known as Breadcrumb Trail, directed by Lester Bangs.

HistoryEdit

Before Slint (1983 - 1986)Edit

Prior to the formation of Slint the members of the group had largely been in punk and hardcore bands. Walford and McMahan met in their pre-teens and attended the Brown School, a Louisville public school founded on a pedagogy of self-directed learning.[1] They began performing music together at an early age, forming the Languid and Flaccid with Ned Oldham (later of The Anomoanoan) while still in middle school. In their teens Walford and McMahan played together in the seminal Louisville punk band Squirrel Bait. Walford left the band following their first recording session while McMahan went on to tour and record Squirrel Bait's two albums before the band's dissolution in 1987.[2][3]

Pajo and Walford (and, briefly, McMahan) were in the punk/prog-metal band Maurice with future members of Kinghorse. Maurice shared the stage with many seminal punk bands of that era such as Black Flag and toured with Samhain in 1985. Pajo would also be involved with a hardcore punk band known as Solution Unknown, contributing drums and guitar. After being influenced by the music of the Minutemen, Pajo and Walford's musical direction became too obtuse for the other members of Maurice, who parted ways. Maurice's later material would form the basis of some of Slint's early compositions.

Formation and Tweez (1987 - 1989)Edit

Slint formed in the summer of 1986. Walford and Pajo would be joined by the slightly older Ethan Buckler (Who was eighteen whereas Walford and Pajo were sixteen). Going under the name of "Small Tight Dirty Tufts of Hair", the band's first live performance would take place on 2 November 1986 at a Unitarian Universalist congregation, with most of the audience leaving after the band's first two songs.[4] McMahan would join before the end of the year and the band would rename themselves Slint, the name taken from one of Walford's pet fish.

Slint's first album Tweez would be recorded in the fall of 1987 by Steve Albini, whom the band had chosen because they were fans of Albini's recently defunct group Big Black. Though Slint's members had composed the album's music during rehearsals in Walford's parents' basement, most of the lyrics were created in-studio, and included between-song sound effects and ad-libbed conversations with Albini. During mixdown, Walford requested that Albini "make the bass drum sound like a ham being slapped by a catcher's mitt," and then spilled a cup of tea on Albini's mixing board.[5] Without formal song titles, eight of the album's tracks were named for the band members' parents while the ninth was named for Walford's dog, Rhoda. Once completed, Buckler was dissatisfied with the recordings and left Slint to form the group King Kong, a dance-rock band in the vein of the B-52s. Notably McMahan, Pajo and Walford would contribute to that band's first EP Movie Star which was released in 1989. The band also hosted a release party for Tweez on 1 July 1989 in Chicago which featured King Kong and Jesus Lizard, the latter performing live for the first time.[6][7]

Buckler was soon replaced by bass player Todd Brashear. Slint had hoped that Touch and Go Records would release Tweez, but the band did not hear back from the label. A friend of the group, Jennifer Hartman, paid for the album's release for a tiny run on the imprint Jennifer Hartman Records in 1989, the label's only release. By then the group had returned to the studio with Albini to record two instrumental tracks when a scheduled band had no-showed. Original copies of Tweez included a flyer advertising a 12" single of these songs to be released on Jennifer Hartman but by now the band had succeeded in catching the ear of Touch & Go Records's founder Corey Rusk who agreed to release the group's next album.

In regards to live performances the band largely performed in Louisville, Chicago and even did a short tour in support of Tweez. Slint had managed to share the stage with the likes of Killdozer, Big Black, Urge Overkill, The Jesus Lizard, Crain and King Kong among others.

Spiderland and Dissolution (1989 - 1990)Edit

By the time Tweez was released, most of the group had gone off to college and would return to Louisville during breaks to write and practice new material, occasionally playing live. Returning to the Walfords' basement, the group would spend hours repeating the same guitar riff and then adding in layers of nuance on top of it.[15] After rehearsals, McMahan took practice tapes home and worked on vocals with the use of a 4-track tape recorder. Sitting in his parents' car made it possible to record softly spoken vocals over the band's loud music.[8] After developing these new songs, Slint's members wanted a cleaner sound than that of their first LP and approached Minneapolis producer Brian Paulson who had recorded two albums with Bastro, a group associated with McMahan. On a trip to visit Bastro and Paulson during the recording sessions for their final studio album, Sing the Troubled Beast, McMahan was in a near-fatal car accident. While in the ambulance, a paramedic called in "Code 138" and the immobilized McMahan regained consciousness singing the Misfits song "We are 138." McMahan's brush with death left the young musician feeling depressed, a condition that would affect the recording and aftermath of Slint's next album.

Paulson and Slint met over a weekend to record Spiderland in Chicago. All of the music was recorded live, with vocals overdubbed afterward in no more than two takes and with little to no rehearsal on the part of McMahan. The group used two different microphones to record vocals: one for softer, spoken voices, and one for louder, sung voices. During mixdown, Paulson and the group would try adding different effects, but all these were rejected, resulting in a very pared-down production sound. The day after Spiderland's recording session ended, McMahan checked himself into a mental hospital where he was diagnosed with depression and subsequently left the band. Longtime friend of the band Will Oldham (aka Bonnie "Prince" Billy) took numerous photos of the group as potential album covers. Some of these were taken in a nearby quarry and one was chosen with Slint's four member's heads bobbing above the surface of the water.[9]

Touch and Go would release Spiderland on 27 March 1991, an album unlike anything else that the label had released to date. Slint was to have gone on a European tour after its release, but with the band no longer together, there were no tours, interviews, photo or video shoots to promote the album. Despite this, the album's repute grew and it continued to sell several thousand copies annually in the years following its release, a considerable feat for an indie record by a defunct group and a mystique around the record, and the artists who made it, began to grow.

Slint would briefly reform in 1992 (With Brashear on bass) and again in 1994 (With Tim Huth on bass) but both reunions were short-lived. During this time, Touch and Go Records reissued Tweez in 1993, and in 1994 an untitled 10" EP of the two previously shelved songs recorded between their two albums—one a reinterpretation of "Rhoda" from Tweez, and the other a track called "Glenn".

AftermathEdit

  • Britt Walford would join the Louisville punk/math-rock group Evergreen, contributing to the Pants Off single and the band's eponymous album. Walford would also join the alternative rock group The Breeders under psuedonyms such as "Mike Hunt" and "Shannon Doughton", often performing in a dress. Walford's drumming appears on the Safari EP and the 1990 album Pod. Walford would also contribute to other bands such as King Kong, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Palace Brothers and other local bands but would also take several years away from music. He would briefly be involved with the experimental rock group Watter from 2013 - 2015.
  • David Pajo would briefly join the crossover band Bush League as a drummer, performing on the Fetor and Sicko EPs released in 1991. Pajo would also begin a solo moniker largely known as Papa M (Also known as M, Aerial M and Pajo) starting in 1997. Pajo would also have a prolific and eclectic career beyond his solo endeavors, performing with the likes of Interpol, The For Carnation, Tortoise, Royal Trux, Dead Child, The Op Continental and Zwan to name a few. Pajo would also notably contribute as a guest to the likes of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, The Palace Brothers, King Kong and Goatsnake among others.
  • Ethan Buckler would start the party-rock/alternative rock band King Kong in 1989 after his departure from Slint. The band's first release was the self-release EP Movie Star, which featured the other members of Slint as the backing band. Other members of Slint would appear on several King Kong releases: 1990's Old Man On The Bridge featured artwork by Pajo along with McMahan and Brashear engineering, 1993's Funny Farm featured Walford on keyboards and production, 1994's Hot Dog Days single features Pajo on guitar and drums and 1995's Me Hungry had Pajo on drums.
  • Brian McMahan would start The For Carnation in 1994, a post-rock band that saw him largely as the sole constant, with a frequently rotating lineup. This group would sign with Matador Records, releasing two albums, an EP and a compilation album.
  • Todd Brashear would largely contribute as a guest to the likes of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Brett Eugene Ralph’s Kentucky Chrome Revue and The Phantom Family Halo to name a few. Brashear notably ran a local video rental shop known as Wild & Woolly Video which was active between 1997 and 2015.[10] Brashear would also open a pilates business known as Wild & Woolly Pilates in 2016 which remains active.
  • Spiderland would be considered a seminal work, characterized by dark, syncopated rhythms, sparse guitar lines and haunting subject matter. The record's impact was such that many fans and critics consider it a foundational post-rock album, helping to usher in a new wave of bands seeking a move away from the unfettered aggression of hardcore punk but not its underlying ethic.

Reunions (2005, 2007, 2013, 2014)Edit

Nearly fifteen years after originally disbanding, three members of Slint (Brian McMahan, David Pajo, and Britt Walford) would reunite the band with prolific Louisville bassist Todd Cook filling in the bass role along with a second guitarist in Michael McMahan. The band's first reunion show would take place at The Brown Theatre in Louisville to a sold-out crowd on 22 February 2005.[11] The reunion would surround the 2005 All Tomorrow's Parties (ATP) music festival in Camber Sands, which Slint curated and healined. This performance would take place on 26 February 2005, the band's first ever show outside of the United States. Shows would follow in England, France, Italy and Ireland followed by a short tour of the United States, twenty-one shows in all. The band insisted at the time that this reunion was for the short-term.[12]

Slint's reunion shows would continue in 2007 with the same lineup, built around appearances at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, ATP Don't Look Back in London and Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, all of which having the band performing all of Spiderland, along with the Untitled EP and a brand new song entitled "King's Approach", which remains unrecorded. The band also performed several shows in Europe, The United States and Canada surrounding these days.

Slint would reunite again in 2013 for three shows in England surrounding ATP End of An Era. On 30 January 2014 it would be announced by Touch and Go Records that Spiderland would be reissued in box-set form, with several unreleased demos and bonus tracks, a full re-master and the documentary Breadcrumb Trail directed by Lester Bangs and curated from twelve years of interviews amid tons of archival footage. Several copies of the box set came signed and with a limited repress of the band's 1989 tour t-shirt.[13] The remastered Spiderland also saw a standard CD+DVD and LP+DVD release.

Slint would announce a series of short tours including an appearance at the Louisville-based festival Forecastle. However preceding an East Coast tour would be a live screening of Breadcrumb Trail at Headliners in Louisville circa 14 April 2014, featuring a Q+A with all four members and Lance Bangs.[14] A "secret" show took place in the 200-capacity Nelligan Hall in Louisville on 19 April the next Tuesday, completely sold out.[15] Slint would appear at the 2014 edition of Primavera Sound in Spain and Portugal surrounding a handful of European dates. Following the band's appearance at Forecastle the band would return to Europe for more show appearances, capping off their 2014 reunion run with a string of West Coast dates surrounding an appearance at FYF Fest.

DiscographyEdit

  • Tweez (Studio Album) (1989, Jennifer Hartman Records)
  • Spiderland (Studio Album) (1991, Touch and Go Records)
  • Glenn/Rhoda (EP) (1994, Touch and Go Records)

MembersEdit

  • Brian McMahan - Guitar, Vocals (1986 - 1990, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, 2013 - 2014)
  • David Pajo - Guitar (1986 - 1990, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, 2013 - 2014)
  • Britt Walford - Drums, Guitar, Vocals (1986 - 1990, 1992, 1994, 2005, 2007, 2013 - 2014)
  • Ethan Buckler - Bass (1986 - 1987)
  • Todd Brashear - Bass (1988 - 1990, 1992)
  • Tim Ruth - Bass (1994)
  • Michael McMahan - Live Guitar (2005, 2007, 2013 - 2014)
  • Todd Cook - Live Bass (2005, 2007)
  • Matt Jencik - Bass (2007, 2013 - 2014)

ToursEdit

  • Tweez Tour (1989)
  • Spiderland European Tour (Proposed) (1991)
  • 2005 European Tour (2005)
  • 2005 North American Tour (2005)
  • 2007 Spring European Tour (2007)
  • 2007 North American Tour (2007)
  • 2007 Fall European Tour (2007)
  • 2013 England Shows (2013)
  • 2014 North American Tour (2014)
  • 2014 Spring European Tour (2014)
  • 2014 August European Tour (2014)
  • 2014 West Coast Tour (With Tropical Trash) (2014)

External LinksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Brown School Official
  2. / Vice via Wayback Machine
  3. Pop Matters
  4. / Mog via Wayback Machine
  5. The Guardian
  6. Slint Facebook
  7. Setlist.fm
  8. The Guardian
  9. Dangerous Minds
  10. Courier Journal
  11. Setlist.fm
  12. Descendo
  13. Pitchfork
  14. Doodlehound
  15. Setlist.fm
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