TWO DECADES OF… Superchunk!

With a
high-profile Hopscotch Festival appearance this week and a key reissue out next
week, let’s take a look at the veteran indie band’s trajectory to date.

 

BY JOHN B. MOORE

 

    Superchunk, the poster children for the DIY indie scene,
have been together now for over 20 years. To put that in perspective, a band
like Blink-182 has formed, managed to violate the entire genre of pop-punk,
broken up and already cashed in their reunion chip in the same timeframe. To celebrate
the band’s ninth record Majesty Shredding, released last spring, and an expanded reissue of 1994’s Foolish, due out next week (both on
Merge), longtime members Jon Wurster and Jim Wilbur were kind enough to walk us
down memory lane to flag a few of the band’s high and low points. (Superchunk
performs Sept. 8 in Atlanta and then again Sept.
10 in Raleigh
as part of the Hopscotch Festival – 6:45, City Plaza Stage, prior to the
Flaming Lips’ set; details at the band’s website or at the Hopscotch site.)

 

THE
HIGHS

 

Sleeping
In Hotels

JON: We used to sleep on a lot of floors in strangers’
houses when we toured. I remember when we started making enough money to get
hotels, but we never did because we were so cheap. But we finally had enough bad
experience that we were like, Fuck this. Let’s get a hotel and from that point
there was no turning back.

JIM: Jon kind of melts down when he doesn’t get his sleep
and that’s totally understandable.

JON: If the drummer’s not rested, so goes the ship.

 

Lollapalooza

JON: I remember the last show we did on Lollapalooza and it
was in Raleigh
at a big amphitheater and for some reason the circumstances were great for
that. We played really well and the crowd was great and the sun was coming down
and it was perfect. That’s the first show that comes to mind when I think of
just a great show. I think it’s always exciting on the way up. You never know
what’s going to happen next.

 

Meeting
Mike Watt

JIM: We got to play three shows with fIREHOSE early, early
on because we had the same booking agent and I was a huge Minutemen fan and
Watt was just a super nice guy. He covered our song “Slack Motherfucker” and I
never would have imagined that I would ever meet these guys on a semi-peer
level.

 

The California Crew

JIM: There was this posse of people from California that flew around and came to
every West Coast show and they weren’t creepy, they were just really nice
people. They weren’t stalking; we’d just see them everywhere.

 

Not
Working For The Man

JON: Before I joined this band, right out of high school I
was in this band that had signed to a major record label and there was so much
red tape involved in that world and it was so hard to do anything. When I got
out of that band and joined Superchunk, I was just amazed at how easy it was to
do things: tour and record. I had forgotten how things could work. We get to do things we want to do, when we want to do
it, on our own terms.

 

THE
LOWS

 

Sleeping
On Floors

JON: The last really hardcore floor sleeping tour we did was
just before the On the Mouth tour
(1993).  I remember sleeping in a
student’s apartment in Bloomington,
IN, and we were all in the same
room with our heads a foot from the cat litter box. I think you slept in the
closet, Jim. 

JIM: I did! I remember it was so cold; it was in the winter,
so in the morning I got up and slept in the van. It was freezing cold, but it
was better than that Godforsaken hole we were in.

 

Hello, São Paulo!

JIM: I remember the first time we were going to Brazil. We were
like, “Oh great, Brazil!”
The first show was in the suburbs of São
Paulo in this concrete room and in the backstage there
was a guy living there. Kind of squatting backstage and he was frying fish and
it was just surreal. The stage was plywood on milk crates, so it was wobbly and
there was water on the stage and electrical wires hanging down from the ceiling
and we were like, “Why have we come this far to be playing in a death trap?” 

 

The
Tour That Wouldn’t End

JON: I think the lowest for me was the tour we did with Seam.
It was so bad that Jim carried the itinerary in his wallet for a solid 10
years.

JIM: It was the first time we had been in a bus and it was a
really bad bus. There were 12 beds and 13 people on it and it was winter time
and cold and I don’t remember exactly why it sucked so bad. It was seven weeks,
which felt like forever. And I did keep the itinerary on me for a decade and
I’d pull it out whenever I felt bad and I’d look at it and immediately feel
better.

 

We’re
Playing With Who?

JON: We did a show in France with Sugar Ray. Before they
hit it big.

JIM: It was right when they were becoming huge, but no one
had heard of them where we played, but within a month they were gigantic.

JON: On my deathbed, I will remember two songs that were on
their set list: “Sgt. Hulka” and “Danzig Needs a Hug.” That’s burned into my
memory somehow.

 

Fighting
With The Audience

JIM: We had a creepy guy in Denmark, again on that Seam tour;
it was at some failed experimental living community. And this guy was just
wigged out on something and fucking with us.

JON: I attacked him and then they threw him out, but he was
there again at the end of the show. When we asked why they let him back they said,
“We can’t really throw him out because he lives here in the venue.”

JIM: There was also a guy in Knoxville – at the Ace of Clubs – it was when
Polvo was playing, and this guy was just standing in the crowd and he was
pinching Mac’s [McCaughan] butt and throwing ashtrays around. He was starting
to screw around with Mac, so Jon and I dragged this guy backstage and threw him
against the bathroom door, which Laura [Ballance] was emerging from at that
moment and she got pushed back into the bathroom while we were jacking him. We
weren’t hurting him, but just yelling at him. He got thrown out and I think he
called in a bomb threat.

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