Volume 93, Issue 33

Thursday, October 28, 1999


Square Root keeps adding up

Superchunk still smiles

Watt charges up the Office audience

Air shows Symptomes of greatness

Superchunk still smiles

Photo by Claire Ashby
AND IN OUR SPARE TIME WE BUILD GAZEBOS. North Carolina natives (and all-purpose handymen) Superchunk bring their pop-infused sound to the Embassy on Monday.

By Shawn Despres
Gazette Staff

Superchunk has a lot to smile about.

At the top of the list is the celebration of their 10th anniversary together as a band and a label. Looking back over their decade in music, guitarist Jim Wilbur says the band wouldn't have done anything different.

"No, I wouldn't make any changes. I remember back in the early '90s when lots of indie bands were signing to major labels. We refused to do this because it didn't look like a wise business decision," he states.

"Around a year later we were questioning whether not signing was a smart move, but looking back I'm glad we didn't. I think that if we had signed a major deal we wouldn't still be together, considering that most of our friends that signed to the majors have since broken up."

Ignoring the call of the majors has suited the band well, having spent most of the last 10 years basking in the adoration of both fans and critics. One of their earliest singles, "Slack Motherfucker," was recently ranked 19th in Spin Magazine's "Top 20 Singles of The Decade Poll." They have managed to release seven full length studio albums, as well as create and manage Merge Records, their successful indie label.

When asked about Merge, Wilbur says the band enjoys being involved in both sides of the music industry. "I'm glad we run our own label. Doing something like this is not good for all bands, but it works well for us," he says. "It's kind of like a marriage. It takes a lot of work, but it is work that is rewarding in the end."

Originally, due to financial constraints, Merge only released the band's 7-inch singles, while Matador released their full albums, but by 1994 the band was releasing all of their domestic music through Merge.

When discussing their latest release on the label, Come Pick Me Up, Wilbur is quick to say it's the most hook-heavy Superchunk record to date. "I think that this is definitely our catchiest album. When we were making it I thought this would be the Superchunk album my sister would like because she doesn't like loud rock music," Wilbur explains. "Our music has gradually progressed over the years as our recording budgets have grown."

Some critics have called the new record challenging. While Wilbur doesn't entirely agree, he can see where this standpoint comes from. "Most people have said that it took them four or five listens to get into the album. I prefer it this way because the longer it takes you to appreciate something the less likely it is you will forget about it in a couple of weeks," he continues.

"We've always tried to make dense records. With all of the layers and different textures on this album it takes a couple of listens and maybe some headphones to be able to hear everything."

According to Wilbur, one of the keys to Superchunk's longevity has been diversity and their constant devotion to ensuring their live shows aren't just a mirror of their albums.

"We definitely don't want things to get stale. That's why we make albums that would be difficult to re-create live. We don't want our live show to sound identical to our record and vice versa."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999