October 14, 2009

Brendan Benson covers Superdrag


There are certain songs that I wouldn’t necessarily call guilty pleasures, because they are well-written pop songs, but rather — it never stops feeling somehow indulgent to enjoy their toe-tapping majesty this much.

The amp-kicking Superdrag hit “Sucked Out” (from 1996′s Regretfully Yours) remains a song I still like to hear, and when Brendan Benson covered it last week for his Daytrotter session, I was delighted. Benson and Superdrag share similar songwriting chops in consistently solid pop genius, oft-overlooked.

This is a song that Benson has been covering live in concert this summer, and it’s nice to have a clean recording (for free, at that!). The session also gives us three songs from his current album My Old, Familiar Friend (including the creepy melancholy of “Feel Like Taking You Home”).

Sucked Out (Superdrag cover) – Brendan Benson

Download the rest of the free Brendan Benson Daytrotter session here.

-The Fuel/Friends Superdrag interview
-The recent Superdrag Daytrotter session (the original drawing for which was, incidentally and awesomely, modelled after this picture of mine. Hey!)

November 20, 2008

Superdrag return with Industry Giants

Filthy & Afraid (Stealth Mix D) – Superdrag

Superdrag has announced the title of their first full studio album with the original line-up of Coffey, Davis, Fisher, and Pappas since 1998′s Head Trip In Every Key. I’ve not heard the whole album yet, but rumor has it that Industry Giants will “rock harder than Superdrag has ever been known to rock before.” So they tell me. The good-hearted John Davis says, “I can’t wait to get the record out. I can’t wait for people to hear it. I wish it could come out tomorrow.”

Produced by John Davis (whose solo work I seriously dig of late) and recorded & mixed in Nashville, Knoxville, and LA, the album is out on Superdrag Sound Laboratories / Thirty Tigers (Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Avett Brothers, Samantha Crain) on March 17.

[my pic above, Tom Pappas airborne at Monolith 2008]

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September 18, 2008

Saturday :: Monolith under gorgeous blue skies (which turned upon us but we almost didn’t care)

Saturday was the start of the Monolith Festival and we were ready. The morning dawned perfect and gorgeous (and by dawned I mean 10am) and our parking lot tailgate went off without a hitch. Well, some hitches. We forgot utensils to flip burgers with and so mix CDs were sacrificed to the angry Weber gods.

I’d never heard New Zealand’s The Veils before, so their set was the perfect way to start a weekend designed for new musical discoveries. Silhouetted against the massive Ship Rock on the New Belgium Stage, their set impressed me with chimey notes, a bluesy groove, and Morrissey-esque vocals. I learned that the band Travis was instrumental in originally signing them to the Rough Trade label, where their latest album Nux Vomica was released in 2006.

Advice For Young Mothers To Be – The Veils

After the Veils it was off to the WOXY stage down in the inner bowels of the Red Rocks Visitors Center. So many of us never even knew that stages could fit down there, but fit they somehow did. Pictured below is the box o’ fun that Port O’Brien brought their pots and pans and lids and wooden spoons in for the riotous closer to their set. Alaskan Adventures indeed. Their set was a definite standout of the entire weekend for me, moving from a strong rootsy vibe to chaotic joy, all interlaced with phenomenal melodies. Just to give them that extra punch of alt-country cred, they actually have a guy in the band (guitar) named Zebedee Zaits. I would see them again live absolutely, and their All We Could Do Was Sing album may be on my tops list this year.

I Woke Up Today – Port O’Brien

After hearing stories from several friends and relatives who actually have travelled to faraway cities to see Superdrag on their current club reunion tour, I was excited to finally be getting to see them for myself. Their set was relentless and rocking and still felt very vital. I’d love to find a way to bring them back to Denver to pack a small sweaty club of our own. They played a varied set drawing from the range of past albums and ace new tunes like “Filthy and Afraid.” And you know what I have to admit? It was more fun than I thought it would be to sing along and wonder just who exactly sucked out the feeling.

Filthy and Afraid – Superdrag

From Melbourne Australia, Cut Copy‘s mainstage set was some of the most fun I had all day, unexpected in the bright daylight. Their synthy alternative indie-dance sound bounced around off the massive rocks flanking the crowd and funnelled all that energy back into the writhing masses. Some of the most enthusiastic dancing I saw all day took place at this show (probably because folks had room to dance — in contrast to their labelmates The Presets whose later set downstairs was so crowded that the fire marshals came to remove a few of us).

Feel The Love – Cut Copy

Shortly before Holy Fuck took the New Belgium Stage around 5pm, my friends and I decided that every time someone says their band name, either an angel dies or the baby Jesus cries. I also feel like I need to call and apologize to my mom. But none of that is relevant to the soaring sounds that they send shooting out from their huddled mass of collective intensity on stage. Their set was very similar to the one I saw at Coachella, down to closing with the magnificent “Lovely Allen,” and I remain fascinated by their blend of electronic sounds with completely real rock.

Lovely Allen – Holy Fuck

AND! These videos that I shot both give me a delicious frisson of delight down my spine:



The Night Marchers came from nowhere (okay, San Diego) and blew me away with their filthy retro garage rock. A friend mentioned that I should check out this group fronted by Rocket From The Crypt’s John Reis — and after hearing their tunes alternate between punk, surf and straight up devil’s apocalypse, I was glad I heeded his call.

I Wanna Deadbeat You – The Night Marchers

White Denim was simply insane, like someone reincarnated Jimi Hendrix and we were gonna get the guitar-lighting festival moment all over again. Hard to believe it’s just a handful of skinny young guys, but they sounded blow-your-hair-back good (and loud!). I felt fortunate to see them on the small WOXY stage because they could be playing much larger venues in no time.

Paint Silver Gold – White Denim

I will admit that there are others who know much more than I do about Minneapolis duo Atmosphere and their glass house of dark hip hop, but I do know that I was mesmerized by the girls in the front row who kept lifting out their bare breasts and vigorously shaking them at the guys. I mean, like Motley Crue action going on at my very own indie rock festival. I was so proud. And no, I didn’t get pictures.

Devotchka was dizzying and musically dazzling as usual (even as sleety rain spat down on us), and it felt fitting to have a Denver band headline the main stage on opening night. Amidst instruments wrapped in christmas lights, and theatrically keening melodies played on exotic instruments, the crowd warmly received these hometown indie-gypsies.

…But my favorite show of the late-night set came from Denver’s slightly-less-well-known musical collective, the multiple membered Everything Absent Or Distorted. As if the band name wasn’t enough of a mouthful (go ahead. say EAOD. we do), they pack enough random musicians onstage that their near-midnight set on one of the underground stages seemed like we just crashed band practice amongst friends. As a late addition to the Monolith schedule, not many folks found this show. But I was glad I peeled myself away from the end of Devotchka’s set to see them leap and twist and yell and play.

Reprising a collaboration from the Underground Music Showcase last month, they finally launched into a cover of this song with an unbounded, melodic ferocity — and I almost busted a spleen from singing along:

Glad Girls – Guided By Voices

Passion Pit came and Passion Pit played that dang song which the moment I even think about it (like oh! right now! it’s happening right now) it starts looping in my head like someone implanted a tiny robot to sing it in there. I can hear it clear as day. They kicked off the Saturday night afterparty and shortly after, I kicked off some wandering and drinking and talking, and oh there was an unexpected limo ride involved. So it is with my apologies that my reporting back dwindles to a close here for Saturday at Monolith.

But oh! We had a whole ‘nother day of fun to come. We’re just getting started.

Sleepyhead – Passion Pit

PS – I saw lots of other bands that I am too overwhelmed to write coherently about, but notably The Muslims (what Chris wrote was both true and more punctual since he blogged when I was off sleeping instead) and The Morning Benders were really grand. See everyone from Saturday: Part One, Part Two

[Superdrag setlist photo credit the formidable John Moore]

May 16, 2008

Superdrag is both filthy and afraid

Back in the studio since February, Knoxville’s Superdrag has loosened another new song upon the music world, this time over on the Gibson guitars site. Although a release date for the new album has not yet been set, Superdrag is playing a few West Coast dates in the coming weeks, then Bonnaroo this summer and, of course, Monolith.

According to frontman John Davis, the new material keeps it tight with the sound Superdrag fans love, described as “an amalgam of Dinosaur Jr.-inspired guitar noise, Hüsker Dü-style energy, and melodies that aspire toward the pop sophistication of the Beatles.” Davis also talks about how good it is to get to experiment again with the interlocking guitar parts that they pride themselves on, and to be making new music together — “to step right back into that, after all this time.”

As for me, the addictive melody here is stuck firmly in my cortex (or wherever really good songs loop on repeat and make you hum them for the last 24 hours). The rough edged Teenage-Fanclubesque vocals on this cut make me feel happy, and not at all filthy, nor afraid.

Filthy & Afraid – Superdrag

Read the full article here, and then if you’re feeling inspired, you can also go back and check out the Fuel/Friends interview with John Davis (Oct 2007).

Catch Superdrag on Saturday afternoon at Monolith, come September.

[thanks Lauren!]

December 19, 2007

Two brand new songs from Superdrag!

Superdrag fans have been lying awake at night for the past four years on their Stratocaster-print pillowcases, tossing and turning while they ponder the aborted run of this fine Knoxville band, wondering to themselves what kind of songs may still have been nestled within them when the final incarnation of the band split in 2003.

Today, they wait no more.

Superdrag has recently reformed in their original lineup and posted two brand new songs on their MySpace page this morning with the session information listed as “4-Track 2007.” I am very excited by how good these sound. This first track preserves the classic Superdrag sound — fuzzy guitars, clattery drums and edgy-but-perfect harmonies. Plus John Davis uses the word “immolate” which makes the vocabulary freak in me do a little jig. Somewhere his high school English teacher is smiling.

I Only Want A Place I Can Stay – Superdrag

One other track (the hazier resistance of “Live and Breathe”) is streaming at www.myspace.com/superdragofficial. Let’s all go tell em how happy we are to hear them back again.

[img credit]

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October 23, 2007

Time for one more drag :: Interview with John Davis of Superdrag

Fuel readers, you guys are lucky today to get an interview conducted by my new special correspondent in the field. It’s an on-site, in-depth chat with Superdrag frontman John Davis at the latest reunion show in Chicago. Brian London is a musician friend of mine in the California Bay Area, and he has been a fan of Superdrag for a long and very intense time.

I sent Brian out armed with a tape recorder and his encyclopedic memory, and he turned in a really interesting look at the music of John Davis and reunited Superdrag (together again in the original lineup for the first time in 8 years), with enough arcane contextual history in the questions to make even the jaded chuckle at this enthusiasm. Remember, for the full stereophonic experience, you can click the little blue arrows next to the songs embedded throughout to listen as you read, and make sure to dig the zip file of all the tunes at the end. Enjoy.


BL: So the guitars are tuned, amps are humming, Don counts it in for the first rehearsal in eight years — what was the first song you guys played back together?

JD: Slot Machine into Phaser.

Awesome. Did you just kinda look around and let out a grin?

That’s pretty much exactly what I did. Man, we were so fired up to be doing this. I was talking to someone earlier about this and I was saying that I wasn’t really worried about us pulling the set together. That actually was the least of my worries because while there are some songs in the show that we never played on stage with this lineup, and some songs come from the third album [In The Valley of Dying Stars] which Tom wasn’t even in the band when we recorded, there are songs that we literally played hundreds of time together on stage. It really becomes a very limited process of having to re-learn something like that. It was pretty weird actually how well it jived right off the bat, but it really was just like you described. We were all just so excited to get into it.

The progression from your last solo record (John Davis 2005) and into your new solo effort Arigato! (2007), seems to be a sound and energy that gels really well with the early Superdrag vibe. Would it be fair to say that that sound is where your head is at musically these days?

I think the first solo album I did in retrospect was me trying to push my writing in directions that I had never done before. I think it can be good for a person who produces any kind of art to every once in a while step back from what your default deal is and try to push yourself outside of that.

It sounded like you were starting to push the walls of the Superdrag sound certainly with the 2nd record, and with demos like “Doctors Are Dead.”

It is still just rock n roll and pop music. I mean, its not like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless where there seems to be no precedent set before or since. It was just guys who bought Jazz Masters and learned to bend and hit chords at the same time and loved playing together.

But getting back to the first solo record, there seemed to a more rootsy, piano-led vibe. That record really turned out exactly the way that I had wanted. I would have liked more people to know about it, but it was kind of, on one level, ideologically swimming upstream, and on the flip side stylistically it was swimming upstream in accordance to what prevails in “Christian music.” “Christian” anything really is an irrelevant way to approach the Gospel anyway because it is not mean to be under glass.

The irrelevance of questions like “what does Christian music really sound like?” becomes apparent when referring to a piece of art like your first record because on one hand anyone who likes well-crafted rock n roll can get into it, and on the other someone seeking for a sympathetic voice or a joyful prayer could find that as well.

For me, it was the only honest type of music that I could have recorded at that time. I think the new record is no less bold, but it kind of comes from a different point on the line so to speak. That other record felt like the immediate aftermath after having that kind of revelation I had about even the smallest pinpoint realization about the nature of God is and how you relate to it. It basically smashed me.

Stained Glass Window – John Davis
[note: this is the classiest of chord changes]

I remember reading an interview where you describing how you pulled the car to the side of the road and you felt like you couldn’t even breathe. That happened as you were recording what would become Superdrag’s last album Last Call For Vitriol right?

It basically bisected that session.

Did any songs come after that and make it onto the record?

All the writing was done but I still had to do all the singing that led to me fixing some stuff because [long pause] I guess I was trying to drink myself to death. I don’t remember ever explicitly feeling like I wanted to die, but the life I was leading was not that of a person that wanted to live. It was so radical and blindsided me so much. I’ve met so many people since that have told me that they prayed for me everyday. [long pause] What do you say or do with that beside fall to floor and bust out in tears?

Looking at some of the lyrics and the title Last Call for Vitriol, would it be fair to say that in hindsight they read as cries for help? Lyrics like “What am I trying to prove/Every time I get too fucked to move” and “I don’t know if living’s too attractive/I don’t know if God is interactive.

I think there is a weight to it, in light of what happened after that for sure. But long story short, I didn’t even approach writing a song for a solid year after that. And I think the biggest problem I had what that I didn’t know how to express the joy I felt and be taken seriously. Because people have a much easier time taking you seriously if you’re pissed.

It really is easier to call a happy song “cheesy” than it is a sad or angry song.

But God eventually ministered to be, songs began to flow, doors opened and it became clear that I was going to get the chance to make a record and put it out with distribution. I was able to record where I wanted, work with the producer I wanted, and I got to play all the instruments which was so much fun. I think I secretly harbored that desire for a long time, and not because these dudes don’t rip, but because I wanted to try it as a new challenge.

Had you done that in the past with your demos before you brought it to the boys?

Totally. I did that for years.

A friend years ago gave me a disc of your alter-ego Johnny Flame covering loads of Beatles songs to arrangement perfection. Is that all you on those tracks?

Yes sir.

All those harmonies? That’s amazing.

Thanks man. Some of them have good quality, but some of them really don’t sound so good.

But the fun you’re having really comes through even on those rough 4-track recordings.

Doing that was a big part of how I learned to record. Because if I didn’t have a song of my own, I would do a Beatles tune just because I wanted to record. And then if you listen to all of the 4-track records, there is sort of an invisible line from where I started mixing down to a real deal tape deck instead of a jam box and then after that I got a 4-track that improved things by leaps and bounds. Pretty much by 1997 the 4-track starts to sound pretty good.

The demo collection you just put out, Changing Tires On The Road To Ruin, along with the double disc of rarities available here at the show seem to be great examples of the process that went on behind the scenes and how you guys developed as a band.

Well that box on the cover really was just in my cabinet all those years. I just started going through it and I ripped all the music that would possibly ever want to hear. Some stuff I let sleep on those cassettes just because I felt like I never wanted to hear again and I’d just fast forward and see what’s next. But it was a lot of fun.

The double disc is really cool for the fans because when the band went of hiatus in 2003, you had talked about a 100 song box set, a book and a DVD, but when Road To Ruin came out, it seemed like such a small glimpse into such a creative band’s archives.

To be frank, we kind of bided our time initiating any of that until we were completely at liberty to do it the way we wanted to, and most importantly to do it ourselves. There is a projected series of releases that is planned. What we just did basically brings us up speed until the first Elektra record [Regretfully Yours] and we could turn around and do the same thing for every other record.

Is that the stuff from the Bearsville, NY sessions for Head Trip In Every Key and the Knoxville sessions for Valley of Dying Stars?


Because the fans have been treated to songs like “I Wanna Rock N’ Roll” live, which are great.

The demos are proof that we were always hard workers and put in time to write a lot of songs and be prepared to record.

You were definitely a band that could never be cited as underwriting for a record. It never seemed like you would show up with seven and a half songs to the first recording date.

What is amazing to find out is that there are still a good number of people interested in that stuff and want to hear it. Which is humbling and flattering to death.

There are some songs that you guys never recorded in a proper studio, which in my opinion rate as some of the best things you ever did. One of my favorite songs to play when I’m jamming with my friends is “Relocate My Satellites.”

Relocate My Satellites – Superdrag

Man that song totally should have gone down. I think we felt it should have been arranged better and so it just kept getting pushed off to the side like ‘oh we’ll get to that later’ and we never got to it. But now with it coming out on the rarities disc, we mastered it up and it feels done. I really enjoyed mastering a lot of that stuff because you can really bring the music to life and compensate and temper some of the bad hiss and keep the good hiss when you want it and rescue whatever low end frequencies might be in there. So Lord willing, there is tons of music we could put out and we hope to make it super reasonable. We’re lucky for the fact that we are not obligated to anyone except the people who like the songs and want to hear more songs. That’s the first time we’ve had that luxury in about 13 years, so it feels really nice.

Going by your band’s extreme productivity in the past, in these latest rehearsals while you getting the set list ready, did you guys kick out any new jams and if you did, any chance of a new release?

I do have a lot of new songs and that’s mainly due to the fact that my new album was finished a year ago. It wasn’t mastered until recently, but it was recorded in the summer of 2006. Actually, the guy that mastered it was the guy who also mastered [Dre's] The Chronic.

That’s awesome!

Yeah, I was pretty stoked on that. I mean, he’s done a million records, but that’s a record I love and get hung up on every once in a while.

Every time I drive through L.A, that’s one that has to go on.

It’s banging man, even after sixteen years.

I read that you recorded Arigato! at the Foo Fighters’ Studio 606 in Los Angeles, and not only did you track the entire album in two weeks, but that your drummer Yogi Watts did all of the drum tracks in two days. Is that really true?

Yeah man, he’s just sick with it. He’s real funny because he doesn’t mind telling you how good he is. He’ll be wearing it out on the kit, playing something like a fast punk rock of the song “Never Changing” and from the neck up he’s not even moving. It was rad. He’d just take off the headphones and sit back say, “Well boys, I could play it again but I don’t really know why you’d want me to. I don’t really know what else you’d want.” And Nick [Raskulinecz, co-producer who has worked with Foo Fighters and produced Superdrag's In The Valley of Dying Stars and earlier pre-Elektra work] would just lean in and say “Do it again and I want some different fills.” Those dudes got along really well.

Yogi has been playing with me on my solo tours and I just really love his drumming. He plays like Don [Coffey Jr] sometimes, like Bill Stevenson [of The Descendents] sometimes; he really can just play anything. His main gig is playing in a band called Demon Hunter. They are straight up metalcore with a straight up Gospel message. Their new album is called Storm the Gates of Hell and man, it is tough. Check out their Myspace page man, they’re very cool.

You’re the man who would have the answer about a question I’ve had for a while, when Superdrag went on hiatus you and Mic Harrison both put up songs on Superdrag.com that would later appear on solo records, but Sam Powers (Superdrag bassist from 1999-2003) also posted a tune, yet a solo album never appeared. “World Surrounded” is such a great song, are we ever going to get any more from Sam?

World Surrounded – Sam Powers

I love that song. I know for a fact he has more because a while back he gave me a cd with six songs on it and truth be told they’re some of my favorite he’s ever done. I’m such a fan of Sam’s music from when he was in Who Hit John and Everything Tool.

Let’s not forget The Disheverly Brothers.

[laughs] Yeah, The Disheverly Brothers. Yeah, that never really caught fire.

“The Emotional Kind” has always been one of my favorite tunes. I love that line “If I come on agnostic she makes me believe.”

That was meant to be the lead off track on the Disheverly Brothers album.

The Emotional Kind – Superdrag
The Emotional Kind (demo) – Superdrag

I do like the studio version you put out on the split with The Anniversary, there’s something about that demo you put out on the Rock Soldier EP. It sounds just like a lost track from the greatest ‘60s garage band.

Yeah man, that’s truly the 4-track sound. “Her Melancholy Tune” was meant to be on the Disheverly Brothers too. Sammy P and I basically tried to rip off the Beatles as much as possible.

Well, no two men are better equipped for the job or got better results in my opinion.

Yeah, not only Sam’s rock music, but him as an individual, a dad, a husband — he’s a dude I completely admire to the fullest. The same goes for Mic Harrison. He’s actually going to support on some of these dates with his band The High Score. The fact that those dudes aren’t going to be involved with Superdrag, by no means should that represent a lack of respect or love because they are the shit.

I’m happy because this is the incarnation of the Superdrag experience I’ve never gotten to see. My first show was before Valley came out and Willy T (a temporary guitarist for the tour following the completion of Valley) was rocking the guitar.

[laughs] That’s another cool element about this thing because after the Elektra thing came and went, the second effort of the band began. We sat around and said ‘Wait, we’ve got a van, we know how to book a tour, lets go.’ And as a result of that, we kind of generated a new set of fans that weren’t on board from the beginning. It’s really just a win win win for all of us.

And the fans as well. We all get another chance to go out on a Friday night and rock out to one of our favorite bands. Speaking of your fans and giving them a chance to see you, looking on your message board you guys have fans as far as Israel. I know you took your solo record abroad to places like Amsterdam, any plans to take the Superdrag carnival international?

I would love to. Not just a business or rock level, but on a personal level it is life enriching to go to a place, take Japan for example, that really makes you feel alien. Something like 99% of the population there is native. I think any of us would jump at the chance.

Didn’t Superdrag record the much-coveted Greetings From Tennessee EP over in Japan?

Four songs of it were done over there.

That’s the one piece of Superdrag audio I’ve never been able to come across.

Man, I wish I could help. I don’t really know how the licensing works for that thing because it was licensed through Arena Rock to a Japanese label that I think is done now. But that was a wild thing. This record company in Japan licensed the Valley record and the deal was they would bring us over to play and while there they wanted us to record a 10 song Japanese-exclusive EP. So they booked this recording date the day after the last show and we all thought ‘cool, we’ll go in and treat it like a radio session and just blast through the ten songs live, no overdubs.’

Well we got in there and the room was like a tiny dressing room. And all they had were these little headphone amps, which meant that, even though there was no room for it anyway, there could be no isolation. Don’s crash symbol was right in my face and we were just laughing because there was no way we could sing, much less play, all together and get a decent sounding record. Also the two guys who were working the board were way more conversational in English than we were in Japanese, but needless to say there was still a huge language barrier. So when we said, “Dudes, we’re going to need to overdub” they just stared at us with very stern faces.

So anyway, we ended up only doing four songs instead of ten which was kind of a situation itself because they were afraid we would go home and not send then the other six. But we convinced them that we were honorable and would follow through, which we did in like three days.

And didn’t they mix it themselves, but there was a problem with that so you had to recall like 1,000 copies?

Man, there was some serious Pokemon keyboards on there. Some of the strangest processing I’ve ever heard. And they didn’t use some of the harmony vocals, entire guitar parts we’d recorded; it was just a mess. And they were pressing records before we had a chance to approve anything, so let’s just say that the lines of communication were sub-par and we ended up re-mixing it ourselves. That’s a cool artifact though.

Well, thanks for taking the time John, and I know I’m not alone when I say I’m really excited to see the band rock tonight.

Thanks so much for coming all this way and for the support. It means the world to us.

* * * * * *

And rock that night they did. There was a sticker attached to one of Superdrag’s albums that read, “If you don’t like Rock n Roll, you won’t like this” — and that pretty much summed up the experience I had that night at the show.

Don Coffey Jr. pounding the drums as ferociously as he ever did, Brandon’s guitar work was airtight, John Davis was, well he’s John Davis, isn’t he….what do you expect. And Tom Pappas, armed with a mirrored pick-guarded bass and leather pants, scissor-kicked his way through a truly blistering show by one of the best bands I’ve ever seen. Three shows left, I can’t say more than this — go beyond your usual effort to see a show, and this band will do the same for you in return. Head trip in every key indeed.


November 02 – New York, NY @ The “Fillmore”
November 03 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
November 08 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club

For the uninitiated, these are four songs that absolutely shoulda-would-coulda been #1 on the music charts of anyone with ears:
N.A. Kicker – Superdrag [Regretfully Yours]
I’m Expanding My Mind – Superdrag [Head Trip In Every Key]
Lighting The Way – Superdrag [In The Valley of Dying Stars]
Baby Goes to 11 – Superdrag [Last Call For Vitriol]

Radio (Teenage Fanclub) – Superdrag
Bastards of Young (Replacements) – Superdrag
Brand New Love (Sebadoh) – Superdrag
Motor Away (Guided by Voices) – Superdrag
September Gurls (Big Star) – Superdrag
Wave of Mutilation (Pixies cover) – Superdrag
1970 (Iggy Pop) – Superdrag

(demo cuts from their third album)
Eventually – Superdrag
While The Rest Of The World Was Busy Changing – Superdrag

Tell Me I’m Not Free (live on BFN) – John Davis
I Hear Your Voice (demo) – John Davis

Never-Changing – John Davis [from new Arigato!]

Gas Guzzler – WHIP!
[from new solo EP]


October 10, 2007

Superdrag? Not a drag, even in demos

One show down, six to go. The original four members of Superdrag kicked off their mini reunion tour this past weekend in Nashville, and from what I’ve read, it was an electric evening that one attendee wrote was “the best damn superdrag show i’ve been to. no, it was the best damn rock show i’ve ever been to.”

I would love to see these guys live but since I can’t, the “rocking in the unfinished-basement” vibe of this new double album helps ease the sting. Superdrag will be self-releasing a limited pressing of their new collection of old demos called 4-Track Rock !!! 1992-1995 + Complete ‘Bender” Sessions that will only be for sale at the upcoming shows.

I’ve gotten to spin this whole opus a few times now and even though it is rough in places, it’s still diamonds in the dirt, baby. These songs were all recorded between 1992-1995, which would predate any of their formal releases. Many of these songs showed up on their first EP (The Fabulous 8 Track Sounds of Superdrag, 1995), or first full-length (Regretfully Yours, 1996).

But these demos trace an interesting evolution, sometimes with more than one version of the same song from different years — the full-on Weezeresque “Six-Eight” is showcased both as acoustic and fuzzy-screaming electric. The demos preserve all of the young, explosive, roughhewn punk-pop glory of Superdrag.

Six-Eight (Bender sessions demo) – Superdrag
[finished version was on their first EP]

Pine Away (1-17-94) – Superdrag
[would later appear on their underrated masterwork Head Trip In Every Key]

Sucked Out (demo, 10-22-95) – Superdrag
[liner notes indicate that this early version of their one and only radio/MTV ‘Buzz Bin’ hit was recorded at “1030 Eleanor St., Apt A, Knoxville, TN 37917″]

In keeping with the source and era of these demos, the album has cool cassette-influenced packaging, which makes me like it even more. The outer cover shows one of those zippered foam cases that we’d all tote around our cassettes in; just call it the original iPod.

open the case; the glory of the inner cover (I cropped it)


October 13 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
October 19 – Knoxville, TN @ Barley’s Taproom
October 20 – Knoxville, TN @ Barley’s Taproom
November 02 – New York, NY @ The “Fillmore”
November 03 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
November 08 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club

Superdrag’s Myspace

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July 11, 2007

Original lineup of Superdrag reunites for six shows; nothing anywhere near this half of the U.S.

Several years after parting ways, this news just in: the original line-up of Knoxville power-punk/pop band Superdrag (Don Coffey Jr, John Davis, Brandon Fisher, and Tom Pappas) announced yesterday that they are reuniting to play six shows this fall. The official dates are:

October 05 – Nashville, TN @ City Hall
October 13 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
October 20 – Knoxville, TN @ Barley’s Taproom
November 02 – New York, NY @ The Fillmore
November 03 – Boston, MA @ Paradise
November 08 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club

This has been rumored for months, so the hardcore fans are all heaving a collective sigh of ecstasy right now at the actualization of firm dates. There’s a sweet bonus autographed tour poster [shown above] for those who buy a ticket during the pre-sale which starts Thursday (7/12) at 12pm EST. Tickets will be something like ten bucks; a mere pittance for something this fine.

And now, a word from the band…

Well…obviously, there’s alot to talk about. I’m thrilled to be able to announce these concert appearances with the original band. I have missed playing these songs with these three dudes. At the first rehearsal, I remember thinking it sounded to me like it might’ve been 8 months instead of eight years since we’d played together last. We’re really looking forward to seeing you at the shows. I think it’s cool that fans who discovered Superdrag through In The Valley Of Dying Stars or Last Call For Vitriol who never got a chance to see the original line-up play will now have the opportunity. I think it’s cool that people still care about Superdrag. We thank you all from the bottoms of our hearts. Seriously.

There are several things in the works presently in conjunction with the concert dates that might be of interest to fans. First and foremost, with the help of our good friend Jamie “Stealth” Shoemaker, we have hand-selected and remastered a 2-Disc, 40-song collection of classic Superdrag music entitled, “4-Track Rock !!! 1992-1995 + Complete “Bender” Sessions.” Some of this stuff pre-dates the band, obviously; included are some of my favorite 4-track versions, a couple of choice covers, the first-ever Superdrag demo (we were a 3-piece: Brandon played bass), every 8-track demo we made with Nick Raskulinecz leading up to our first album…you get the idea. We are pressing a limited run of the CDs that will be sold at our merch booth at each show.

We are offering an exclusive, autographed Tour Poster to be bundled with every ticket pre-sold through Ducat King. We are also printing a series of limited, hand-screened art posters for each of the shows, designed by Jason Kochis. We’re working very hard to deliver only the highest-quality merchandise to you. Feel like helping us out with the setlist? We’ll be conducting an online poll of fan favorites through the Superdrag Message Board and elsewhere, and the Top 3 Most Requested Superdrag songs go straight into the set, guaranteed. Stay tuned to Superdrag.com for further details and special offers.

This is all very exciting. Thank you very much.

With Utmost Respect And Sincere Gratitude,
John, Don, Brandon & Tom

Here are a few songs from the aforementioned Bender Sessions (94-95) that are finally going to be seeing official release. Even in raw form, these songs still sound so good – better than most of the new artists I filter through.
Sugar – Superdrag
Garmonbozia – Superdrag

The Bender Sessions will be released hot on the heels of the excellent Changing Tires on the Road To Ruin rarities comp that was just out in April. I am glad these guys are bringing the show back on the road, should be an excellent time for old fans who miss the band and new ones who never got a chance to see them live.

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April 17, 2007

B-sides collection from Superdrag out today

There’s a new b-sides and rarities compilation from Tennessee power-punk/pop band Superdrag out today called Changin’ Tires On The Road To Ruin. I meant to try and finesse a cool post of rarities for the occasion, but the day snuck up on me. So it’s out now, only ten bucks and you can order it here. Even though I was blinded to their wonderfulness when they first hit the ground in the ’90s, now I will admit to having seen the light. Superdrag has a crunch and a zing all their own, plus a distinctive echoey drum clatter that I love.

Superfans of Superdrag have told me that this rarities collection is a bit disappointing to the hardcore fans because most of these tracks have been circulating among the rabid for years, but for us non-rabid it looks to be a solid collection. Singer John Davis writes:

When you play in a band for 10 years, you write a lot. Usually, you only get a record out every couple of years so you’re going to end up with a fair number of songs that never see the light of day for one reason or another.

Sometimes the version that’s issued on record will be your second or third attempt to get it “right” so your demos are left behind like pieces of evidence. People sometimes care about ‘em, sometimes they don’t. You’ll wind up with hundreds of live recordings, mostly of dubious origin. A good percentage of these will be terrible, others might be great, and some will hold sentimental value because of the places and times they stand for: good or ill.

These are just some of the things this record is concerned with. Arena Rock Recording Co. put it all together for you, and I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy it. There are hours and hours more where this came from… miles of cassette tape.

01. Here We Come (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, February 1997) (*previously unreleased)
02. She Says (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, February 1997) (from the out-of-print Rock Soldier CD)
03. My Day (Will Come) (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, February 1997) (from the Rock Soldier CD)
04. Sleeping Beauty (8-Track Demo, Bearsville, NY, November 1997) (*previously unreleased)
05. Doctors Are Dead (8-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, October 1998 ) (*previously unreleased)
06. Comfortably Bummed (8-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, October 1998 ) (*previously unreleased)
07. No Inspiration (8-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, October 1998 ) (*previously unreleased)
08. Keep It Close To Me (4-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
09. Extra-Sensory (4-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
10. I Am Incinerator (8-track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
11. Relocate My Satellites (4-Track Demo, Stealth Studio, 1999) (*previously unreleased)
12. The Rest Of The World (4-Track Demo, October 2001) (*previously unreleased)
13. Lighting The Way (Live At The Exit/In, Nashville, TN, 6-21-03)
14. True Believer (Live At The Exit/In, Nashville, TN, 6-21-03)
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January 23, 2007

Whooo, owwww, yeah, and unh

PopMatters has a divine article trying to pin down those varied vocalizations that singers have been throwing in the midst of their songs since time memoriam. Maybe James Brown is the best-known for his off-the-wall hollers, but read about the rest. Here are some snippets from the extremely well-written and entertaining article, as author Zeth Lundy takes you through the different species of yowl — and you know I had to include a few of the songs in question:

The Columbus (or, the Land Ho!)
The wild-eyed whoop of abandon, emitted early when a song kicks into its full roar and meant, in part, as an alarm for the impending auditory devastation. Consider it rock ‘n’ roll etiquette, not unlike that exhibited on the golf green: heads up, ‘cause this one’s gonna rock you in places you didn’t know existed. Gaz Coombes demonstrates this nicely in Supergrass’s Richard III (1997), letting fly a preparatory yell in concurrence with the landslide entry of the bass and drums. He whoops it up like a man who has a storied history with whooping, one which he would probably recount over a few pints even though he’s a bit tired of doing so. This particular example is compounded by how Coombes sets up the holler with a brief prelude of tritone guitar riffage—ye olde Devil’s interval!—that stokes the song’s start-up with a bit of horned provocation. See also: the Faces’ Stay With Me (1971), at the moment that the double-time intro downshifts to that filthy pub shuffle—as good a time as any for Rod Stewart to launch a Columbus, back when a Rod Stewart Columbus actually meant something.

The Phantom Columbus
Quite possibly the most common and unnoticed improvisatory hoot, this occurs deep in the background of a song’s mix, always at a moment where all other instruments drop out, and usually at the song’s onset. In essence, it’s a Columbus (the hasty shout-out predicting some kind of calamitous rapture), but it’s not necessarily one intended to be heard by the public at-large, since it’s only serendipitously picked up by a microphone that just happens to be dedicated to another instrument. Really listen—put on the noise-isolating headphones, crank up the volume to that decibel the doctor warned you about—and you’ll catch more Phantom Columbuses than you’ll care to count. Two songs in particular sport perceptible examples of this holler:
Superdrag’s Sold You an Alibi (1998) and Mission of Burma’s 2wice (2006). It occurs during the opening of both songs, between the gutsy plunges of the former’s wicked guitar riff and immediately after the latter’s colossal solo drum foundation. See also: the first few seconds of the Rolling Stones’ Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (1971), soon after the drums are introduced to that impeccably slouching guitar.

Read the whole “Hoots, Hollers and Barbaric Yawps” article

I think the most elusive of the vocalizations (and my personal favorite to imitate on road-trips) is hands-down the “shmoa“:

Man In The Mirror – Michael Jackson

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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