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SEAM - Headsparks LP

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In the wake of Bitch Magnet and current of Superchunk, Sooyoung Park and Mac McCaughan formed a raw version of Seam in the summer of ’91. With bassist Lexi Mitchell, the trio banged out an album and two singles worth of shambolic dream pop in the sweltering Chapel Hill heat. Ten songs of talk-whispered vocals, sloshing guitar solos, scattered snare rolls, Velocity Girl’s Sarah Shannon, and the original version of Codeine’s slowcore classic "New Year’s," on LP for the first time in 30 years.

Even though the first Bitch Magnet album came out only a couple years before the first Superchunk album, when Sooyoung Park and his then-girlfriend Lexi Mitchell relocated to Chapel Hill in 1991, it was a little like a seasoned rock star had moved to town. I lived in a tiny rental house on McDade Street, and as Superchunk practiced in the kitchen we had drums set up semi-permanently. I was not—nor have I ever been—a great drummer. Any learning I had came from one of my musical heroes, Let’s Active’s Sara Romweber, but really, I had more enthusiasm than skills and I'm not sure how that qualified me to be in Seam. At the time being in bands was more about “making stuff” —songs, tapes, records, fliers, shows—than being professional. It seemed as though Lexi and Sooyoung had already been working on some songs together and I was excited about being in a band with new people and not having to sing. It was such a no pressure situation that it felt like we were hanging out and maybe playing music when we felt like it, but Sooyoung definitely had a blueprint for what he wanted his new band to sound like.

We weren’t playing together too long before the three of us went to Duck Kee in Raleigh where I had already made a bunch of recordings with Superchunk, Slushpuppies, and WWAX. The all-analog, 16-track studio was in Jerry Kee's small house on Bickett Avenue at the time. We had rehearsed the Headsparks songs in my kitchen and I loved the covers Sooyoung and Lexi picked and the unique treatment they gave them. I probably hadn't heard any of the lyrics until Sooyoung was recording vocals—I still haven't heard some of them! I learned a lot from making this album because the Seam songs and Sooyoung's playing and singing style were so at odds with my own in Superchunk. Restraint is the word that comes to mind, and it's not something I was personally familiar with. I loved being part of something that was so subtle but still heavy in its own way. It's not that the music was especially gentle; Lexi's bass was a big distorted anchor and Sooyoung layered on waves of distortion with his Telecaster. But rather than wildly announcing: “THIS SONG IS AN EPIC JAM,” the hooks and emotional moments evolved slowly and only peeked through at the right time. I love the songs on this record, but the drumming makes me cringe because I can hear what I was trying to do and who I was emulating—Steve Schick (Honor Role), Britt Walford (Slint), my old bandmates Brian Walsby and Jonathan Neumann. It’s hard not to think, "Yeah, I should have done another take," but Sooyoung and Lexi's songs carried the day. Seam would go on to refine and perfect their sound with much better drummers in the future, but I feel lucky to have been a part of their first chapter.