Slint was a band. And then, it wasn’t – its members went away and did other bands. But then, Slint was a band again. And then it wasn’t. And now, it is, again. The Louisville outfit – ‘post-rock’ claims Wikipedia, but those familiar with the band’s records may feel that rather undersells their tautly emotive hold – has been reactivated and resurgent since reuniting for December 2013’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in Camber.
It’s a fairly familiar story: band that didn’t gets its dues the first time around comes back and plays to a rather more respectful, receptive audience, now that their music has had time to find its niche. Every other week presents the music press with news of some comeback or other. But in Slint’s case, they’ve always had more to offer, this mystery about them, some mythological aura that manifested properly with 1991’s ‘Spiderland’ LP and has remained ever since, the band originally splitting in 1992. Its pull is irresistible – and the response to their recent shows has been tremendous, likewise the reviews for a remastered ‘Spiderland’, released in June on Touch & Go (review).
Founding members Brian McMahan, Britt Walford and David Pajo – alongside ‘Spiderland’ bassist Todd Brashear – are on the road again in August 2014, playing their own headline dates beside a series of festival bookings including Sweden’s Way Out West and Wales’ own Green Man Festival. I called drummer Walford to see how the band is preparing for this activity, and what the rest of the year beyond the summer may hold.
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‘Good Morning, Captain’, from ‘Spiderland’ (1991)
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Are you all ready for August’s schedule? It’s pretty demanding…
I think that, just from doing this a little bit before, over the years, I’m ready for it – but it is a bit difficult, being away from my kids. But it is easier these days to stay in touch, than it was even 10 years ago, totally.
After coming back for ATP in December, you must have been inundated with festival offers. Have you stepped back and let someone else deal with them?
I think for the most part, lately, we’ve been relying on our booking agent to sort through the offers.
Why choose to play Finland, at Flow (August 8th), and Sweden, at Way Out West (9th), over any other European festivals that weekend?
I think that we may have told our agent that we’d like to play some dates north of where we’d ever played before. And I’m pretty sure that I mentioned Germany, too – I’ve always wanted to play there, but we’ve never been able to.
There isn’t a German date on this run, though.
No, there’s not. But there is always time.
How does the band approach a set when you know it’s not your fans you’re playing to? Does anything change, at all?
I think the only time we’d ever change our set – or, where we have done that – is when we’ve played consecutive nights in the same place. And that’s when we like to experiment a bit, and approach the set in a different way. Otherwise we don’t really change things.
Have you seen the change in newcomers, younger audience members, to the band when they see you – how they get into it, as a set progresses?
I haven’t been able to see that from my position, as the drummer, but I’m very aware of young people coming to see us, and that’s something that never really happened before. But on these shows, and those we played last year, we’ve noticed a lot more young people, which is pretty interesting to me.
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We always wanted our music to be the kind of thing that people found on their own...
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Which might have something to do with how ‘Spiderland’ has stood up to the test of time. You must have been thrilled to see it get such a great reception on its remaster release…
The first time around, we didn’t really get any reviews. So yeah, it’s definitely been really neat to see so many now.
Was the band totally behind the idea of putting the record back out, at the beginning?
I think there was some reservation. We wondered if it would be, like, out of keeping with what we’d done previously. We’d never really pushed our music out there, through promotion as it is today. Our principles weren’t part of that world, and we had a different way of thinking. We just thought it was dumb to have to get a promo photo done, and things like that. But I guess, looking back, we just didn’t know very much about all that.
I think we always wanted our music to be the kind of thing that people found on their own, or, y’know, through friends. It never entered into our thoughts to do anything more publicised, I suppose. We just put music out, and then wondered if people might want to buy it.
After August, will there be more dates? Maybe further afield than Europe and North America?
We’ve definitely been thinking about that, over the past year, getting out to somewhere like Australia. We’re working on making that happen. We haven’t got it figured out quite yet. We don’t want to play too much – we definitely don’t want to do that. But we do all like going places, whether we’ve been there before or not. I like touring and travelling. So that’s something that we’re generally up for.
This recent activity must represent the most concentrated period of Slint activity since you disbanded the first time…
Yeah, I think with the coming month, it does. As far as an extended period of time goes, this last year has been busy.
So that leads to an inevitable question: does this activity, this time spent together, have you thinking about going into the studio and recording new material?
There isn’t any plan to so anything like that right now. At this point, I know I’m not really aiming towards that.
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‘Washer’, from ‘Spiderland’ (1991)
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Words: Mike Diver
Slint’s forthcoming European dates are as follows:
8th – Flow Festival, Helsinki
9th – Way Out West Festival, Gothenburg
12th – Old Market, Brighton
13th – Brixton Electric, London
14th – Cockpit, Leeds
15th – The Arches, Glasgow
16th – Green Man Festival, Brecon Beacons
18th – Limelight, Belfast
19th – Button Factory, Dublin
Full dates, including US shows, can be found at the official Slint website. The remastered version of ‘Spiderland’ is out now, and comes packaged with a documentary film on its making, Breadcrumb Trail. Britt also plays in the band Watter, who you can find here.