Thursday, September 24, 2009

Snowi Springs - Snowi Springs/Yam Soap

"This is dedicated to anyone who's ever picked up instruments, played and/or recorded a few songs then thought up a name then called themselves a band." -- Snowi Springs

The snowy spring of 1993 begat Snowi Springs. Colin Clary, Ted Leo, Chris Norborg. St. Peter Street. Drums, bass, guitar, one mic. Tape running, all improv.

So, I'm downloading the Snowi Springs as I type, and though I remember these recordings fondly, I have a conceptual issue to bring up (and I ask this with all good humor) - is it right that everything that everyone has ever done be made eternally available for anyone with an internet connection?  I mean, all of those different improv groups that happened - Snowi Springs, Sweet Mama of Guadeloupe, Oatmeal, Water, Ferry to Helsinki version of Chisel, etc. - like, I think that part of the reason they remain so special in my mind is because we were just doing it for us - no pressure, no goals or intent other than to have fun and create, and the amazing thing is that we came up with some amazing stuff, and probably, whether we knew it or not, grew as artists because of it.  I've become really bummed out on the instant gratification world and the entitlement that the yung'ns seem to fee they have to that access to instant gratification for all things at all times lately - it's one thing I dislike about YouTube - a show can never be about living in and experiencing and APPRECIATING the moment anymore - there's always someone taking video for tomorrow or later that night or years down the road.  I love Snowi Springs because I remember that weather and that house and that night, and I love that it happened.  And I have no problem sharing it with people, but I'm driven to deny universal access, not because I need to cling, but because I feel like it cheapens it a little.  Listen - I am MORE than willing to admit that I may be putting too much weight on these otherwise fun things, but does someone wanna try and talk me down from this ledge?

Listening to it right now... it's pretty great...  I'm on "Foil Belt" now... shit - I'm about to go completely back on everything I said above and say we should do a fucking reunion...

O.K.  Fuck that - this tape is AWESOME - "Alice & Roland??"  "WASHY??!?"  So good.  The world should have universal access to this.

I live on that ledge. Not that I want to go back to the days of nothing but oral histories and whatnot -- long live John Lomax -- but, to my mind, we should have stopped with the crackly old silent Super 8 home movies. The advent of home video was not-a-so-good, in my opinion. Virtually every second of my younger cousins' childhoods are committed to video tape. Now every sight and sound is digitized, cataloged, reminisced over, commented upon, and widely disseminated. No more warm and charmingly fuzzy memories.

But whatevs. We were our own poor man's Lomaxes. And let us not forgot the core principle of Sudden Shame - that is, sudden shame. Not that it's all shameful. But some of it sure is! And it definitely has a certain 1993 Time Capsule feel to it, what with "Joe's Apartment" (MTV used to be so good) and the Koresh-inspired "ATF" (which I love, btw).

Listening to it now-- I was often somewhere between huge smile, big cringe, and rueful and amused laughter! I think that there is something totally awesome and also something a little embarrassing about the recordings, but I agree with the idea of staying true to what the thing was about– the whole semi-spontaneous aspect of getting on an instrument, having to say what the name of the song was gonna be and then going for it.

"Dextro" sounds awesome (except for my wack singing, which ranks up there with "Long D Silver" and "When I Can" as some of my least awesome!). I love "ATF," "Foil Belt," "You Must Know How Beautiful You Are." As a document of what it was, I love it 100%.  "Bag of Gardetto's!"  "Rebus!"  Yow! The power of an upright, right in your hand!

I love living room bands, so much fun. Some of this cracks me up with its awesomeness. Sometimes I can tell I wanted the song to go on forever, other times I'm not sure what we were thinking. There were chance elements involved and we just went for it. Recording an album should feel this easy...

I never regret that we pressed the record button. I couldn't think of a better way to have spent those days.


see also:
Snowi Springs on MySpace


Mike L. said...

Yes, to a Snowi Springs reunion show.

James Kennedy said...

I, for one, support us being our own poor man's Lomaxes.

I was obsessed with this tape and played it incessantly in my dorm room. And it totally holds up today.

I remember thinking "Alice & Roland" ("You never bought me . . . fries at Burger Chef . . . you never bought me . . . ANYTHING . . . YOUAREMYGRANDMA!! YOUAREMYGRANDMA!!") should have been covered by Nirvana, and Snowi Springs could cover Nirvana's "Sliver," for a split 7". What was it about grandparent dread and the 1990s?

I believe "ATF" was written before the actual standoff turned bloody. At a Snowi Springs live show at Dalloways, after the Waco massacre, I requested "ATF" and Ted gave me a glare so withering I remember it to this day.

Tom Emmerling said...

My god, I HAVE this tape. Somewhere.

As a participant in my share of all-star (chuckle) livingroom/practice-space improv fests, I'm very, very happy that we recorded as many as we did. There can be some real gems among all of the mucking around, songs that no one in the room would have ever thought to write under more controlled circumstances.

The process itself is its own reward though: music for the sake of pure fun and nothing else. And there is no WAY I'd ever think of distributing even the best recordings to the public, for all the reasons Ted, Chris and Colin mention. That plus embarraassment.

Colin said...

one note on the picture - I believe this was taken at the acoustic cafe in the basement of lafortune. It does feature all three members of snowi springs, but it wasn't a snowi springs performance - I'm quite confident that we were playing "i wanna be yr dog" (chris on the one note piano is a dead giveaway)right there. I seem to recall also playing "i spy"...

Holly M said...

I believe I had this tape once, although I'm sure it's somewhere with all those other things from my VFI years that I can't find. Better take a trip over to Mom and Dad's and see if I can check the attic once again.

JMitchell said...

So I had a funny thing happen - I found a lost box of tapes last week and actually played them right away using an old tape recorder that I had also rescued from the same vortex/garage. Sitting there, in my Mom's open carport, listening to these ultra-tinny speakers pumping out the sounds of Snowi Springs, Spoonfed, Come Uppance, July un-released studio demos and many more (lots of live stuff from 226 N. St Peters basement shows that I 4-tracked) - it was the strangest feeling.

It wasn't nostalgia, but something akin to the feeling of getting on a bicycle after 10 years of only getting around on some futuristic auto-piloted Segway scooter. I could not remember the last time I played a tape. You have to press 'fast-forward' and hit stop when you think the next song starts. Crazy. Fun.

So this week, when I heard that 'Snowi Springs' had been uploaded, it made me think of all these other tapes/shows and I had a thought much like Ted's - 'Do I need to digitize all of this stuff? Why do I even feel the urge? Should I put up these JULY studio demos that we never released to anyone? Maybe its better just to let all of it live on in memory?'

I'm pretty sure there was a reason we never did anything with those JULY recordings. No idea what that was. They actually sound pretty good. I think we just never got around to it. I guess I should ask Ted, Ernie, and Kate?

And what of the rest? Who knows what hides inside these shrinking tapes- a live Karp/Unwound basement show anybody?

ecretmanatee said...

Colin - if I ever hear you badmouth "Long D Silver" again, I'm coming up there. It's a threat. Of sorts.