Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trendinista 5000

While many assume that the Trendinista 5000 full-length cassette was recorded at the Record Plant by Bill Laswell or perhaps on a farm in Minnesota with Brian Paulson or Smart Studios with Butch Vig, the tape was actually made in a small cellar of a student house on St. Peter’s Street in downtown South Bend, IN.

The year was, I think, 1992 and we had just gotten back in town but not yet started classes at ND—so I’m guessing August—I’d have to check my old journal from that era. Chisel, a band that housemate Ted Leo and I had been doing off and on for a year or two, was off until we could find a new bassist, but we had a lot of creative energy built up from the summer. We set up our gear in a small, dark, musty space in the basement of our shared house and called up our pal Dennis McNicholas, whom I had done Teenage Dope Slaves with about a year previous.

We let the tape roll for either one day or two—making up songs on the spot, perhaps with one run-through before recording and ultra minimal overdubs. It was my idea of an “instant music” project, almost like automatic writing as a technique for producing a lot of material without filtering or critiquing what you were doing, just fueled by camaraderie and enthusiasm and strong coffee. I was taking the lead only because I had been the one with the guitar in hand when we started taping. There was a lot of switching around, Ted covers the drums (quite masterfully) when I’m playing guitar and singing and usually vice-versa, with Dennis singing and probably playing some guitar, too. I didn’t even own an electric guitar at this point, so I assume the axe was Ted’s old Fender Squire. The kid Mark was our housemate Mason’s girlfriend Mary’s little brother. I believe Dennis came up with the band name, or perhaps we did together—we had the name before we wrote the Trendinista girl tune, I think. 5000 was slang for see ya later—as in Audi 5000 if I recall.

As you can probably hear, all three of us were very familiar with Beat Happening and T5000 is, in some way, a kind of tribute to Calvin Johnson and that band. But you can also hear a bit of Codeine—with whom I was really taken for a year or two, perhaps Buffalo Tom and also some Teenbeat/Unrest vibes in there. The tape is kind of a time capsule of the era. Considering how quickly it was made, I think the songs are pretty phenomenal—still insanely catchy. Dennis and Ted were obviously talented young men—it was fun writing songs together.

Sometime that year, Colin Clary released the cassette on his Sudden Shame label out of Vermont. Dennis did original artwork for the cassette— a woodblock print—or maybe a soap block print, I'm not sure.

--John Dugan


see also:
Trendinista 5000 on MySpace
twitter: @johnedugan, @tedleo, @SBP90s


James Kennedy said...

This cassette ruled my world in 1992 and, listening to it now, still does.

James Kennedy said...

Good Lord, I forgot Dennis' references to SUFR. "I'm a real activist for your love!"

James Kennedy said...

The other day at recess I was running around, looking for a game of kickball that I could join in.

Well there was this girl who was about 5'3". Yeah, that's right, she's about 5'3" in sixth grade.

She came over and she was like, "Hey Dugan, why don't you give me your lunch money man? I'm only going to be this much bigger than you for a couple more years, so I figure I might as well take advantage of it."

And I said, "What? Why you gotta do that to me, man? You know, we could be best friends. You know, we're not that much different, us boys and girls. I mean, why do we have to have these barriers? I don't really like hanging out with the boys at recess, and you know you don't like hanging out with the girls at recess. So why don't you come on over here and, I don't know, we'll make up a game. We'll make up a game that involves boys and girls."

But it was just a silly dream. Because the next day . . .

Jim Doppke said...

I always heard this (particularly the above recitatif) less as a tribute to Beat Hap and more as a hilarious, wonderful, wise-beyond-its-years, ggod-natured goof on the whole thing. It's all well and good to pretend you're an 8-year-old, but actually getting one on your tape? THAT is commitment. Take that, K Records.

But you know the real reason this beats Beat Hap at its own game? No. Fear. Of. Rocking. Best exemplified in the thunderous drums but Rock is all over the place here and it is most welcome. Also 1,000,000 bonus points for "ain't no Billy Joel."

I could go on and on.