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