Thursday, July 15, 2010

Severinsen - SNUBBED! by incubus 1993 + Bonus Live

In 1993, Severinsen recorded a couple songs at Miami Street Studio, with the impression that one of them would be included on the incubus 1993 ND campus band compilation. Yet for some reason, the band was eventually excluded from the CD. This EP, affectionately dubbed "SNUBBED! by incubus 1993," represents those studio recordings, as well as a couple extra live tracks we dug up from the show we previously posted.


This was my first time recording with John Nuner at Miami Street. (I'd go on to record at least two other mega sessions with emiLy). Nervous as heck but I'm happy with the way I played and the way we sounded. Nuner was a nice guy and easy to work with.

I'm pretty sure we recorded the basics for 3 songs (another one in addition to "Limber/Sorry" and "My Greatest Fear") but only kept/overdubbed/finished those two.

Singing the backup vocals to "My Greatest Fear" with Colin and Eric was much fun.

"Limber/Sorry" was and still is my favorite Severinsen song to play and to listen to. I'm very happy we have a nice studio version of this.

Somebody (can't remember who) told me later that both of these songs were rejected from the incubus CD because Chris was already represented in Chisel and Colin was already represented in Brian, Colin, and Vince. Which to this day still seems incredibly unfair to Eric and myself, but so it goes. SNUBBED!, indeed.

I'm not sure how we started doing the PJ Harvey cover with Kate Babka, but it was always a blast. And the Kylie song always made me laugh. It is about Kylie Minogue, isn't it? When I would hear her techno stuff years later (1999-2001 or so), anytime I saw her on VH1 on directTV or something, the line "Kylie's got a crush on us" would pop into my head.


I remember Colin having to stand on top of his amp in the studio to prevent the horrible vibration it produced from being recorded. Then I remember actual vocal track takes being produced in the bathroom to produce that "natural reverb"effect. The last minute decision to provide backup vocals on "My Greatest Fear" was just hilarious. Good times.

Then of course there was the incubus snub. I was probably the most affected by it, because I didn't have another band on the compilation, and I was a senior, so there would be no second chance. I remember getting my copy and giving it a chance, listening through all the tracks to hear why our recordings were not included. I was a genuine fan of many of the bands that were included (as a sidebar, I was so impressed with Bother, I asked them to play at our house during Zep Fest. The lead singer, James Kennedy, almost got into a fight with some of the people at the party because the band wanted to play during the NCAA Final Four basketball game on the TV. We eventually had to hide James in the basement to prevent him from getting hurt. So punk!!) When I heard the last forgettable track on the CD - "Punch the Clown" by The Porkchoppers (so forgettable, I had to look it up) I fully realized what a snub it was. The last song was so horrible, it turned into another valuable life lesson that you only get in college - in the music business, it's who you know. As I recall, the Porkchoppers were friends with the producers of the CD.

Our luck seemed to follow us around as we were the only band at the battle of the bands in the top 10 that played on the "student run" stage. All the other bands in the top 10 played on the stage that was engineered by professionals. The student engineers didn't even notice I was singing the last song of the set until halfway through the song when Meghan King of The Sister Chain fame yelled at them to turn up my microphone. The fact that we still got 5th made me wonder how well we could have done on the other stage.

I remember taking a recording studio class the year after graduation and bringing a copy of these recordings we made in for show and tell. I was the only brave soul in the whole class. Everyone commented how they wished they could hear the vocals better and that they were lost in the mix. I lamented at the time that I sort of wished the same, but I also recall that was somewhat intentional.


I seem to recall that the engineer, John Nuner, had some funny turns of phrase. "Put it in the can," maybe? Something like that? His studio had a strange, fly by night feel to it. I always assumed it was a front for some shady dealings. But Nuner was (and hopefully still is) a good guy.

As for the songs, I love Colin's and cringe at mine. L/S was the beginning of great things for Colin - he wrote in that vein for the next ten years or so, shoegazing with the best of them. The lyrics of MGF are inexplicable. I hope no one thinks they're autobiographical. Thank god for the backup vocals, which add the only levity to an otherwise super creepy song.


Did John Nuner have a palm tree for a logo? I was always confused by the Miami moniker.

I think we all generally had a positive experience during the sessions. I think we recorded 2 songs because we couldn't decide whether to use one of Chris' songs or one of mine - and we were not the primary songwriters in the other bands we were in. Our idea was to give the incubus folks both songs and let them pick which one they wanted to use. I don't think it occurred to us at the time that they might go with the third option - neither! Yikes! And yeah, I recall that we were led to believe that we were excluded because of Chris and I already being on there with Chisel and Brian, Colin and Vince - but I didn't have the same problem of not being able to separate the various acts in my mind.

I'm not particularly bitter about it now, but I remember feeling slighted - Severinsen was a really important band to me. I see now that we were still learning what we were even doing, but at the time we were feeling like ND music scene veterans - playing regular gigs on and off campus and such.

When I decided to make my own compilation cassette release, Shameless, on my label Sudden Shame I put BOTH of the Severinsen songs on there -- is that why so many bands got 2 songs each? Ahahaha!

As a studio newbie, I remember trying to make cool sounds and used a cassette case to do amateur slide work up and down the neck.

I'm definitely glad we made these recordings, even though they were snubbed. We knew they we good!

As far as the bonus live material goes, we were playing "Sheila na Gig" because Chris had become a massive PJ Harvey fan on his semester abroad - and he also came back to the states with a cassette that had "Kylie's Got a Crush on Us" as performed by Teenage Fanclub (but written by the BMX Bandits). So we just loved playing those songs. I remember going to see PJ play in Chicago with Chris and waiting outside afterwards to say hi! And last year I got to see both of those bands live at the same festival (Indietracks), but neither one played that song. If they had, it would likely have blown my mind!

Did we start having Kate sing on "Sheila" because we wanted to help her get into Club 23 (underage) or was it just because we thought it would be a fun thing to do? I can't remember. Maybe Chris started feeling weird about singing it (as a boy?) and wanted to get some estrogen injected back into it. I could make up theories all day long, but Kate might be the best person to ask for the real answer! A couple months ago I was playing a show in a bar in Montpelier, VT, and my friends band that we were playing with did a cover of that song, too! Boy did it bring back memories all over again.

"Belly up!" That's another blast from the past! So glad to be reminded that this song ever existed. The recording quality is waaay rough, but I'm just glad to hear enough of it to spark my memories.


see also:
Severinsen on MySpace
incubus 1993 compilation