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The Aislers Set
Slumberland Records, the locally formed label that has released some of the best, noisiest indie pop ever pressed to seven-inch, turned 20 this year, and it’s celebrating all weekend. Tonight’s show at the Black Cat features current Slumberland bands Crystal Stilts, Brown Recluse, Frankie and the Outs andPants Yell!, as well as three reunited bands from the area, the Ropers, Lorelei, and Nord Express.
We asked some of the people involved with Slumberland over the years to share their favorite memories of the label. We ran some yesterday, and here are the rest:
On professional jealousy: “The one record that I wish I had been a part of but wasn’t was Black Tambourine. I am forever jealous of everyone in that band because those songs are absolutely perfect. When I first heard “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge,” I was filled with anger that it was something I hadn’t done. It represented what we were all about. It was noisy, it had the Wall of Sound, and it hinted at ’60s girl groups. It had that element of what anyone could do and no one had.”—Kelly Young (Velocity Girl)
On bonding over chipped beef: “My first encounter with Slumberland was in 1990. I went to see Whorl open for the Wedding Present at the old 9:30 Club. I distinctly recall Brian Nelson screaming until the shade of his face matched the red lights they were performing under. The stage was like the bridge of a submarine that is rapidly sinking. It was insanely loud and pummeling. I tracked down Mike Schulman after the show and demanded an interview. I met Mike and Dan Searing at the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring and interviewed them for the GW Hatchet. They told me about music like John Cage, Glenn Branca, and Skullflower. My article apparently failed to capture and convey what I had witnessed as Whorl’s fan base did not explode in the way that I had imagined. But, I made friends for life over coffee and chipped beef.”—Matthew Dingee (Lorelei)
On hazing: “Dan Searing and I went to meet John Cage at a book signing in Adams Morgan [around 1991], and then to a concert of his work downtown. I don’t remember what we saw but I do remember mixing pills and drink. We did our best to focus but, like the composer himself, we nodded off a few times during the performance. We ended up where we usually did, back at Mike [Schulman]’s garden apartment listening to records at full crank. Pam [Berry] was over practicing some Bright Colored Lights songs with Mike. I eventually passed out on the floor. Much to my surprise, when I got home the next day I noticed that Pam had drawn eyes on my eyelids. I’ll be looking to propagate this hazing ritual onto any member of the new crop of Slumberland bands that happens to pass out this weekend.”—Matthew Dingee
On soul-induced nudity: “We had sort of a Slumberland supergroup with members of the Lilys, and the Ropers and Lorelei, and it was I think the 10thanniversary of the old 9:30 Club, maybe the 15th, and we were doing a cover of Archie Bell and the Drells’ ‘Tighten Up,’ which is a great soul classic, and Lorelei’s guitarist at the time [Dave Cerf], who was in the original lineup and who was back in town, who knows how or why, but he took off all his clothes and became a naked male dancer for this song, at a sold-out 9:30 club.”—Stephen Gardner (Lorelei)
On surviving a blizzard: “I think it was October 1994, and Boyracer and the Ropers were on an American tour. Papa Slumber (Mike Schulman) and a German fellow named Ulrich were shepherding a caravan of sleepy musicians through a northern snowy mountain pass in two vans. Blizzard conditions…and I think we were supposed to be in Seattle the next day. Our vehicles were built for East Coast winters and wet city slop. They never should have seen West Coast mountains like these, not to mention this kind of snow. The heat was on full blast but still not enough to keep out that cold. Mike was driving one van, and Ulrich was driving the other. I could feel ours fishtailing back and forth at every turn. I was drifting in and out of consciousness from sleep deprivation but to actually fall asleep felt like certain death, so no one really slept. I can’t imagine how we got through…Really, I was so frazzled, I can’t even remember. It was something else…like Washington crossing the Delaware. Like this label…how did Mike do it? How did this label come out the other side of that mountain range with everything in tact? He kept it together. 20 years…amazing.”—Greg Pavlovcak (the Ropers)
On touring Japan with the Aislers Set in 1999: “Amy [Linton] was being chased down the street for her autograph, like the Beatles or something. We did a big show in Tokyo at the end of the tour, and the album wasn’t out in Japan yet but every single kid knew every word to every song. The whole crowd just went nuts from the first guitar chord. It was kind of shocking. Even I signed an autograph.”—Mike Schulman, label head
On channeling influences: “One time Peggy [Wang-East] and I were out at an indie-pop dance night in New York called Mondo. All of a sudden, the opening chords of ‘I Love You Like the Way that I Used to Do’ by Rocketship came on, or so I thought. I said, ‘Peggy, they’re playing Rocketship, this rules—let’s dance.’ And she responded by pointing out that the song was actually ‘This Love Is Fucking Right’—by us.”—Kip Berman (the Pains of Being Pure at Heart)
On why the Slumberland sound has endured: “It’s so great. It’s ugly and beautiful at the same time. The best of both words I guess. And the Slumberland bands do it the best.”—Frankie Rose (Frankie and the Outs)
On late-night television: “It was definitely amazing going down to L.A. for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart on Carson Daly‘s show in the spring. There’s something about the music that I like and the music I’ve been involved with for that being taken seriously at that level. The whole crazy thing with the TV studio, it was a pretty wild experience.”—Mike Schulman
Black Tambourine’s “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” video: