September 29, 1992
Olive seven inch
[SDK-27] photocopied covers
The debut seven inch from Ennui was the start of what could be considered the second generation of Slamdek. Up to this point, most everyone who had released records on Slamdek had graduated from high school during the eighties. Ennui, and the crowd they were from, was next in line. They were all about five to seven years younger than members of bands like Endpoint, Sunspring, and Crain. However, as tightly knit as Louisville was, the age difference wasn’t enough to prevent everyone from already knowing each other. I had long been a fan of the hilarious Scalp fanzine made by two insane, hyperactive skateboarders, Matt Ronay and Josh Sachs. So naturally, when Matt became the singer for a new band called Ennui in early 1991, I was interested in the band.
The overall excitement and enthusiasm for the Ennui record was one of the most rewarding aspects of it. Essentially, Endpoint and Crain had gone on about their business with other labels, and in November 1991, Sunspring was the only band on Slamdek. The current releases on the label were the Slambang Vanilla video, 7 More Seconds cassette, and a cassette of unreleased Spot material. None of these could scarcely be classified as “anchor” records. Slamdek was drifting, and the door was wide open for new people with new ideas to come in and breathe new life into the label.
Spot played a reunion show at ear X-tacy on November 17, 1991 as part of Slamdek’s fifth birthday celebration, the Five Fest. At the party, Matt Ronay asked me if I’d be interested in putting out an Ennui record on Slamdek. Having only seen the band once, I said I’d love to. Since Slamdek was then five years old, it had become a big part of punk and hardcore in general for kids who had been attracted to the scene in those years. The kids who were in Ennui had grown into punk and hardcore with Slamdek as one of their guides. They were as outwardly excited about being on Slamdek as I was about having them, a new and active band, on the label.
The band was high school sophomores and juniors; Matt Ronay singing, Lane Sparber on guitar, Forrest Kuhn on drums, and Tim Houchin on bass.
Ennui shows were adventures into absurdity. Puzzled looks on the faces in the audience were abundant. Each show had a theme, and the band would decorate the stage with props and they’d dress according to the theme. By the end of each show, usually with the help of friend Ben Brantley, they would completely destroy their stage sets and Matt would do his best to make sure pieces of it came in contact with every audience member. If you walked in after a show was over and there was a mess all over the place, chances were that Ennui had played.
For an October 18, 1991 performance at Audubon Sk8 Park with Sunspring, Undermine, MFBS, and Step Down, it was a Mafia and gangster theme. The band constructed downtown buildings out of cardboard, simulating rough city streets, and they dressed in suits. At Robyn Craxton’s Big Surprise, it was naturally a birthday theme, for which they hung birthday decorations, wore hats, and threw Ben into a birthday cake. An exercise bicycle from Forrest’s house was damaged during antics at an Ennui practice, and the band had to pay for the damage to the bicycle, which they ended up buying. Since Ennui owned a broken exercise bike, the exercise theme was implemented for a
May 1, 1992 show at George Rogers Clark Park with Sunspring, Step Down, Sancred, and Shut Out. During the show, Josh Sachs and Dave Cook engaged in an exercise work out and, of course, by the end of the show, totally demolished the bike with baseball bats. For Ennui’s last show, June 21, 1992, at Tewligans with Crain, Diet Sunspring, and Sancred, they created several huge, inflatable bubbles out of garbage bags. The first few songs were performed with most of the band concealed inside these enormous, inflated bubbles.
May 5, 1992, Ennui at George Rogers Clark Park: the exercise theme. Above: Dave Cook and Josh Sachs. Below: Matt Ronay, Dave Cook, Forrest Kuhn.
Ennui recorded in May 1992 at WGNS Studio in Arlington, Virginia. This was a basement studio, operated by Gray Matter singer Geoff Turner. I met Geoff a few months earlier when I had been dropped off at the house for the Jawbox tour. DSL studio in Louisville was not fully operational for outside clients yet, and Ennui wanted to go for a different, and more unique sound than Howie Gano’s Sound On Sound was known to provide. While talking about the upcoming Ennui record one day, Matt and I decided it would probably be best to take the band out of town to record. As we were both Gray Matter fans and I had recently met Geoff, WGNS was our first choice. I called Geoff to see if he’d be interested in the project, and he was.
Having been lucky enough to get the opportunity to work with the first choice engineer, it would have seemed that the hardest part of the process was out of the way. To the contrary, some of the parents of Ennui members were concerned about their kids missing school to be taken out of state to a recording studio. They were also very curious about what Slamdek was, how big it was, as well as what kind of sales quantities and royalties might be coming along. So before Ennui was ever able to enter the studio, leave the state, or officially commit to making a record on Slamdek, a meeting had to be held. The meeting was held in April at Forrest’s parents’ house near Eastern Parkway and Baxter Avenue. The band and all their parents were in attendance to meet with me. The discussions covered the size of the label, copyrights, quantities, and all that sort of stuff. The parents had an inflated idea of Slamdek’s scale because of their children’s perception of it, and all of that was put into perspective. In addition, plans were made
for the extended weekend trip to the metro DC area, May 8-11.
For the trip to the studio, Dr. “Chip” Kuhn, Forrest’s father, drove their Mazda minivan with the equipment, Forrest, and Lane. Layla Smith again drove her Honda Civic to DC with Matt, Tim, and myself in tow. The first day in the studio was May 9, 1992. The band recorded the better part of seven songs, guitar overdubs and vocal tracks. The second day was mostly mixing. To everyone’s surprise Geoff took great interest in the songs and offered his ideas. He was originally going to be listed as an engineer, but the role he played during the recording process became so vital to the way the record turned out that he was listed as a producer. At one point he coerced Lane into trying a Marshall amplifier for extra tracks instead of his Fender combo. Lane was reluctant to deviate from his normal set up, but as soon as he was plugged in, he retracked every song with a Marshall track. Geoff also suggested an acoustic track on “Slugs” which in retrospect seems to carry the song, and the doubled vocal track on “Alkaline” was also his idea.
As it was Ennui’s first trip into a recording studio, Geoff was very easy to work with, and the band enjoyed the process. During a break, Geoff and I walked up to a convenience store from the house. We discussed bringing Sunspring to WGNS in the fall of 1992 to record our first full-length album.
Ennui broke up within two months of leaving the studio. And their seven inch, Olive, was issued two months after that. Having been seven months since the last Slamdek release, despite the break up of both our bands, Ennui and Sunspring, Matt and I hounded the records like crazy. It was all we had left and we wanted to make sure everyone in Louisville had a copy of each.
Ennui’s Olive seven inch sold 347 copies, and about another 150 were given away at Slamdek Rockers field hockey games or sold below cost after Slamdek shut down in 1995. The four songs were reissued in the Slamdek Singles box set in spring 1993 along with the three others from the WGNS session. As well, “Gun?” one of the three spare songs appeared on the 1992 Christmas tape, Slamdek Merry Christmas is for Rockers. Total circulation of releases containing Ennui songs is about 600 units.
Ennui played a reunion show at City Lights, January 22, 1993, with Crain, Sunspring, and Rodan. Guitarist Lane Sparber had gone to college, causing the break up of the band, so Chad Castetter of Endpoint played guitar for the reunion. Additionally, Matt had begun playing guitar after Ennui had broken up, so he played as well as sung at the reunion.
Produced by Geoff Turner and K. Scott Ritcher.
34 Page Book
[instruments and last names not listed on record]
Tim Houchin, bass
Forrest Kuhn, drums
Matt Ronay, vocals
Lane Sparber, guitar
Some backing voices: Tim, K. Scott, Forrest.
Thank you: Scott, everybody’s parents (especially Forrest’s and Lane’s), Herschal S., Scott L., Enette & David, Geoff Turner, Ben, Josh, Jason H., Layla & Tim F., Duncan, John W., Dave Cook, Chris H., Victor J., Alice, Andy L., Tony C., Matt L., Wanton, everybody at Audubon Sk8 Park, Cody G., Kim (Kinko’s), Carrie S., Thomas Harris, Macintosh, Robin C., McGee, Mindy, Rubbing Alcohol, Super America Bike Track, Sud, Dave and Curt and Chuck, Tewligans, Crain, Endpoint, Chico, Shawn P., Al Smith, Jeff and Jason and Gill, Derek, Brian, Sean Mc, Kevin K., Duke of Louisville, and you.