Sunspring – $1.50 Demo

April 2, 1990

Sunspring
$1.50 Demo cassette
[SDK-3950] color copied inserts, dot matrix labels

After becoming frustrated with the progress my bands Cold Mourning and McBand were making, I again took matters into my own hands. My previous “solo” cassettes carried on the name Pink Aftershock in 1988 after the demise of that band. But this time it became more of an action of starting something new, rather than continuing something old. The aptly titled $1.50 Demo (it sold for $1.50) materialized virtually over night. The six song cassette consists mostly of songs that were recorded as demos for McBand to learn. However, getting things done with McBand was sometimes like pulling teeth. And while the quality and variety of the recordings Cold Mourning had finished far surpasses that of the recordings on the $1.50 Demo, that material was stagnant. The time just seemed right to go out on a limb and start over with new people.

Cold Mourning recorded an entire album, In The Blue Attic, on the same borrowed Akai Betamax ten track machine Slambang Vanilla had used to record The Memphis Sessions. The Cold Mourning album was a mix of big Emulator drum machine sounds with chorused and overdriven guitar grit, backed with a 1960’s hollow body electric bass, and capped with Jeff Hinton’s slightly unsure vocals. Some songs were fast, heavy, pounding rock tunes, while others were simply a piano, synthesized strings, and vocals.

The ideas Jeff and I shared were slowly drifting apart. Our practices, with John Kampschaefer on drums, at John’s parents’ St. Matthews home off Cannons Lane, were becoming fewer and farther between. One day in late March 1990, I decided put some of the subpar demos I made for McBand on a cassette and sell it for a price anyone could try. The only problem was that McBand was hardly breathing, and no one from the group played on the tapes. While trying to think of new name, torn between Sundial and Pipespring, I combined them into Sunspring. I also like the name because it had “Sun” in it, like Sun Records, and “Spring,” like Rites Of Spring. I’ve always thought it was cheesy to name bands after other bands or song titles, so I never told anyone that was part of my idea behind the name. I guess the cat’s out of the bag now, eh? Within a month, the $1.50 Demo was in stores. It was in print for about six months and sold 59 copies, nearly all at ear X-tacy.

The $1.50 Demo introduced a lot of the themes and ideas that became mainstays in Sunspring’s style for years. Full volume one second and complete silence the next, siren-esque feedback, effects build ups that escalate then suddenly stop, lyrics about relationships sung from the throat, drastic changes in the EQ as if it’s an instrument, dialog samples, and a direct guitar that sounds as if it’s overloading every device recording it. The six songs on this cassette are all fairly similar, mid-tempo, overdriven, distorted, chorused, poorly recorded, and about two minutes each. When Cary Willis played “Desert Song” on WFPL fM’s The Flip Side, he commented, “It doesn’t sound like it’s very good for you, but I like it.” The guitar and vocal sounds seem to be beginning to take form. Most of the cassette is without a bass line. A couple songs have one that comes in the form of a regular guitar with an octave pedal on it. This didn’t work so well and the notes are up and down and everywhere.

The tape opens with “Epitaph”/“Vision,” two songs with basically the same music at different rhythms. The only thing really keeping them from being a single song was the fact that I borrowed the lyrics to “Vision” from Susanne Butler. “Fade to black, never
come back. To lose all feeling, to fade to black. Always lost, never left, another step to fade to black. To give it all and have none back, to forget it all and fade to black.” A poppier tune, “Desert Song,” follows with an intro sampled from a 1967 Scholastic record, Curious George Takes A Job. “This is George. He lived in a zoo. He was a good little monkey, but he was very curious…”

“Decept” is next in line, and, again, has the same notes as “Epitaph” and “Vision,” but at a different tempo and rhythm. This time it’s slower and more dramatic, “If I could just have what I wanted, then wouldn’t tomorrow be great. Waking up alone and wasting my days, working towards an end. Looking at you and thinking then looking at you again. Begging for old friendships back, only wishing. If everything’s going for me, then what makes you go the other way? So now that it’s over, I guess I go on, looking and thinking, wondering and wishing. But always continuing, wanting.”

“Dez K. Collage,” is a seven minute array of strategically placed, split second splices from about three hundred popular, progressive, and alternative songs. One segment is all numbers, one is all vocalists introducing songs, one is drum fills, audiences, profanities, and so on.

The final song, “Implode,” is listed on the cassette label, but not on the J-card. “Implode unto myself when there’s nothing left. Imploded values, imploded hopes, explode from within to spread all over. Exploded corruption, exploded smiles. Contorted lives in the hands of a joke. Distorted visions floating off in smoke. Distance, an analysis. Ignorance is a catalyst. Move forward to move away. Move away from me. Indecency is a perspective. Contentness is an analysis. Ignorance is a catalyst to move forward, move away.” I later recorded a different version of “Implode” which was on a tape that won honorable mention in Spin Magazine’s New Sounds competition that December.

The tape ends with another Curious George sample that was intentionally recorded to be nearly inaudible. Most people who own a copy of the $1.50 Demo probably don’t even know it’s there. “‘I wonder what’s inside that big bottle.’ George was very curious. It smelled funny. Suddenly his head began to turn. Then he felt as if he were flying. Then rings and stars danced before his eyes. Then everything went dark.”

Throughout the summer of 1990, my efforts were mostly centered around trying to put a band called Sunspring together. The first version had Tishy Quesenberry (Your Face) on drums, Simon Furnish (Tim’s brother) on guitar, me singing and playing guitar, and no bass player. Other incarnations over the summer included Tim Furnish on bass, Will Chatham on drums, and Susan Leach on guitar. Each line up had a few practices then quickly fell apart. One night at a show at the Zodiac Club, I asked John Weiss of Downpour if he’d be interested in playing drums for Sunspring. John said he’d like to give it a shot, but he was in a band called Fullout, and that was his priority. But we exchanged phone numbers. Soon after, we asked our friend Chad Castetter (Endpoint) to play bass on a temporary basis until we could find a permanent bassist. Chad also accepted.

Practices were held at John’s parents’ house off Lime Kiln Lane and were initially of little substance. Chad picked up on things instantaneously, and usually became bored while John and I practiced and re-practiced the same things over and over. We also had practices without Chad, since we knew he could quickly pick up whatever we put together. We played our first show on December 3, 1990 at the Zodiac Club. It was a Monday night all ages Earthquake Party. Seismologists had predicted a major earthquake for this day in Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Alas, there was no earthquake. The headliner was a Crawdad reunion and Sister Shannon played in the middle. John and I got to the club early, started sweating, and went through the six song set a few times on the sidewalk out front. Of course, Chad waltzed in after he got off work and soon after the sun went down, Sunspring took the stage for the first time. The shaky set included “Desert Song,” “Engage,” “4×4” (a two chord instrumental), “Silver Spring,” and a couple others. A crowd of about sixty people showed up. Not bad for a school night, when there was supposed to be an earthquake.

LINER NOTES:

Plays on both sides:
Epitaph/Vision
Desert Song
Decept
Roberts
Dez K. Collage
Implode (not listed)

K Scott Ritcher, instruments & vocals
(not listed)

Produced by Sunspring. “Vision” lyrics Susanne Butler. Thanks to Kim Coletta. Photo Jeff Hinton. Thanks Betsy Porter.