Sunspring – Poppy

June 4, 1993

Sunspring
Poppy cassette & compact disc
[SDK-31] CD: four color process printed inserts. Cassette: laser-printed one-of-a-kind inserts in books-on-tape long box, laser-printed labels

The “new” Sunspring entered the studio in January 1993 to record an album after having been together a little over three months. I called Mike Baker who was operating DSL studio in Jeffersontown and asked him if he’d be interested in recording the band. I really liked the clean, full, accessible sound David Stewart was able to get for Hopscotch Army’s recordings, and I was interested in taking the same approach. Nearly everything on Slamdek, and nearly every local punk record up to that point, had been recorded fairly quickly. That is, within a couple days. A band would walk into the studio, set up their equipment, the engineer would set up the microphones, and they’d start recording.

Under David’s guidance, Hopscotch Army would set up their equipment, set up microphones, and then begin working on tones. “Working on tones” is the process of listening to the way instruments sound through the recording equipment, then fine tuning those sounds. Hopscotch Army approached the recording process from a very involved standpoint of creating sounds on a whole, rather than as simply documenting their songs to tape. Setting up and working on instrument tones could sometimes take several days before a single note was ever recorded. After the recording process was finished, mixing was also approached as an ongoing and precise process. Among other features, DSL was equipped with a computerized, automated mixing system. Using it, the levels for mixing were set as they ordinarily would be during mixing, except that they were set into computer instead of using the physical mixing board. If certain instruments had to be louder or quieter during any certain part of a song, those level changes could be programmed. The songs went through many mixing “practices,” during which changes could be made. There was no guesswork when the songs actually went to the master tape. Everyone in the room could hear the final version play before it was set in stone. I was fascinated by this approach to recording and mixing, and was very interested in how Sunspring’s brash, dissonant style would sound if fed through this process. Dare we say, building it cleanly and crisply as a pop album.

Mike told me that he’d be interested in working on the Sunspring album. In fact, Mike told me that he and David were interested in bringing more bands in to have DSL function as any normal studio. If the Sunspring album were to turn out well, a whole new side of Louisville’s music scene would be interested in the studio. On the telephone, over a month before Sunspring entered the studio, Mike and I discussed our ideas for the recording process. The band was drawing fairly good sized crowds at our shows and as a result we had the kind of money available to invest in this time-consuming recording process.

We finally entered the studio January 5, 1993. The majority of tones were knocked out the first day. On January 7, the rest of the sound was ironed out and recording of basic tracks began. This continued the following day, with vocals and extra guitar tracks being taken care of the day after that. After spending 23 hours across four days, the instruments and vocals for all twelve songs had been recorded; about 33 minutes of music. We were suffering from sensory overload and decided to take a break before mixing the record.

We returned to DSL about a month later, February 6, to begin the mixing process. Mixing the as-yet-untitled album took nearly as long as recording it; about 17 hours in three days. Some of these hours were also spent laying an assortment of samples into the songs. More than half of the album’s songs are touched by borrowed sounds which range from a radio relay of Soviet Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dying upon reentry in Soyuz 1 (between “First Sip Of Coffee” and “Name”) to a CD of the band Spectrum being scanned (beginning of “Lump”) to strategically placed single piano notes (“Mine”) to Bob of Bob’s RV’s on The Simpsons (during the fade out of “Lump”) to a subtle Elvis Presley thanking his audience (end of “Diet Zero”) to a snippet of Poppy’s SMPTE timecode track (beginning of “One Box Of Answers”). Ex-Sunspring drummer John Weiss came back from American University in December 1992, and was still in town when Sunspring was recording Poppy. He stopped by DSL to hear how the band had evolved on the day we were recording vocals. As a result of his visit, John’s voice is heard (along with some hilarious, demonic effects) as a two second guest vocal for the words “just once” during “Slightly On.”

Mixing was completed on February 8, bringing the total cost of the $25 an hour recording process to $1,006.25, about $85 per song, or fifty cents per second. We focused on playing some shows to raise money to get the CD’s made, an expense we shared with Slamdek. Break Even Point was still planning a vinyl issue of the album in Europe, but couldn’t offer any money to help pay for recording. When this news came over, we discussed whether or not Break Even Point should even be allowed to make the record. Sunspring didn’t have a contract with the label, so neither side was bound to give the other anything. No one had certainly forgotten the great story of when B.E.P. put out explaining of which could be an entire book in itself. Two Ross Perot-esque chart graphs accompany the lyrics. “Growth In U.S. Productivity” gives a decade-by-decade history of its declining total: 1961-70, 32.6%; 1971-80, 13.3%; 1981-90, 11.3%. Contrasting it on the next page is “Total U.S. Federal Debt In Trillions of Dollars” which is between $0 and $1 trillion from 1970 to 1981, then skyrockets, quadrupling to over $4 trillion in 1992. The cover also features two band photos taken by Michael Jarboe at Sunspring practice in January, a small ear X-tacy advertisement, a detailed track listing with exact times for all 30 tracks, the lyrics to the twelve album songs, and an empty yellow rectangle with the leader, “This CD belongs to:”

June 4, 1993, Sunspring at the Machine: Jason Thompson.

When everything was finally ready, it was shipped off to American Helix in Lancaster, Pennsylvania who did the printing and manufactured the discs. About two and a half months later, June 4, 1993, the CD’s arrived. Luckily, the delivery was made on the same day we were playing the first show of a tour in Louisville. The show at the Machine was with Endpoint, Telephone Man, and Worlds Collide. To a sold out house, we sold over fifty (of ear X-tacy’s) copies of the CD that night, as well as four dozen shirts, and we were paid $1,100 for playing. This sum plus all the merchandise was not only a rare occurrence that never repeated itself, but also paid back a huge amount of the money we borrowed to get the CD’s made. The spirits were willing, so to speak.

In August 1993, the we put together a gift to the faculty and students of Louisville Collegiate School commemorating the immortalization of school’s stairway on Sunspring’s album cover. The framed letter, which now hangs in the lobby of the upper school, around the corner from the actual stairway, includes a copy of the CD and its cover. It reads,

Dear Mr. Selvig, Students and Faculty of Louisville Collegiate School,
You probably recogize this picture as being taken in your Upper School stairway. Between classes one day in 1988, a few members of Collegiate’s Class of 1990 took a break there. By chance there was a camera in a book bag, and Carrie Osborne snapped this picture of Whitney “Poppy” Marlowe reflecting on the day’s events. Whitney’s split-second of thought was captured forever.

After five years of residing in Carrie’s photo album, the picture was stumbled upon. Shortly after, it was selected to grace the cover of Sunspring’s first album. For lack of an album title, Whitney’s high school nickname “Poppy” was chosen.

For Sunspring, this image represents our ideas very well. The uniform reminds us that we are all ultimately equal. Her exceptionally white socks assure us that we are lucky in having such luxuries . . . yet her expression doesn’t let us forget that our inner thoughts and feelings remain our most valuable assets. We have also certainly not forgotten that one of Sunspring’s first performances, April 1991, took place in Collegiate’s gym.

Through Slamdek and Cargo Records America, Inc. of Chicago, Sunspring’s “Poppy” CD’s and cassettes have sold throughout the United States and Canada. Break Even Point Recordsof Italy has issued a European version of the album as a 12” vinyl LP. Every single copy of every version of the album sold worldwide carries this familiar image of Louisville Collegiate School.

We would like this gift to stand as an expression of our gratitude. For today and every day that somebody sees the cover of “Poppy” and thinks of Collegiate, or any time someone passes through the Upper School stairway and thinks of Sunspring, we thank you.

It’s dated August 30, 1993, and signed by the three band members. Those of you keeping score and paying attention out there may have noticed a few embarrassing discrepancies. In the first line the word “recognize” is spelled wrong. Pretty impressive when you’re writing a letter to a school. And the third paragraph refers to “one of Sunspring’s first performances, April 1991…in Collegiate’s gym. We all know from earlier in the book that the show was May 10, 1991, in Collegiate’s auditorium. Right? Duh.

Another tribute to the school was a Sunspring t-shirt design which was a takeoff on the infamous Collegiate gold P.E. shirt. The back of the shirt listed all of Sunspring’s shows, along with who was in the band, what other bands played, where the show was, and how much we got paid for playing. These shirts were made in November 1993, a few months after the band broke up.

Other than the seven songs called “Twit” and the twelve-song album, the Poppy CD includes eleven additional bonus tracks. Those songs are the Slinky 7″, “House” (the Cerebellum cover from Merry Christmas), the Sunspring side of the Endpoint/Sunspring split 7″, and the four songs recorded November 30, 1994 at Sound On Sound: “Diet Zero,” “First Sip Of Coffee (Noisy Mix),” “Revolving Door (Turbo),” and “Roadburn.” The modifier “Noisy Mix” designates it as a slightly different mix of the same recording which appeared on Aftereffects of Insomnia, Volume 2. And “Turbo” was added to “Revolving Door” simply because the version is especially unintentionally fast. The version of “Roadburn” is the same one that opens Slamdek Merry Christmas Is For Rockers.

The first order of Poppy discs was 1,000 units, all of which sold during the first year. A second batch of 500 was manufactured in spring 1994 at a different pressing plant, Zomax, as American Helix had been bought by KAO Optimedia and no longer worked in orders of less than 10,000. When CD’s are manufactured, two different glass mastering processes can be done. One is the most common, least expensive, and has a total playing time of 74 minutes. The other is more expensive and can add six additional minutes to the program. The original order of Poppy CD’s was of the 80-minute variety. When the second order was placed and the mechanical parts had to be shipped to another plant, the new plant could not make 80-minute CD’s. Well, they could, but they would have to completely remaster the disc, at an additional cost of $600. At the time, Slamdek was on a very tight budget (as it almost always was), and I opted to just delete the last two songs rather than delay the repressing longer while more money could be raised. Without the last two songs, the disc still boasted 28 songs in 73 minutes. Still a great deal for ten bucks. And to tell you the truth, I didn’t really feel like any song was worth $300, especially those two.

The Slamdek cassette version of Poppy is fairly rare, having sold only 56 copies. About a dozen were made with a color-copied cover design similar to the CD. The remainder were all one of a kind. Matt Ronay had been playing with feeding unusual paper (like random magazine pages) through his laser printer. I caught on to this idea and made a bunch of Sunspring tape covers this way. They were mostly pages out of one of my sister’s high school German textbooks, foreign fashion magazines, and paper samples Matt and I collected on a visit to Fetter Printing while planning the Ennui 7″ cover.

Break Even Point’s vinyl LP was finally released in September 1993, about a month after the band broke up. The Italian label sent fifty copies and everyone in Sunspring finally had their wish fulfilled of being on an actual vinyl album. Unfortunately, B.E.P. totally cheesed out and printed the album jackets in black and white. I had sent an intentionally low resolution version of the cover photo of Whitney which was to be printed at about 25 lines per inch. That is, with very big dots. The black and white covers were printed at normal resolution and look really jaggy. Completely not the desired effect. Other than the first box of fifty records, not another cent has found its way across thw ocean, nor has any report of the quantities that the vinyl version of Poppy sold. And that’s not to insinuate that any news or payments would not be welcomed now.

LINER NOTES:

Side one:
Christmas Morning 2:50
Time Bomb 2:30
First Sip Of Coffee 2:43
Name 4:10
Diet Zero 2:50
Slightly On 1:53

Side two:
Mine 4:34
Lump 2:32
One Box Of Answers 2:33
Street 2:08
Revolving Door 2:08
Lay Low 2:53

Compact disc track listing:
(01-12 Poppy LP)
01 Christmas Morning 2:50
02 Time Bomb 2:30
03 First Sip Of Coffee 2:43
04 Name 4:10
05 Diet Zero 2:50
06 Slightly On 1:53
07 Mine 4:34
08 Lump 2:32
09 One Box Of Answers 2:33
10 Street 2:08
11 Revolving Door 2:08
12 Lay Low 2:53
(13-19 Twit CD-only cuts)
13 Twit, Faceless Carrie 0:45
14 Twit, Punch Out 0:16
15 Twit, Apples 0:33
16 Twit, I Love K Composite 0:39
17 Twit, USA Nylon 3:00
18 Twit, Rob Pennington 0:24
19 Twit, Rave Is Stupid 3:53
(20-23 Slinky 7″ + 1)
20 Faceless 2:07
21a House, edit 4:05
21b Magnet 2:34
22 Christmas Morning 3:28
23 Street 3:15
(24-26 Split 7″)
24 Don’t Just Stand There 2:46
25 Silver Spring 1:29
26 Kendall Ann Costich 1:49
(27-30 Howie 92 Demos)
27 Diet Zero 2:55
28 First Sip Of Coffee, noisy mix 2:44
29 Revolving Door, turbo 2:35
30 Roadburn 2:55

Forrest Kuhn, drums
K. Scott Ritcher, guitar/vocals
Jason Thompson, bass

Recorded and engineered by Mike Baker at DSL.

Thank you: Dr. Kuhn, Elizabeth Kuhn, Robyn Craxton, John “Ticketmaster” Timmons, Miss Carrie Elisabeth “Valentine’s Day” Osborne, Kevin Quan, Tony “Cutie” Cox, Amy Riddel, Princess Layla “Ler” Smith, Victor “Vince” Jory, Chris Barber, Joey “Fixing Do Charge” Mudd, Jane Staussberg, Mike Huggins, Chad “Drumstick” Harrison, Heather Shea, Derrick “Grassy” Snodgrass, Jer, Tim “Hard Drive” Furnish, Brian “Nice Hair Buddy” Vihldahl, Andy “Tweedle Dumbest” Lawrence, Josh “Let’s Make a Deal” Sachs, Jason Yann, Chad “Naugahide Gem” Castetter, Duncan “Pepsi” Barlow, Newt, Michael “Screenin’ Fool” Jarboe, Kyle “Wireless” Noltemeyer, Mike Thompson, Dave “Fuck You” Cook, Mary “Jane Fonda” and Allan “Techno Poppy” Ritcher, Hopscotch Motherfuckin Army, Nintendo, Super NES, Sega Game Gear, Adam + Scott n’ Steve from the Sancred Organization, Jon “50% of the door” Cook, Kill, Telephone Man, Jason “Thanks for not showing me how to play bass” Hayden, Mark “Sports Bar” Ritcher, Johnny “Takin’ Care of Business” Weiss, Stan Starks and Channel 15 WKPC TV, Giuliano “BEP931213” Calza, VSC, Kim (berly) Suzanne “Blow it out Your Ass” Coletta, SEG, Matthew Moore “Ron Barn” Ronay, Greta “Harvest” Ritcher, Kendall “Bubblegum” Costich, Atari and 2600 players everywhere, Betsy “Retarded Chicken” Porter, Chris “Bakta School” Higdon, Claudia “You never call me anymore” Schiffer, Nancy “Is Fat” Sud, Billy Hughes is a liar, Jesus Rosebud and Goober the Baptist, Alice Jane “Ner” Davenport, Rob “No More Beans” Pennington, Lee “Seconds” Fetzer, Samantha “Big House” Axton, Jeff “Aquatic Expert” Mueller, Kimber J. “First Sip Of Coffee” Sampson, Edward “90210” Lutz, Edith Marie “No nickname is worse than Edith” Hendren, Jay “Tic Tac Toe” Robbins, Will “Winga Winga Winga” Chatham, Superstar Francy Yingling and Tucker and Curtis, Mindy “Mallbait” Shapero, Vince Meese, Jason “Won-Ton” Newman, Carrie “Pacer” Newman, Ms. Kari “Bananas” Alford, Roadblock, Bill “Cock and Balls” Barbot, LG&E, Gary Collard, Annie “Freak” Nelson, Brad Kremer, Rat S. Garrison, Timothy “Aaahhhh” Moss, Kecia “I’ll talk you down” Middleton and all the nice people of The Machine, Mike Hardin, Tom “Yeah Thomas” Hornung, Sue SxE Leach, Mike “Junior Achievement” Bucayu, Speedy Beaver, Andy “From Endpoint” Tinsley, Lisa “New Mexico” Sainz, Andy and Libby Polk, Jeremy “the willpower of Richard Simmons” Podgursky, Kyle “Sweatshirt” Tabler, El Jefe, Jason “110% Loud” Noble, Guyton & McGee, Danny “The Beast” Flanigan, Kristin “Psycho Magnet” Wilhelm, Simon “The Longer One” Furnish, Shaggy, Jay and Gary, Whitney “Poppy” Marlowe, Colonel Nathaniel Breckenridge “Loverbones” Pipes, Robin “That’s alright Blair” Wallace, Howell “Don’t touch that” Gano, Christi “Arruba” Canfield, and everyone else who has helped, supported, inspired and loved us.