The Metroschifter – The Metroschifter Capsule

October 15, 1994

Metroschifter
The Metroschifter Capsule twelve inch
[SDK-37] photocopied stickers on blank white LP jackets with laser printed personalization stickers, photocopied inserts


Personalized version, 375 units, with dog illustration (below) on back. Cover art by Kenn Minter.

 

This is the story of the first Metroschifter album as I told it in the liner notes to its reissue on Conversion Records:

“How the Kids Made the Metroschifter Album Possible.

“These songs were written two months before the Metroschifter ever became a band. Alone for nine days in a 200-year-old adobe, twelve miles north of Abiquiu, New Mexico, the soon-to-be guitarist of the Metroschifter built seven songs on a multitrack recorder.

“By the time this album was recorded, the Metroschifter (whose members lived in three different states) had only been a band for two and a half weeks. A week after that, they completed a ten day tour. In the weeks following the recording of this album, it became apparent that there was no money to mix or release these songs.

“On a hunch, they sent out about 300 postcards, and handed out about 400 pocket-sized flyers at shows. These cards were advertisements announcing that Slamdek was now accepting orders for the Metroschifter album (which had not yet been mixed), and that it was a limited pressing and had an order deadline. For six dollars, one could order the album and have it delivered to their door months later, personalized with their own name. The idea was that the Kids had money and the Metroschifter didn’t; and the Metroschifter had an album and the Kids didn’t. Somewhere in the middle was an unconventional compromise. If the band could get all the Kids to send in six bucks, then that money would facilitate both the completion and the pressing of the album. The band members held their breath and prayed that this would work.

“Sure enough, in the following weeks, just shy of four hundred kids answered the Metroschifter’s call and sent in their loot. It actually worked. With the Kids’ money in hand, the album was then promptly mixed and sent off to the pressing plant. Despite several delays, all of the fabled personalized Metroschifter albums were sent out within ninety days.

“That’s the unusual story of the album you’re listening to right now. For every band that takes advantage of the bottomless wallets that the Kids’ parents have to offer, the Metroschifter takes nothing for granted. The Fabulous Full Throttle Toll Free Claudia Metroschifter Capsule knows that none of this would have been possible without the faith of hundreds of music lovers who all pitched in to make it happen. The Metroschifter owes it all to the Kids.

“These Kids in particular: Melissa Allen, Mark Amick, Tony Bailey, Hank Baker, Joe Beres, Tom Blankenship, Randy Bolton, Scott Broadhurst, Bill Boulger, Ben Brantley, Nathan Brown, Thommy Browne, Eric Bryant, Brian Cassels, Jason Cavan, Jennie Choi, Michael Cicilian, Sean Joseph Clark, Jacob Colbert, Adele Collins, Ryan Compton, Conversion Records, Todd Cook, Rachel Cox, Sean Cronan, Krissy Davis, Adam Day, Ben Debanana, Jeremy deVine, Max Dollinger, Jeremy Driver, Chris Dulaney, Steve Durm, Jeremie Dyer, Tom Dykas, ear X-tacy, Corey Eckhoff, Greg Edwards, Todd Evanoff, Extreme Noise Records, Sean Fawbush, David Flannigan, Adam Freihaut, Foresight Records, J. Futrell, Wendy Gilbert, Nick Gootee, Guy Gray, Scott Green, Brian Guagliardo, Tom Haile, Richard Hansen, Chad Harrison, Peter Havranek, Dennis Hepinstall, Matt Herron, Chris Higdon, Joel Hunt, Buster Hymen, Initial Records, Hal Jalikakik, Morgan Jeffries, Chad Johnson, Ben Jones, Tim Kallagher, Mike Kay, Derek Kelley, Stephanie Keown, Chad Knight, Andy Knudsen, John Koenig, Cole Kutz, Jeremy Lemaster, Matthew Paige Loeser, Lucus Logsdon, Amelya Luckett, Edward Lutz, Chris McCormick, Scott McCullough, Kelli Ann McLain, Phil McRevis, Dan Miller, Scott Miller, Jonathan Mobley, Jason Eric Moore, Mark Murrmann, Robert Nanna, Richard Nash, Thomas Nelson Jr., Network Sound, Lewis Newkirk, Hilary Cate Newton, Robb Nordstrom, Danny Orendorf, Carrie Osborne, Jackie Owens, Jim Paddack, John Pendleton, Ron Ping, Breck Pipes, Shane Poole, Betsy Porter, Ryan Powers, Amy C. Real, Dennis Remsing, Rhetoric Records, Andy Rich, Matt Ritman, Robert Robinson, Matthew Ronay, Pepe Roni, Matt Rosencrans, Kim Sampson, Jeremy Saunders, Lindsey Schell, Leigh Schnell, Ben Scholle, Robby Scott, Dave Seifert, Shakefork Records, Tim Shaner, Jesse Simpson, Brandon Skipworth, Nadine Slovak, Nathan Smallwood, Chris Smith, Derrick Snodgrass, Ivan Snodgrass, Thida Snow, Grant Staublin, Charles Stopher, Ryan Stratton, Subfusc V&C, Kyle Tabler, Cindy Ternes, Tom Terwillinger, John Timmons, Andy Tinsley, Brian Toombs, the Underground, Andrew Underwood, Ray Vandivier, Aaron Vertrees, Marissa Rose Vicario, Tony Viers, Chris Walls, Megan Ward, Greg Wells, Kley Welsh, Matt Wesolosky, Ronnie Whaley, Christopher Wilding, Drew Wilson, Jim Wilson, Chris Wood, Deam Ziady, Herbie Zimmerman, and last but not least, Ray Zschau.

“Within days of Slamdek’s delivery of all of the albums, friends from Conversion called and offered their services to not only help keep the Metroschifter albums in print, but also to put it into all three formats. By the good grace of Conversion Records, and the Kids’ unyielding faith in Slamdek, you hold in your hands today, the first record by the best band in America.”


Claudia Schiffer version, 50 units, with blank back side.

Jason Noble “Teenage Suicide Portrait” version (above), 75 units, with dog illustration (top of page) on back.

This part of this book is probably the hardest part for me to write as the first Metroschifter album was the beginning of the era of my life I am currently still living. I don’t have the benefit of hindsight that I’ve had with most of the previous areas of the book.

I should probably begin with the first time Chad Castetter, Pat McClimans, Mario Rubalcaba, and I were all in the same place at the same time. That was August 9, 1993, when the Endpoint/Sunspring U.S. Tour rolled through Mario’s hometown of San Diego, California. Chad and I had kept in touch with Mario on the phone as both of our bands had played with his previous band, 411, on previous tours. We all shared a common enthusiasm for each other’s music.

When we returned from that tour, Jason Thompson quit Sunspring and Forrest Kuhn went away to school. The more Jason and I talked after that, we realized we still wanted to play together. Somehow or another, in early 1994, Mario and I began talking about having him come to Louisville to record a new Sunspring album and do a tour. The band would be the two of us, Jason on guitar, and Pat on bass. It was February, and the stage seemed set for that to happen in April or May. I sent Mario a tape of all our new songs. He took it with him on a five-week European reunion tour of No For An Answer.

While he was gone, things in my life started getting kind of hairy. I knew I needed to get away for a while, so I saved up some money and took some time off from ear X-tacy. I rented a modernized 200-year-old adobe in the middle of northern New Mexico, about halfway between Albuquerque and the Colorado state line. While out there, I put together four new songs and finished four others that I had basic ideas for already. On my way back to Louisville, I decided to end Sunspring once and for all, and I came up with the name Metroschifter. I gave Pat and Chad copies of the tape and mailed one to Mario. Our friend, Roree Krevolin, a booking agent from New York City who was living in Louisville, began booking a tour for us immediately. Mario learned the songs and came to Louisville for the tour about a month and a half later.

In May 1994, we did a week-long tour and recorded this, our first album, at DSL. Then Mario went back to California. Everything happened so quickly that Chad’s work schedule couldn’t be rearranged for him to play with us for the shows or on the album. The recording process was the complete opposite of the way Mike Baker and I approached the Sunspring album. For this, we just set up and rocked. The only tricky part was the laying-in of four string quartet pieces that Jason Noble lent us from his project band, Rachel’s. Those tracks had been recorded in Baltimore a year earlier. And a year later, Rachel’s became a full-fledged band with the release of an album on Quarterstick. We recorded the nine-song Metroschifter album in six hours. It contains all seven songs from the New Mexico demo as well as two others. Pat and I put together “I Love FF” one night in a break from filling Slamdek mail orders. And I made a demo of “Marker” after returning from New Mexico, then we put the song together as a band in one of our four practices. As you know, we didn’t have any money to mix or press the record, and you know the story of our solution to that problem from the liner notes that preceded this.

What those notes don’t tell you about are the innumerable hours that Chris Higdon, Dan Werle, and Chad put into helping me with the process of labeling, sorting, personalizing, and shipping the 500 albums. Despite many pizza breaks, they all got delivered in record time (no pun intended). All this was done at my parents’ house, where I lived after moving out of the 1233 Bardstown Road house in April ’94. All of the records had come and gone in about two weeks.

Virtually as soon as they were all gone, Dennis Remsing from Conversion Records in California offered to reissue the album on all three formats. Many people have asked us how that record ended up on that label, as it’s not characteristic of Conversion’s other music. I suppose we could have shopped it around and planted it on a bigger label, or at least one where it would have been more at home. Endpoint had driven kind of a rocky road with Conversion about five years prior, so we certainly had our reservations about it. However, Pat and I talked about it, and our biggest concern at the time was putting the album back into print right away. We were a new band, but hardly even a band. All in all, we had practiced four times, played six shows, and we had an album out. Pat had moved back to his hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, about three hours away. And he and Chad were both still in Endpoint. Pat was also playing in Falling Forward. So Metroschifter, while it had been a success, was essentially still a side project. We had recouped the cost of the record, but we didn’t have any money to repress it, so we weren’t concerned about anything besides having it remain available. Dennis said that as soon as he received the masters and artwork, it would be about a month until he had the records. That sounded really good to us, so we went with it. Plus we thought it would be really funny to be label mates with the Round 2 song on the Voice Of Thousands compilation. Do some research and you’ll think it’s funny, too.


The Metroschifter in Washington, December 1994:
Dave Mason (hired drummer), Pat McClimans, Scott Ritcher.

Pat and I did a tour that November and December with a hired drummer, Dave Mason, who was also from Lafayette. During the grueling, five-week tour with Die 116 from New York City, we covered the entire United States. Parts of it were really fun, but it just wasn’t the same as the May tour. At the beginning of nearly every show, we announced that our other guitarist, Chad Castetter, could sadly not be with us as he had died of a heroin overdose a week and a half ago. This really freaked the Kids out, especially those who knew Chad from Endpoint records and tours. Of course, he was still alive. We were just bored and we thought it would be funny to start some rumors. At some shows we even announced that Mario couldn’t make it because his hand got caught in a combine. To further the rumor, the Conversion reissue is tagged with the line, “This record is dedicated to our friend Chad Castetter, 1971-1994.”

Our music reached a lot of people and we saw some amazing scenery on that tour. The tour itself taught us a valuable lesson: that we shouldn’t so easily deviate from the formula that made the band work in the first place. It also solidified the bond Pat and I share, and made us question the whimsical approach we took to the Metroschifter. I think we decided that if we ever got really serious about the band, and tried to have it function as a normal group with local members and a practice schedule, it would likely fail miserably. Everything the Metroschifter had done so far was done on an impulse without any regard for the consequences. And everything we had done had been a success. As our only pre-planned, serious endeavor to date, the five-week U.S. tour was a financial failure. Touring and playing live were always major priorities for Sunspring and Endpoint. So it took that five-week tour to convince us that, at least for Metroschifter, perhaps touring and trying to act like a regular band is not necessarily the best idea.

Mario came to Louisville again over the Christmas holidays. He joined us for the last half of the last show of the tour in Indianapolis. Chad also played with us that night (as well as the Louisville show we played a few weeks earlier). During Mario’s stay, we played a couple small, local shows, a show in Toledo, Ohio, and recorded a new seven inch at DSL. It was like an amazing dream come true to finally be in the studio with all four of the intended members of the band. The two-song seven inch was the third release on a Madison, Wisconsin label run by our friend Joe Beres, called Foresight Records. “Link” was a song I wrote in October, before the Die 116 tour. For the other song, “Whatever’s Wrong With Me Is Here To Stay,” I wrote the music late one night on tour in the van in Missoula, Montana, and the words the night of the Indianapolis show. The same day we recorded the seven inch, we also recorded another, longer version of “Drive” which was not released. It has a comeback part on the end of it, like “Scoop” does on the album. The Foresight seven inch, For The Love Of Basic Cable, came out the following month. And, yes, its title is a takeoff on Split Lip’s album, For The Love Of The Wounded.


The Metroschifter, May 1995: Chad Castetter, Mario Rubalcaba, Scott Ritcher, Pat McClimans.

Our third record was a split acoustic seven inch with Falling Forward. Pat and I recorded our songs for it in Lafayette in September 1994, and it was to be Slamdek #41, but the label folded before Falling Forward recorded. It came out in April 1995 on Initial Records, cleverly titled Acoustic.

Endpoint broke up in December 1994, Slamdek fell in February 1995, and Falling Forward called it quits that April. Once the dust cleared from all that, Metroschifter’s role became a little clearer. We decided to do a second album and record it in May 1995 for Doghouse Records, unless something better came along. Dirk Hemsath of Doghouse was a good friend of ours and his label has always had nice packaging. Plus his band, Colossus Of The Fall, did a Metroschifter cover (“Square”), and ya just turn your back on that kind of ass kissing.

In the interim, we played five shows with Kevin Coultas on drums. They were: March 5 with Amaroq and Samuel in Andy Tinsley’s basement on Hilliard Avenue; March 24 for the St. Francis Band Battle at the Grand Theatre in New Albany, Indiana; a Derby Day show at Blue Moon Records; a Sunday afternoon in May in Radcliff, Kentucky; and the End Of Slamdek Blowout at the Brewery Thunderdome, May 14. The weekend after the Blowout, we did three shows with Kyle Crabtree on drums. Those were in Toledo, Detroit, and Kalamazoo.

Mario arrived two days after that. We practiced once and hit the road to do four shows before arriving in Chicago, where we recorded our second album, the six-song Fort Saint Metroschifter. We put together two more songs while in the studio, and those became the Doghouse seven inch Number One For A Second, named for a short film Pat and I were working on. Bob Weston, whose work with Rodan had impressed us, recorded these eight songs. He captured with dangerous precision what we actually sound like. While we were in Chicago, we decided not to do any more shows unless all four actual band members could be there.

Conversion’s reissue of our first album eventually came out in September 1995, eight months after it was supposed to, and eighteen months after it was recorded. The artwork and mastering on both of the Doghouse records took forever. I didn’t even send the finished art to Dirk until three months after we recorded. We played two local shows over Thanksgiving holidays with Kyle Crabtree on drums, negating our exclusive commitment to the “four intended members” plan. We planned the shows with Mario, and began selling advance tickets to help pay for his airfare, but he couldn’t make it at the last minute. Since we were excited to play live again, we decided to go ahead and do the shows with Kyle, rather than asking local record stores to mess with refunding the tickets. The two Doghouse releases came out that Friday and the following week.

LINER NOTES:

Side one:
Overlap
Marker
Flat
Drive
Shit Harvester

Side two:
Square
I [heart] FF
Forward
Scoop

Metroschifter (recorded 5/25/94 by Mike Baker, Louisville):
Pat McClimans, bass guitar
Scott Ritcher, guitar/vocals
Mario Rubalcaba, drums

Rachel’s (recorded 5/13/93 by Tony French, Baltimore):
Nat Barret, cello
Christian Frederickson, viola
Michael Kurth, upright bass
Eve Miller, cello
Jason Noble & Christian Frederickson, arrangements

Mastered by George Ingram

Thank you: ATM, Barbot, Barlow, Barochas, Brantley, Brickey, Bucayu, Castetter, Coletta, Collard, Cook, Coultas, Cox, Crabtree, Craft, Davenport, Dollinger, Fritsch, Furnish, Grissom, Hagan, Hasty, Hayden, Hepinstall, Higdon, Hirata, Hornung, Hoskins, Hostetter, Jarboe, Kellerman, Knopfler, Krevolin, Kuhn, Leach, Lorenz, Lutz, Manzoori, Marlowe, Minnick, Mudd, Mueller, Newt, Newton, Noble, Noltemeyer, O’Neil, Osborne, Pennington, Podgursky, Porter, Rauen, Rich, Ritcher, Robbins, Ronay, Sachs, Sampson, Schiffer, Schmidt, Smith, Snodgrass, State, Suds, Thompson, Tillett, Timmons, Tinsley, Wagenshutz, Watson, Way, Weiss, Wilhelm, Wilson, Wilt, Woltz, Yingling, You, Zetti’s.

[The album also included a column titled “History of Metroschifter” which was basically a timeline of the band’s evolution up to the release of the record, “Album Analysis and Commentary” which was a fake letter from one of the Kids by W.C. “Bill” Barbot, a list of everyone who ordered the personalized record in advance, illustrations by Jason Noble and Pat, and photos by Mike Osborne and Walter Porter. A small square included an ad for Macintoschifter, a 3.5″ Macintosh disk that included many of the photos, logos, and artwork from the album, plus a cassette J-card template. The disk, when purchased for $5, could be used to create custom Metroschifter tape covers for the copies of the record that purchasers made for their friends or cars.]

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