Superchunk has been around to see a lot of changes in the music industry. When the indie rock band from Chapel Hill, N.C. first started making records, one could buy their music on a CD, a record, and even a cassette tape. Oh the good ol’ days.
The band started their own label, Merge, and now, in the time of MP3s, iTunes, and the surprising comeback of vinyl, Superchunk is still thriving.
“The Internet has revolutionized everything,” Laura Ballance, bassist and co-owner of Merge Records. “The Internet has created this opportunity to connect. Before sites like Myspace and Facebook, if someone wanted to tell you they liked your music or wanted to request a song, they had to walk up to you at a show.”
This has its drawbacks as well as its positives. On one hand, it used to be kind of cool to know you had to muster up the guts to go tell someone you love how they sound, or beg them to play some song. Now, all you have to do is send a message, a post, or an email. However, so many more people are able to reach out to one another because of technology, and so many bands are able to hold an audience, and get attention or recognition when they otherwise might not have been seen or heard.
“The label has grown quite a lot recently,” Ballance said. “We have about 40 bands now.”
The label that started as a way for the band to release their own music, and music their friends made now has some of the best up and coming bands around. Arcade Fire, Dinosaur Jr., The Buzzcocks, Neutral Milk Hotel, M. Ward, Wye Oak, and Destroyer are all on the label.
In a way, Superchunk helped define the sound of independent music in the ‘90s, and these days their label is playing host to those attempting to define it now. Their first single ever released was titled, “Slack Motherfucker,” and it certainly grabbed and held people’s attention.
“Back then it was actually ‘indie rock’ music because a lot of bands were on independent labels,” Ballance said. “People were struggling to come up with a name for the music, and some called it ‘college rock’ because it was played on a lot of college radio stations.”
The title “indie rock” today is really just an attempt at classifying a sound, rather than describing where or how it’s made.
The titling of such genres and sounds is getting less important these days. What is important are the records. The actual, tangible records.
Five years ago, National Record Store Day was started, and every year, both Merge and Superchunk participate. The number of vinyl purchases is only going up each year, and have slowly, but surely exceeded CD sales. Digital media files are still the most popular form of music purchased however, it’s an exciting era in music when something so new and something so old are at the top of the ladder, battling for first choice.
“Vinyl just seems like a much cooler object than CDs,” Ballance said. “It’s the actual physical manifestation of the data.”
Superchunk has released dozens of singles and records on vinyl over the years. Covers, compilations, tributes. They have released nine studio albums and done several guest appearances on themed albums, such as indie rock covers of popular ‘90s R&B songs, in which the band did a cover of Destiny’s Child, “Say My Name.”
“It was fun to do,” Ballance said. “To translate a huge hit into something that makes sense for some old punk rockers.”
They seem to be making sense of it all just fine.
5-6 p.m., Sunday, WindCreek Stage