Merge 25 Ottawa tribute is a compilation put together by a bunch of friends and Merge Records enthusiasts from Canada’s capital to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic label. Thanks to Ben Wilson for the great idea and for lovingly pulling it all together. I chose Superchunk’s Cool because it was the first Merge song I ever heard. Here’s my personal story:
My Cool 7″ purchased one cold winter night
It was the winter of ’91 or ’92. I remember it was winter because I chose to spend my evening playing hockey. I was living in Montreal attending Concordia University and hockey seemed pretty much like the only thing to do on a cold Tuesday night.
I’ll be honest, it took some convincing. But I had recently turned down seeing pre-Nevermind Nirvana at the same venue, so you might say I was a bit skittish about repeating that life-regretting move. In those days, the cover at Foufs on Tuesdays was a dollar and they affectionately called it ‘Loonie Tuesdays’. So for a starving student, the price was right for the gamble. More on that later.
I put down my hockey stick and hockey bag and followed Colin downtown, into that dark, Montreal winter evening.
(Oh! I should remind you and provide some context here: Remember, there was no internet in those days. No ‘Let’s stream some Superchunk on YouTube before the show’. These decisions were truly a leap of faith based on word of mouth from someone who read a magazine article or heard a track on a local college station. It’s the way we rolled back then, Dear Reader. But of course if we could have, Superchunk would’ve looked and sounded like this:)
Ah, those life changing shows
What followed was nothing short of what you could call an epiphany. Superchunk were touring ‘No Pocky‘ and I watched their entire set with my mouth agape. Their pogoing energy, their volume, their corduroys, their clever catchy songs all hooked me almost immediately. And oh, that feedback. It was an elixir for my young senses.
Not only did Superchunk strike a chord that would last a lifetime that night, they injected a sort of confidence in me because they were doing exactly what I believed my own young band was trying to do at the time. It was a justification of sorts and my excitement and enthusiasm for making music was taken to a brand new high.
I bought two records that night. No Pocky For Kitty and the 45 of Cool b/w Fishing. When I got back to residence I put on the 7″ first (I had a turntable in my dorm room, natch!). I was in awe. What I saw that evening translated SO well to vinyl. I practically wore out that record in the days, weeks, months and years to come. I officially became Superchunk obsessed and pined to know more…and to see them perform again.
I got Laura, Jim and Mac to sign No Pocky. Nerd, I know.
Discovering Merge the label
In those pre-internet days it was comparatively difficult to connect with people and it was even harder to research your favourite bands. Over time I learned about Merge, the label that Mac and Laura ran together to primarily release their own records. As The Stand GT (the aforementioned young band) began to tour in earnest, we started to hear more about the label and the band and also began to realize just how much people admired this e’merging’ imprint.
(I remember meeting a band from Halifax called Merge who were worried about the conflict of their chosen name. They swore they were in touch with Laura who gave them permission to keep using it. How cool! They said she was really nice and even offered to release a 7″ for them! Wow, was I envious! Or gullible. Not sure which applies in this case.)
On The Mouth
When Superchunk came back to Montreal for the On The Mouth tour, I approached Laura and gave her The Stand GT’s ‘Blur Your Cool’ cassette (*a-hem* a record that I think stands up to this day). Nothing ever came of that, though soon after I did start a nice little collection of official Merge rejection postcards. Despite them being actual ‘rejections’ it felt like the Merge folks always took the time to acknowledge our recordings. And for a young band with an artist finding his way, that meant an awful lot to me and I wore those acknowledgements as a badge of honour.
Kind (though form letter) words from Merge HQ
Merge, of course, continued to grow and release amazing records across a wide spectrum of genres. My early faves were singles from the John Reis camp like Rocket From the Crypt’s Pigeon Eater and Drive Like Jehu’s Bullet Train to Vegas. It wasn’t all loud rock though and gorgeous records from the likes of Richard Buckner, Lambchop, M. Ward and the Radar Brothers began to appear as well.
A peek behind the curtain
In 2004 some friends and I attended the 15th anniversary party the label put together down in North Carolina. The trip was an incredible peek into the world in which Merge existed and was operating. Not only did we get to see all of our fave artists perform in intimate venues like the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, we got a first hand glimpse at the small and vibrant community that was Merge.
What struck me then and has stuck with me was that very real sense of community we all strive for. It also made me realize community starts at home. Merge wasn’t doing anything different than any of my friends with local labels were doing. It was all DIY and all about good people, shared experiences and of course, great music.
My prized Merge 15 pass
Indie rock in the global village
Since then, the world has gotten even smaller. We now have friends from Ottawa who releases records on Merge. The label has become a global music force without ever ‘selling out’ and staying as true to their roots and vision as possible. They continue to be a huge inspiration for many independent artists and I feel lucky to have been able to follow their example for many years during my own winding indie music career.
My cover of Cool is a tribute of sorts to Mac, Laura, Jon and Jim. I enjoyed reworking it into something I thought would be an interesting take on such a raucous classic. My pals Kaiser and Morgan did a great job on the vocal accompaniment and I think the result sits quite nicely along my Ottawa pals and their own heartfelt tributes.
Never have I felt such a heavy weight while putting together a cover song, though. It was powerful to pause and acknowledge the influence, the passage of time, the nostalgia and the renewed realization of what this music has meant to me.
Plus, it was damn fun:
Finally, a word to my pal, longtime collaborator and brother Bandeeto Colin:
I guess you were on to something that night when you made me put down my hockey bag and follow you downtown Montreal and onto a journey that continues today.
I thank you for that, pal. The ‘Superchunk for a buck’ story never gets old.
Spin (or was it Alternative Press?!) article that told Colin to tell me to ‘follow the light……….’
Thanks to our good pal Rob Seaton, the infamous and long lost ‘Blur Your Cool’ has been lovingly resurrected, tweaked, mastered and beaten into submission. It is now available for digital download for the first time since its release 22 years ago.
Blur Your Cool was The Stand GT‘s message in a bottle. It was a release that blew open doors for us and provided the opportunity for the band to travel far and wide, put out records around the world and meet friends we still keep in touch with today. There was magic in that tape.
We’ve compiled 12 fun facts you can read while you download it here.
Blur Your Cool was released on En Guard records in Montreal, Canada, cat number ENG 014. It was only ever released on a limited run cassette.
A video was shot for The Wait at Concordia University on 16mm film. Sadly it was never edited or released. Yet, anyway.
Kurt Bloch from the legendary Fastbacks heard Blur Your Cool and liked it so much he offered to record the band. Our first LP, They’re Magically Delicious was recorded by Kurt at Egg Studios in Seattle as a result.
Colin from The Stand GT bought Blur at Sam The Record Man in Toronto. He was soon playing the songs live.
The tape was recorded, for the most part, at Studio 365 by Rob Martin. Studio 365 is located at 365 Beaubien St in Montreal and still exists as a practice space today. Listen carefully to the start of Cut My Hand and you’ll hear the band in the next room rehearsing.
Paul Gott from the Ripcordz sang backing vocals. (You guess which songs).
I’d Tell You was a retake of an earlier version that appeared on a demo cassette called ‘Out Standing In The Field’. It was eventually covered by Ottawa’s Dead City Rebels.
Choke also appeared on an Australian compilation on AuGoGo records called ‘On Guard For Thee‘. It featured ‘A Collection of Canada’s Youth Gone Bad‘ including BUM, Chixdiggit, Von Zippers, Huevos Rancheros, Cub, Punchbuggy, The Smugglers, Crash 13 and more!
Away From Your Sway also appeared on a early En Guard comp called ‘2 Solitudes‘ which featured 50% Franco bands and 50% Anglo bands. It featured artists such as Ripcordz, Banlieue Rouge, Bliss, Velcro Soul, American Devices and Les Bons A Rien.
Jamie’s Mile was rerecorded and originally appeared on the band’s first label release, a cassette EP called ‘Another Round‘.
Many of the songs from Blur Your Cool remain in The Stand GT set today and some of them will definitely be a part of our Ottawa Explosion 2014 show.
As a bonus track, we’ve included ‘Sad Bunch Of People’ for the digital download!
As we’ve stated, it only ever came out on cassette on a limited release. Wanna release Blur Your Cool on vinyl? Get in touch with us here: campradio(at)gmail(dot)com.
So here it is, for the first time ever offered as a digital download. Stream and download Blur Your Cool!
The good folks at Ottawa Explosion asked us and we said yes.
Since we’re big fans of OXW and their DIY spirit, we’re excited to announce we’ll be joining their colossal indie rock party this year…marking our first show since October 2001.
The Stand GT – Photo by Shawn Scallen
Live in Winnipeg – Photo by Jon Schledewitz
For those who don’t know, The Stand GT was born out of and thrived on the same DIY, community ethic that is reflected in the values of the OXW. From our relationships with Montreal labels like OG Music and En Guard to Vancouver’s Mint, the pre-internet, indie rock days were all about community first.
We’re looking forward to it. Hope to see you there.
The Stand GT have a storied underground history. The band’s legacy is etched into the wood bar railings throughout North America, their numerous record releases on many record labels are lovingly tucked into record collections throughout the world. In the pre-internet, pre-cell phone DIY indie rock world, the band held a solid, hard-touring road warrior reputation.
The Stand GT’s humble beginnings started in an abandoned chicken coop in rural eastern Ontario in the late 80s. Their first taste of wax came when they snuck a track onto the legendary “It Came From Canada series, Vol. 5″ on the iconic OG Records. It was at one of their famous ‘Voodoo BBQs’ where the band met Ripcordz leader Paul Gott and it wasn’t long before The Stand GT began cranking out 7s for his thriving Montreal label, En Guard Records….more >>
Classic jam: Away From Your Sway
Into Facebook? The Stand GT page is here for your unadulterated love and liking.
For those who are computer literate, this is where the term ‘cut and paste’ comes from.
The Stand GT live at the Princess Theatre, Sault St. Marie, Ontario
Backs against the wall, early: Inside the infamous ‘Stand Chicken Coop’. Photo by Stephanie Carpenter
Ottawa Explosion Weekend (#OXW) goes down in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada from June 12th to the 15th.
Follow the OXW web site here for all the details, including last minute show announcements.
It was many years ago when Adam from Punchbuggy suggested I should listen to a band from Victoria, BC called BUM. He promptly handed me a cassette and that tape existed on heavy rotation in The Stand GT van through many tours, over many years. I remember listening now-classics like ‘Your Disciple’, ‘Wedding Day’ and ‘Debbiespeak’ over and over again and pining for the day I could find out more about this mystery band from way out on the west coast.
Fast forward to Summer 2013
When The Steve Adamyk Band were tracking their latest record last summer at Yogi’s Meatlocker, Steve was kind enough to invite me over to sing on a track I’ve known intimately for almost 20 (!?) years now. I was psyched to hear he was planning to cover a BUM song, something I knew he and the boys would totally do justice to. ‘A Promise Is A Promise’ is certainly a staple of any BUM jam, whether it’s taken from the masterful ‘Wanna Smash Sensation’ LP, the Lance Rock 7” or the exciting live-in-Spain record ‘Shake Town’.
My coveted ‘A Promise Is A Promise’ 7″ on Lance Rock Records
Spain Sure Got It
The Shake Town LP version is stunning and it documented how Spain was all over our local heros, celebrating what few of us already knew back home. I can still remember Grant Lawrence exclaiming to me, “Just wait until you hear the Spanish crowd singing on the chorus of A Promise!”. When I finally got a hold of the LP, I couldn’t believe it.
Just watch this live clip synched to Promise…it still gives me chills to watch a band in their prime, getting a taste of what should have been a regular reaction to BUM here in North America:
It’s well documented that the band just didn’t catch fire here in Canada and the US, despite releasing single after killer single. Spain was their stronghold and for some reason was one of the few countries to get it.
(Check out a pretty good Facebook discussion I started on the topic. I especially like Grant’s point about American record labels)
Covers Including ‘I Said Sometimes!’
A Promise Is A Promise was covered by the great Japanese punk rock outfit, Teengenerate on a killer split 7″ with BUM from the mid-90s. This one was also on Canada’s Lance Rock and came out in ’94. I would imagine this 2×7″ package is pretty rare now too:
Lisa Marr of Cub also covered Promise in a slow, gorgeous and haunting way for the Magic Teeth compilation called ‘I Said Sometimes’. That tribute record consisted of 26 (!) covers in total from bands that spanned the globe.
The Stand GT’s contribution to the comp was another great track from Wanna Smash, “I Hardly Breathe”. (True story: At the time Kurt Bloch from Seattle legends The Fastbacks actually said: ‘We were gonna do that one!’. I think it’s great he chose ‘Your Disciple’ as an alternative as most would agree that number was hand-made for his guitar wizardry!)
Here’s The Stand GT, cold ones in hand, hardly taking a breath while belting out ‘I Hardly Breathe’:
One of our shows with BUM at the infamous 3B Tavern in Bellingham, Washington
The Stand GT toured a lot in those days and it wasn’t long before we crossed paths with our distant Canuck cousins. We played a few West Coast shows with BUM, most notably with Nardwuar’s Evaporators, Teengenerate and The Fastbacks. My favourite show was probably the first one with BUM though, at the legendary Crocodile Cafe in Seattle…that was the bill with the Fastbacks.
Yeah, it was awesome.
BUM live at the Crocodile in Seattle
Chris catches air in Seattle at the Croc. I can’t remember if Rob Nesbitt and I shared jeans for this show.
A Promise Is A Promise 2014
It’s awesome that Steve Adamyk has taken up the torch and done such a great job of such an iconic track. It was a huge treat for me to sing on this with Steve and be a part of yet another amazing, power pop record from the mighty Steve Adamyk Band.
I think the orange ones are long gone now, but you can still order the 7″ from La-ti-da Records out in Van City.
Support a great ‘local’ indie, and buy some records from them here.
So what’s your favourite BUM track? If you have a fave BUM memory, tell us about it in the comment section below!
Oh! And finally… in case you need to hear it again (you KNOW you do!), here is the original version by BUM from the killer CLASSIC LP, Wanna Smash Sensation:
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