“I used to care so much, my God, I used to care so much. But now I’m not really even sure what it was even all about. New people come around, you know, and I just connect. I guess there’s not much yesterday in my future now. For us the streets are pathways, we’d never think to live there. Everyone’s purpose is stronger than their serving of it. Their standing is a place so much weaker than their abilities. For boys and girls like us, the kids of Louisville, Kentucky. This is who we are, we are this beat.”
Recorded in November 1991, the Slinky 7" sealed Sunspring’s solidarity as a band and documented what I feel was the summit of our musical accomplishments. During this era, we practiced several times a week and hung out with each other as friends until all hours of the morning. It was perhaps everything a band should be; a group of people who came from very different backgrounds, cast into a larger group of people from more diverse backgrounds, where we all met. Somehow we knew there was something about each other that was important for us and through the experience of sharing days and nights together creating music, we also created a new personality that was the sum total of a little of each of us.
When the record came out, drummer John Weiss was at school at the University of Louisville, bassist Jason Hayden was working at Benihana in Hurstbourne, and I, the guitarist/singer, was on tour selling merchandise for Jawbox. Before I left, Jason and I drove 160 miles with Layla Smith to Nashville to choose a pressing plant, and drop off the DAT. We wanted to possibly have the records pressed and assembled before I went on tour. With only about a week to work with, this was a tall order. But for the excitement and hands-on experience of it, the three of us successfully annoyed receptionists, distracted mastering specialists, and took self-guided tours of Nashville Record Productions and United Record Pressing. It was also during this trip that we affectionately changed Layla’s name to Larry. After deliberating in the parking lot that sits between the two plants, we decided to go with Nashville Record because the people were nicer. Even though United was cheaper.
A week later, the three of us, accompanied by Carrie Osborne, were making another road trip. This journey was to drop me off at Jay Robbins’ house near Washington, DC. From this house in Arlington, Virginia, Jawbox and I would leave for a five-week tour of the United States with Shudder To Think. Both bands would later sign to major labels, but at this point were still on Dischord Records. Layla’s car arrived at the house around 1:00 am. Everyone said their good-byes, then Carrie, Layla, and Jason took off for the ten-hour drive back to Louisville. While I was away on tour, Jason and Layla, aided by Buzz Minnick who worked at Hurstbourne Lane’s Kinko’s, took care of getting the record covers copied. I had finished the artwork before leaving. The following week, John picked up the vinyl which had been delivered to the Slamdek House. They all got together and assembled the records, which John took to stores, and my mom sent to me on the road. One package of twenty-five seven inches on burgundy vinyl was sent to a friend of Jawbox in Pittsburgh. Their friend came to the show but had forgotten to bring the package that night to give to me. After the tour was over, Kim Coletta of Jawbox tried to get in touch with him and learned that one of his friends had been murdered and he himself had disappeared. So, possibly somewhere out there, maybe in Pittsburgh, there’s an unopened box of 25 first pressing Slinky records.
I returned from the Jawbox tour, we were excited to get Sunspring rolling
again, as we finally had our own record out. We played four shows during
April and May. April 24, 1992 we were part of a surprise with Ennui at
Robyn Craxton’s birthday party. Two days later we braved the Wrocklage
in Lexington with Kinghorse and the Grind. May 1, Derby Eve, at George
Rogers Clark Park on Poplar Level Road was with Sancred, Step Down, Shut
Out, and Ennui. Sunspring and Ennui handed out Xeroxes with the lyrics
of both bands for this show and the one at Robyn’s house. May 3,
Sunspring played again at Another Place Sandwich Shop on Frankfort Avenue,
with Circus Lupus and Crain, welcoming them back from a lengthy U.S. tour.
And May 31, 1992 we were slightly out of place at a Tewligans show with
Cinderblock, Indignant Few, and Bush League.
Diet Sunspring even began recording during our short month of existence. John Kampschaefer, in addition to videotaping Diet Sunspring’s performance, had recently purchased a Tascam eight track recorder. He invited Jason and me to come by his house where he had a makeshift studio set up in the basement. We began laying down the basic tracks for six of the songs we played at the show. Two of these were new songs we had written while John was away, “Astronaut” and “Diet Zero.” These two songs were finished first and mixed. Jason was in the process of starting a new record label with Edward Lutz and Michael Jarboe, aptly named Three Little Girls Recordings. Their first release was a Louisville compilation cassette called The Aftereffects of Insomnia, and it included the two finished Diet Sunspring songs.
John Weiss returned from England right at the end of June, and two days later, Sunspring’s second tour was kicked off in Gainesville, Florida. Because of this tight schedule, the four unfinished Diet Sunspring songs were all but forgotten about, and remained unfinished. For touring purposes, I sold my car and bought a 1979 Chevy van from my parents. About sixty miles south of Louisville it blew a tire, and more serious problems were to come. We toured with a huge Coca-Cola banner that had the band name across it and the phrase, “Welcome to Louisville.” This perplexed people in every town. Not because of the slogan, but because this punk band appeared to be sponsored by Coca-Cola. To the contrary, we drank tons of Coke and several songs made reference to it, but we were not sponsored. During the summer of 1992, the band left a trail of salt-watered Coke machines across the country. This process of shooting hot salt water into the coin slot of a Coke machine, causes it to short out and freely dispense its beverages and spare change. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it did, Sunspring were the masters of it. The older the machine, the better the luck. I talked to several Hershey’s reps on the topic of sponsorship. Things were looking good for a few weeks, until one day the cold shoulder appeared from out of the blue.
The tour, despite automotive and booking problems, ended up being eleven shows in fifteen days. Upon arriving back home, we took a few weeks off, then played two shows at the Enterprise in St. Matthews. John would be going away to Washington, DC’s American University in September, so the future of the band was up in the air. John had “quit” several times during 1992 and it had become standard procedure for him to do so periodically. Jason and I had secretly practiced with other drummers preparing for the possibility that John might, at some point, leave and not come back. We liked both drummers we tried. John Causey of Undermine was one, and Jon Smith of Shut Out, Layla Smith’s younger brother, was the other. In fact, a large photo on the inside of the Slinky seven inch of Jason and me had John Causey screaming into the microphone. We used this picture on the record and on the back of one of our trademark inside-out t-shirts, because we anticipated John Causey joining the band. Jason was also interested in Brian Toth of Lather as a prospective drummer, and I mentioned Forrest Kuhn of Ennui, who had just broken up.
The last two shows that Hayden, Ritcher, and Weiss played together were August 8 with Jawbox and Sancred, and August 21 with Erchint, Lather, Shut Out, and Drinking Woman. The search was on for a drummer. Within a week of the last show, I asked Forrest if he’d like to try out. Forrest said he was interested. Two days later, Jason was offered a position in Crain and decided to take it. I then shared a one bedroom $180 apartment with Chad Castetter in the Schuster Building at Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road. Jason stopped by with my sister, Greta, one night to break the news. Forrest was interested in trying out, but Jason was quitting. This left the future even less certain and undoubtedly, quickly killed the fire that made Sunspring.
The Slinky seven inch sold 947 copies. The first 500 were on burgundy vinyl, and the latter half on black. Its songs were later included on the Poppy CD, and the Slamdek Singles box set, bringing the total circulation of Slinky’s four songs to just shy of 2,600 units. Slinky was the first release to feature the new name of “The Slamdek Record Company” which replaced “SLAMDEK/Scramdown.” The seven inch was originally to be titled Orange, and be pressed on orange vinyl. I even made a bunch of Sunspring stickers with an Orange design. However, very close to the last minute, John proposed the name Slinky, his nickname for his blood sugar measuring device, which he constantly lost. “Where’s my slinky?” was already such a big part of the everyday vocabulary of the band, it instantly became the perfect title.
The cover photographs on Slinky were taken by Breck Pipes at Audubon Sk8 Park, January 10, 1992, the show after which Shanda Renee Sharer was murdered. Two teenage girls, Laurie Tackett and Melinda Loveless, left the show, picked up Sharer and burned her to death. The back cover shows the band and the crowd of about 300 leaning every which way, and packed wall to wall. Michael Quinlan reported the Shanda Sharer story and trial for the Courier-Journal. After it was over, he wrote a book about it, Little Lost Angel, the only such book authorized by the families of those involved. He included Slinky’s back cover photo to illustrate the steamy, frenzied atmosphere of the room that night. But Pocket Books, the publisher, removed the photo from the book, fearing legal repercussions from parents of kids pictured in the crowd.
Produced by Howie Gano at Sound On Sound. Photographs by Breck Pipes.
Thanks and otherwise: Moms and Dads, David Hess, Susan Leach, Greta Ritcher, Lydia Hess, Kimber Sampson, John Causey, Mark Ritcher, Robert Marshall, Rob Roles, Tracy Marshall, Takayuki Tsuji, Joey Mudd, Elizabeth Marshall, Buzz Minnick, Groovy Kampschaefer, William A. Greene, Mike Borich, Princess Ler, E. Daniel Patterson III, Katie C. Fritsch, Don Stokes, Becky Fritsch, David Barmore, John Timmons, Andrew Buren, ear X-tacy, Franklin Fuchs, Kendall Ann Costich I, Fred Fischer, Kim Coletta, Brent Harper, Jay Robbins, Bill Wilson, Hopscotch Army, Jon Cook, Dr. Bob, Melissa Middleton, Elizabeth Beeson, Dybbuk, Action Eleven, Jason Crivello, Crain, Erica Montgomery, Tar, Ritual Device, Christi Canfield, Dave Cook, Tim Furnish, Breck Pipes, Simon Furnish, G-D, Julius Caesar, Carrie E.O., Sean Garrison, Mark Hall, Scot Macaffe, Nebraska, Endpoint, and Hershey’s. No thanks to Noisy Ass Tyson.