Friday, July 7, 2017

The Sick Passengers - Cut Outs

This album compiles live versions of songs The Sick Passengers never properly documented in the studio. The sound quality isn't great and the performances are occasionally ramshackle, but sometimes imperfect memories are better than nothing.

Tracks 1-5 were recorded on November 17, 2001 at the Local Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Tracks 6-12 were recorded at Uncle Joe's in Jersey City. Coincidentally, Lungs of a Giant chipped in mighty sets on both of these nights as well.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sun May Find

Sun May Find, (l-r): Chris Williams, Scott Bransford, Joe Costa, Mark Wyman

Sun May Find started in the fall of 1995 in Boulder, Colorado, after Chris Williams (guitar and vocals) arrived from New Jersey to start graduate school. He met Mark Wyman (guitar and vocals) and Scott Bransford (drums) by posting a flyer in Wax Trax Records advertising influences like Rodan, Slint, Gastr Del Sol, My Bloody Valentine, and the Jesus Lizard. Our first several rehearsals took place in an empty meeting hall near Scott’s dorm room on the University of Colorado campus. We quickly moved from jamming to song writing, and our earliest tracks, “Shattered Stars” and “Port of Call,” began to take shape there.

The project began to resemble a real band in early 1996, when Mark and Scott found a practice space that was much better suited to our noisy rehearsals. On the northern outskirts of Boulder, not far from an abandoned drive-in theater, there was a field full of empty, decaying 18-wheel truck trailers, many labeled IDEAL TRUCKING. Most were rented as storage containers, but the owners also allowed bands to rent them as practice spaces. Amps were powered by running long extension chords from a precarious-looking power pole in the middle of the dusty expanse. Mark and Scott signed the lease, and from then on, our musical home was a long, narrow sheet metal box with no heat or air conditioning.

We had no money to invest in sound proofing, and so when we played, frequencies ricocheted around us in ways that became critical to the development of the band’s sound. Most of the time we played with the door closed, but if we played with it open, the trailer became a sound cannon trained on the expensive houses topping the nearby Rocky Mountain foothills. We didn’t see too much of the other tenants on the lot, but became friendly with a 40-something blues player named Beer Can Bob who practiced a few rows over.

Occasionally we also talked with the superintendent, an aging Boulder hippie who always seemed to be wearing a T-Shirt that said DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID. He lived in a rusty trailer just outside our practice space with a small, long-haired dog and a sickly cat. Often he would come around to sheepishly ask for the back rent we owed on our space, but he always said he liked our music and never seemed too intent on collecting.

Not long after settling into Ideal Trucking, Joe Costa began playing bass. One of his early contributions to the project was giving it a name, which he found in a fragment of a poem by Emily Dickinson. The songwriting direction the band took resulted from a tension between Mark’s affinity for slowcore bands like Codeine, Low, and Labradford, Joe’s taste for British bands like Ride and Spiritualized, Chris’s East Coast post-hardcore roots, and Scott’s alignment with a regional scene that included the likes of Christie Front Drive and Boy’s Life.

Chris and Mark at our first party, at Joe's house on "The Hill."

Through the freezing nights of the Colorado winter we jammed in multiple layers of clothing, huddling around a space heater to our warm numb hands. Then summer came and the box became an oven. Resting near the door between sessions, watching the snowfall or thunderstorms move in off the mountains, we often had heated debates over the course of the project. It was as if we’d found the perfect crucible for our conflicting visions of music: a place where extremes of heat and cold, and vistas of pastoral scenery and industrial waste pushed us to create something ambitious, however flawed and fraught with tension.

We probably played around a dozen shows during our time together, primarily in Boulder but also at least once in Denver.  Our sound was a poor fit for the local scene, which was divided between jam bands like Acoustic Hookah, pop punk acts like Pinhead Circus and the Fairlanes, and the darker, more aggressive sounds put out by Sonny Kay’s influential GSL label, which began in Boulder and later relocated to California.

Because there weren’t many venues in Boulder, we often ended up on bills with punk and hardcore acts. A few of the shows were in coffee shops, and we played at least one gig at Club 156, a small bar in the University of Colorado’s student union, and at several house shows. After Scott moved out of the dorms, he lived at a punk house on Colorado Avenue that hosted Men’s Recovery Project, Hot Water Music, and Blink 182 among others.

On one memorable night, we played Scott’s living room with The Locust and Jenny Piccolo, two Southern California "powerviolence" bands.  In terms of songcraft, they represented Sun May Find’s exact opposite. The average Sun May Find song lasted around six or seven minutes, but they played tight, ballistic, almost comical bursts of noise that often clocked in under thirty seconds. The climax of the Locust set may have been when they filled the living room with smoke by setting off a sheet of firecrackers in the kick drum.

Despite the stylistic differences on display that night, our louder counterparts were quite encouraging, especially Jimmy LaValle of The Locust, who later started like-minded projects including Tristeza and The Album Leaf. Scott’s flyer for the show, which was made by altering an image of a Locust from an antique encyclopedia from the CU library, later became the stuff of legend. A designer at GSL Records appropriated the image, hardly even changing the size, for an early 7” by The Locust, and for years, the band would sell the emblem in the form of t-shirts, belt buckles, banners, and backpacks. To this day, some die-hard fans use it as a blueprint for their tattoos. (It even showed up on the Jerry Springer Show when The Locust bassist Justin Pearson appeared in an episode called Secrets Come Out.) 

After a failed attempt to organize a tour, and with three of the four members contemplating moves to other towns, Sun May Find broke up at the end of the summer of 1996.  Our final pair of shows took place sometime in August, when Beer Can Bob invited us to play an afternoon concert way out on the plains east of town, in a parking lot behind a motorcycle repair shop.  Unsatisfied by our performance there, we played one last gig later that night in Scott’s living room, attended by another band from the festival and the dozen or so people from town who hadn’t written us off as too slow, too quiet, unpunk, or not granola enough.

The songs presented here are the results of two recording sessions, one in the spring of 1996 and a second that summer. In both cases, the basic tracks were recorded live in the trailer using Mark’s 8-track cassette recorder, and we would lay the vocals and overdubs at Joe’s house in the subsequent weeks. We released the first four songs as a demo that we also sold at shows, but by the time the second set of tracks was finished there wasn’t a reason to do much more than save them for our own memories.

Listening back now, the loud/quiet/verse/chorus/outro song structures, especially on our first recordings, sound slightly formulaic. But by the time we recorded the second set of songs, we had developed an approach to composition that felt more subtle, less reliant on foursquare repetition, and better able to construct long-form narrative arcs based on the interplay of the two guitars. In songs like “Where It Pours,” “Grounded,” and “The Patterns, The Stitches” patient listeners will be rewarded with moments where, years later, we realize we somehow managed to capture something beautiful and quite reflective of the intensity of that time in our lives.

Soon after the band’s breakup, we all left Colorado. Joe moved to Chicago to form L’Altra with Lindsay Anderson (also the model for the cover of the Sun May Find demo). Mark left for Seattle and later moved to New York, where he would play in Shoes and Rider. Chris also moved to the New York City area, and has played there with the Sick Passengers and the Glass Bees.

After the last show, out behind the motorcycle shop.

Recollections by Chris Williams and Scott Bransford.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tales from the Green Denon Tape: PART 1


Starting around 94ish, every time I wanted to record something I'd grab this tape. I'm going to do a series of posts exploring the murky depths of the green Denon tape. Part 1: An instrumental by myself and Ian Peacock.


Ian was the first guy I played music with in high school. He was steeped in 90s indie rock tradition and lent me Superchunk's Foolish on vinyl and Liz Phair's Exile In Guyville, and played me "I Am A Scientist" and lots of K Records stuff. I named his band Dagobah Playset, so he invited me to join, even though I could just barely play a G chord at the time. We'd later go on to form The Manny Trillo with Erin. It took me hours to figure out who was playing this song, since it's clear that neither the guitar or the drums were being played by either of my brothers. I feel a clear Buddy Sevaris influence is evident.
And just to show that I am magnanimous when it comes to embarrassing old photos, please enjoy this goddamn trainwreck:


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Sick Passengers: If You Are Not Well, You Will Not Be Left Alone

Mark, Chris, Bill, and I recorded four songs in an afternoon in December 2001 in a tiny studio located just below Canal Street. We were still young and precocious enough to think it was a good idea to start our recorded output with the boast “I know everything” and use mathematical equations in song titles. This demo helped us to land many a gig in the early years.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


On March 7, 2000, Quit The Breathin' spent 1 day and $100 recording 8 songs with Matt Harrington in the studio above the late Sea-Sea's in Moosic, PA.

Recording 6

Recording 2
I remember playing easy friend like 86 times for that goth engineer dude. I think the coolest memory of that record for me was walkin into the dorms and hearing people playing it loud! Good times ....lots of good times!!

Recording 7
I recall an abundance of caffeine and cigarettes, a dusty room, and
endless takes of “Easy Friend”. Otherwise, a lasting regret of not
redoing the vocals on “Re-Write” is all that’s really left. And the
recordings, of course.

What is a bit more vivid are random traces of putting the CD’s
together. Each one lovingly hand-crafted by the four of us for the
adoring public.

Real D.I.Y shit ‘cause that’s what punk bands do, right?

Discs were burned on my long-forgotten external CD burner that worked
every third time. Based on Greg art, I laid out the inserts. Then,
much to the dismay of students doing actual school work, taking up the
art building’s color printer to run 11” x 17”  sheets containing said
inserts. X-acto-a-thons at the Madonna hall front desk, where Greg and
I worked and Todd and Mal lived. Cut, fold, insert, repeat.

The first 118 were the elements of the Periodic Table. I remember
having a cardboard rectangle to keep the element box uniform from disc
to disc. Some lucky soul out there has number 26/Fe  with “Iron helps
us play” etched on their disc.

Amazingly enough we sold all of those and made another 50 and then
another 50 after that. Between those profits and Todd yelling, “$5
t-shirts!,” to a bunch of 12 year olds, who gladly handed their
allowance over, where the hell is all that money?

Recording 5
This was the first time I had ever recorded with a band before, and despite a few bumps here and there I think we did a great job. Especially since I had a cold that day. There was a wonky vocal set-up where the backing track was coming out of a stereo. It had to be played loud enough so whoever was singing could hear it, but not so loud that the mics would pick it up (Hey, what do you want for $100?) Sick or not, lots of cigarettes. Box of Cocoa Puffs on a floor tom. Going outside while Mal did vocals. Goth Matt not so goth on his day off. Still super proud of the line "On the Hudson with my X-Ray specs / And in lawn chairs on New Jersey Decks", which was basically me saying "What would Tom Habetz write?" Also "You gotta retreat to win". Truer now than it ever was.

RE:"The EPICEST CD of ALL TIME!"-Kanye West
The one thing I remember most of all about that CD is listening to it in the car after recording it about 100-200 times and just saying, "this thing sounds fuckin awesome!"
We elected not to autotune the vocals so rappers in the future would have something to mask their lack of talent. I remember trying to record vocals and feeling weird that I wasn't holding my guitar. Easy Friend felt like some voodoo hex had been put on us. I think we tried it 50 times...that $100 American was worth way more then. My brother told me one of his friends in Austin, TX thinks "Rocketship" is the greatest song ever. They're still sellin' this cd (#37) online at for $5.09. I Bet it has that "Nice Price" sticker on it.

Recording 4

Recording 1