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- Posted on Jul 5th 2011 2:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
Earlier this year, the Archers played an unannounced show in Chapel Hill, and in August, they'll begin reissuing their back catalog -- four studio albums, starting with 1993's 'Icky Mettle' -- on Merge. Speaking with Spinner midway through this summer's reunion tour, Bachmann discussed reconnecting with his 20-year-old self, preserving the mystery of his lyrics and the possibility of a fifth Archers record.
How did the idea of reissuing your catalog come about, and how did you link up with Merge?
We're lucky to be friends from years ago with them. My stuff was in storage at the bass player's [Matt Gentling's] house. When I went to Taiwan, I left my guitars and things at his house. When I got back, he and I were talking, and the idea came up to do some shows. It happened organically that way. Shawn Nolan, the guy that manages the Archers, he was very adamant about -- and we agreed with him -- getting the albums out again, because they were hard to find. They weren't available through [former label] Alias anymore. Alias is licensing the records through Merge, and they're going to be re-released, which we're happy about. Touring as much as I tour, it's frustrating when people tell you they can't get your records anymore.
The reissue of 'Icky Mettle,' your first album, comes with 1994's 'Vs. the Greatest of All Time' EP and a bunch of 7-inch recordings, which are even harder to find. Why did you decide to do that?
Some of that stuff, it was pulling teeth. Not much of it, but some of it, I didn't want it go on there because, it's so embarrassing to hear some of the stuff before we'd found our voice as a band. There's a lot of stuff we had mild arguments about. I think it ended up OK. There was stuff that didn't get on there because I didn't want it to be heard.
When 'Icky Mettle' came out back in 1993, did you have any sense the record was going to attract this much attention or still be talked about nearly 20 years later?
No, I certainly wouldn't have had any idea. In that time, I was going to do a band and have fun and then go and be an English teacher or something. I didn't know what I was going to do, and I had no idea the band would even do well for the eight years it did. That the record is being reissued now is amazing to me.
Do you have a favorite 'Icky' track? Has it changed over time?
I used to hate the whole record. I liked it when we made it, and then we toured it a lot and kept playing the songs, so I got sick of the record. When the band broke up, I didn't want to hear the records again. I would say that lasted for years, maybe until three or four years ago I, when I heard a song at a bar and liked the way it sounded.
I used to hate that song 'Hate Paste,' but I don't' hate it anymore. It's a time capsule of where your brain was when you were 20. It's a lot of things you don't like about yourself. In order to perform it now, I can say the relationship has to change with the songs. Essentially, before, when I was a 20-year-old kid playing that stuff, I got some sense of satisfaction or power. I felt confident playing in front of people. Now I don't' feel that satisfaction or that power. The reward I get now is I'm going out and people are enjoying hearing it. My relationship had to change with the songs, and in that light I like all of them.
Was the song 'Might' at all indicative of your mindset at the time? It's about writing songs, wondering if it's self-indulgent and worrying how the material will be received. It seems like something a songwriter would go through.
It is. At the time I wrote it, I was quite sincere. All those songs are quite sincere, and in a way, that makes them ridiculous, in the best way. At the same time, now I don't feel like it's self-indulgent to write songs, but it's not because I think it's important. It's because you realize it doesn't' matter if people give a s---. You don't have to help people not give a s---. People don't give a s---. It's very liberating. I would never write a song about that now, just because it's so self-absorbed to talk about it. It's very immature. It's a very common thing, and people do go through it, but singing about it is very dramatic. It's kind of ridiculous. But I don't feel embarrassed for writing it, because I was 20.
In his liner notes, "Dean of American Rock Critics" Robert Christgau talks about you not including the lyrics and posits that 'Icky Mettle' is an album about the inadequacy of language. Would you agree?
I actually never talked to him about it, but I do agree with him. It's almost a defense mechanism you develop when you're young and in a band and it's more important to be accepted in your community and be cool. I remember not ever wanting to have words that were too sentimental. I actually avoided being sentimental, and I was sarcastic and angry. That was built in to keep from making something people could make fun of.
Why didn't you include the lyrics with the reissue?
We didn't print those lyrics for a very concrete reason. I made a choice to not print them [back in 1993], and I think it would be sort of inauthentic for what the band was doing to print them now. We're not printing them because if we printed them on the page, the mystery would go away, and half the appeal there was mystery.
The album has since become known as a kind of indie classic. Do you ever listen to younger bands and think, "They were definitely influenced by us"?
I don't think of it that way, and I don't think it's my job to think of it that way, or to have to answer that question. If I answer that one way, it sounds like I'm really arrogant, and if I answer it the opposite way, it sounds like I'm too humble. But I'm obviously really honored people think that -- the few people that think that.
You have a new Crooked Fingers record coming out in the fall, but might there be more Archers reunion dates after this summer? Is there any possibility you'll record new music?
We haven't gone that far yet. We've talked about it to the point of, "Let's see just see how it goes." We're going to tour for the summer -- there are about 20 shows this year -- and reissue 'Icky Mettle' in August and [next year] reissue 'Vee Vee,' and we'll do some shows for that. Later on in the year, we'll reissue the last two records and probably do some support of that. Merge is spending some money on it, so we want to give them a chance to sell. Next year, we'll revisit the idea. I'm really busy with Crooked Fingers right now, because the new record comes out in October. The worst thing [Archers of Loaf] could do is force something out and have it be a bad version of something we already did. It's going to have to be a forward step. I don't want to recreate the 25-year-old kid writing the songs that I would do now with those three other guys, so we'd have to think that through. They're very good to work with, in that way. It's not out of the question, because everyone thinks the same way. No one wants to do 'Icky Mettle 2.'