TWO MINNEAPOLIS MUSIC giants--the Suburbs and the Jayhawks--have come to sudden but not surprising ends within days of each other.
The Jayhawks crashed two weeks ago today after completing a lengthy tour. Upon returning to Minneapolis, singer-songwriter Mark Olson told the other band members of his need to go it alone, leading to a quick but amicable split. Olson then flew to Los Angeles, where he's reportedly wandering the desert, sorting out future plans.
The breakup leaves the future of the Gary Louris/Mark Olson partnership up in the air. Last Thursday, American Records Publicity Director Heidi Ellen Robinson insisted the band was still under contract, so future projects by either member could surface on the label, who have invested much--some would say too much--in the Jayhawks. According to numerous press reports, the band was deeply in debt to the label (estimates put it at well over half a million dollars) after their last album failed to recoup its large production expenses. The 'hawks had laid off their tour manager and soundman three months ago, and a guitar tech had also quit. After 10 years together and two commercially disappointing albums for American, the prospect of bare-bones touring with no real hope of financial reward was no doubt a major factor in the Jayhawks' demise.
In an article in last Wednesday's St. Paul Pioneer Press, Louris sounded sad but excited about post-Jayhawks prospects. One such project is the clandestine alterna-country supergroup Golden Smog, featuring Louris and Jayhawks bassist Marc Perlman, Soul Asylum's Danny Murphy, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Run Westy Run's Kraig Johnson, and Honeydogs drummer Noah Levy. The group financed their own recording at Pachyderm in Cannon Falls earlier this year, and later signed a release deal with Rykodisc. The album, Down by the Old Mainstream, is due out January 16. Despite various band commitments--and Tweedy's impending fatherhood--chances seem good for the Smog to roll out for a brief tour next year. Meanwhile, Jayhawks drummer Tim O'Reagan will record an album for Peter Jesperson's Medium Cool label, which also recorded his previous band, the Leatherwoods.
Around the time of the Jayhawks split, members of the Suburbs mutually agreed to halt a scheduled recording project in town, and call a halt to their comeback bid. Sensitive to appearing like "the boy who cried wolf," the band downplayed last Friday's First Avenue show, faxing out press releases only last Monday. Insiders say the band is turning down hefty holiday show guarantees as a result of the split. The Suburbs' last recording was a live album on Twin/Tone, Viva Suburbs, recorded at First Avenue.
Jayhawks completists should note the recent appearance of two interesting outtakes: "Get the Load Out" can be found on the recent Camp Heartland Benefit Album featuring various local artists; "Tomorrow the Green Grass," a song left off the Jayhawks album of the same name, popped up on Hempilation, a benefit album for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. ("We did a benefit for NORML?" asked bassist Marc Perlman last week, surprised at the use of the outtake. "That's cool. And I don't even smoke pot."