Archers Of Loaf's Matt Gentling on cult status, the reunion, and witnessing a stabbing on the road
Photo by Sandlin Gaither
Archers of Loaf are the very definition of the '90s stalwart alt-rock band. They toiled in relative obscurity while many of their contemporaries made it big and ruled the airwaves for a good decade or so. Those who knew them loved them like a small child loves a puppy: with a bursting-at-the-seams excitement that refuses to be reigned in by any words or actions. Those who didn't -- and, sadly, there were many -- missed out on what was likely the hidden gem in the '90s alt-rock landscape.
More arty and obtuse the Big Three (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins) and even more underdoggy than the bands who deliberately positioned themselves as such (Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Superchunk, et al), AoL have seen all four of their studio albums re-released in the last year to higher praise than when they were first released -- impressive since they were critics' darlings from the beginning.
Listening to them now, away from the clatter of two decades ago, brings the realization that, in the end, much of their work had more in common with British bands like Gang of Four and Wire (their 1993 debut, Icky Mettle, in particular), with their vaguely angular hooks and noisy passages, than with the thunderous sludge being peddled out of the Pacific Northwest. It has aged approximately 342 times better, to boot. Sometimes vindication for your actions takes a little while. Ahead of Archers of Loaf's Saturday and Sunday gigs at 400 Bar, Gimme Noise talked with AoL's bassist Matt Gentling about cult status vs. widespread popularity, and a stabbing they witnessed in Florida.
You guys seem to have major cult status, is that better or worse than, say, having a Ten or Nevermind in your back pocket?
I like it better. I feel world-famous -- this was more than we ever expected the band to be -- but I don't get hassled the way famous people do. I can go eat a meal in peace. I can go to shows and I don't usually get recognized. We were a weird band and I tend toward the weird still with music I choose to listen to. Those albums [Ten and Nevermind] were pretty straightforward and that wasn't what we were trying to do. The cult status is cool.
What prompted the reunion?
It's actually a pretty boring story. We remained friends after the breakup. We had always said if wasn't fun or if it strained our friendship, we'd stop and both of those things started to happen. It was such a formative time at first but then it just got to be a lot. Being on tour, being in a van all the time. We always said we'd play again, but when we'd talk one of us was always missing from the room. Finally our manager said, 'If you guys say you'll do it, just do it.' and all four of us agreed.
Tell me about the weirdest or worst show you ever played.
Oh man, I'm a deer in the headlights here! The shows that go badly can actually be fun. If you phone it in, that's when it's gets to be pretty ugly and not really memorable. We blew the power at a club in Dallas or Oklahoma City opening for the Lemonheads once. The power company had to come out and fix it before the show. [pause] Wait, a guy got stabbed in a house we were staying at in Gainesville!
What? Tell me this story!
We were crashing at this house for the night and it was just, like, this late-night thing. Unwinding with a few beers after the show, you know? This girl had broken up with this guy and had started up with a new guy and the guys were kind of friends. The new boyfriend lived at the house and the old one had really bad temper problem.
So he [the old boyfriend] shows up at the house at, like, 3 a.m. or something, looking to blow off some steam and he's with a couple of friends. The girl and new guy were passed out in the back bedroom of this crusty punk house we [were] at and [the old boyfriend] just sort of, like, pushed his way into the bedroom. There was a ton of commotion and then a lot of screaming. The [new boyfriend] comes out of the room covered in blood and says, 'Call an ambulance!' The old guy had, like, jumped on the bed and taken some swings or something and the new guy stabbed him in the neck and chest with a letter opener. He had a collapsed lung and there was blood everywhere. The best part was when we all went back there to see what the hell was going on and the [old boyfriend's] friends were holding him down telling him to stay still--he was trying to get up to fight still, with blood, like, squirting out of him!
They ended up being friends afterward, too. I saw the stabbed guy at a show we played in Tampa a couple of years later and he told me about it. He showed me all the scars, too. They were so gnarly-looking and rude. That's probably my best road story.
Archers of Loaf. $25, 9 p.m. Saturday, August 25 with METZ, Sunday, August 26 with Self-Evident at 400 Bar. Click here.
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