Slint: We were pretty precocious

Courtesy of the artist

Over four short days in August of 1990, Slint recorded their seminal work Spiderland. The album was released in 1991 to much critical acclaim, and since then has been widely credited as setting the precedent for post-rock music. Though Slint broke up shortly after Spiderland was released, its sprawling and poignant sound continued to gain notoriety after the sleeper hit "Good Morning Captain" was featured in the cult movie Kids.

Since their brief 2005 reunion, Slint have performed sporadically. This April, the band released a limited edition deluxe Spiderland box set on Touch & Go Records, and announced a handful of tour dates to support the reissue. Gimme Noise caught up with drummer and vocalist Britt Walford before their upcoming show in Minneapolis.

Slint, today
Slint, today
Courtesy of the artist

Gimme Noise: Can you tell us about your very first performance, which happened to be during a church service?

It was pretty funny. The bass player's parents went to Unitarian Church. It was a modern building in the suburbs, and it was great acoustically. You could easily hear a whisper across the room. It was a regular congregation of older people. Somehow we were scheduled to play and we were put on the program. We played one song during a little interlude, and then we played a second song when they passed the offering around.

I was 15. It was so loud that most people had to get up and leave. That was another funny thing about it.

When you were making Spiderland, did you have any idea of what it was going to become and what you were going to accomplish with it?

Actually, no. Not at all. We were just really in our own world. We had no thought of any kind of effort to be a big thing at all, it was just purely what we were into, and that's where our thinking stopped. We were excited that it came out on Touch & Go, but definitely for me at least that's where our thinking stopped.

What was the process of writing it like?

That was actually my favorite part of the band, because we would collaborate. The best part of that for me was we would always reach a consensus where it would be like, yeah, you're right, we should only play that three times there...or, we should only have the guitar on that part. When people kind of come to a conclusion that seems aesthetically correct.

Were there any particular events that you'd be willing to talk about that contributed to the content on the album?

I don't want to speak for Brian [McMahan], but it seemed like break-ups were a pretty big influence. We were pretty precocious and I think that at least he and I had pretty inappropriately serious relationships at a young age that kind of crashed, and in his instance around the recording of that, and it affected it, I'd say.

From my perspective, that was a big deal for him as far as that record. For me, I remember actually kind of being away from my parents and thinking about them a lot. It made me think about bigger things. We had basically all gone off to college and leaving home made me think about my dad a lot.

Was it tough being away from your parents, or were you more affected by seeing yourself growing up?

It was probably the separation. It wasn't really tough, but it just made me think about...I guess it seems like a lot of people want to save their parents, or make contact

Why was there such a gap between Spiderland and your EP?

We did break up right after we recorded Spiderland. I don't really know why the EP came out, I think in '94... It could have just been Touch & Go saying, hey, this stuff is awesome, why don't we put it out?


Can you talk a little bit about the circumstances surrounding the break-up of the band?

I mean really, it was just that Brian quit.

Were you guys stunned?

Yeah, it was completely stunning.

Then what were you working on in those years after the breakup?

I definitely have felt very lost. I've done some other things, but... you know, it's never really felt like completely my own thing again, like it did with Slint.

How did you decide to reunite and perform together again?

That was Barry Hogan from ATP. He came to Louisville and offered us a good amount of money to come and play his festival.

Was there any hesitation?

I think we had all thought about it. I had always liked playing with and wanted to play with those guys again. It wasn't a very hard decision for me.

Slint: We were pretty precocious
Courtesy of the artist

What has getting back with the guys to perform again been like for you personally?

It's a little strange, 'cause we don't necessarily all work the same way anymore. It's been a little strange playing the old songs, but overall it's great, 'cause I really like playing and touring... mostly, just playing.

Do you see your music from then still fitting in well with the musical landscape today?

Man, I really don't know. It's interesting to me. Today seems a lot more historically aware than I ever was when I was young. Bands now actually consciously reference historical things to some degree. I feel that there is an age on it, but beyond that, I don't know.

I think it's really fascinating how a lot of music from the early '90s sounds like it was released today. You've been pretty widely credited for creating the post-rock genre...I don't know if you can credit anyone for creating an entire genre, but it's definitely evident in things that I hear being released today.

That's awesome. I'm not really aware enough or familiar enough with current music to be able to say I've heard any that we sound like... I have a daughter, so I listen to some pop music. For years, a friend of mine has given me like, the 100 songs that Pitchfork picks as the best songs of the year, and I really hear a lot of good stuff that way.

It's interesting to me that nowadays, people are just so much more open-minded and down to earth. It seems cool; it seems maybe healthier...

I think people are kind of changing their expectations a bit and letting go more.

And being more open to different kinds of music! I feel like it seemed similar when I was young, because there was a lot of pop music, and we turned our noses up at all of it almost but it was really... we took it for granted, you know? It was nice to have this super positive pop music to turn your nose up at. It was comforting even then, and now almost all of it sounds great.

Teen angst.

People seem more mature now. They aren't just like, well fuck that, that's not cool.

Slint performs with Wrekmeister Harmonies this Sunday, May 11 at Mill City Nights. 8 p.m., $25/$28.

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