The Soviettes reunite after years as punk rock royalty
It's more than years and road miles that separate the Soviettes of 2010 from the Soviettes of 2002, though those years and miles are hardly trifles. Bassist Susy Sharp makes San Pedro her home now, and the Soviettes haven't shared a practice space in four years. Even their names have changed. Guitarist Sturgeon? She goes by Maren Macosko now. And after giving birth to her daughter, Annie Holoine took Sparrows as her last name.
But in a west Minneapolis hidey-hole, a well-appointed cell with just enough Richard Nixon posters to give the place some wry color, you'd never know it was their first practice in half a decade. They joke and reflect on the recent past with the brazenness of blood brethren. When guitarist and singer Annie Sparrows talks about revisiting Soviettes material for the first time in four years, her voice spikes to an uncouth decibel, as if she's liable to break out laughing at any moment.
"I was trying to sing at home the other day, because I'm worried about losing my voice," she says. "I was singing to 'Tailwind' and I started to cry!" With an ungentle laugh, Sparrows touches Macosko on the arm in a reflex of natural kinship. "That's why I sent you that text," she says to Macosko, "that said, 'I love you and I'm so glad we got to play in a band together!'"
The Soviettes are the rare band that belongs to a land before time. They were the local monarchs of the Twin Cities punk sound for the early half of this decade, but their albums have not fossilized into prehistoric carbon compounds the way much contemporary punk has. Though the Soviettes have been on hiatus since 2005, a year that saw them disband after a blizzard of three-month, 50-state tours, marriages, and et cetera jetsam, an alchemy of expert craftsmanship and familial esprit de corps has kept their works as singular and dazzling as a geode.
But no history is so vaunted that it can't be modified, and their rarities release, LP IV, which will drop later this spring, is a time-lapse portrait that sees the Soviettes grow from the musical children that, because of our own descent into adulthood, we may have forgotten we all once were, into the consummate commentators on our finest sentiments. The chronological compendium is an exhaustive closet clearing of B-sides, 7-inch splits, and unheard demos, which follows them from the basement to the studio and, finally, into history.
"Some of it's never been heard by anyone outside our band," says Sparrows.
"And probably should never be heard by anyone," jabs Macosko with an eye roll.
Sparrows, with a wide grin: "I disagree!"
When it comes to reminiscent gravitas, combing through the intimate odds and ends of your band's unwritten history surely ranks up there with going through a tin of old love letters, and the Soviettes' brief return to the stage gains steam from particularly fertile fuel—few bands of their time are so sorely missed, and few songs of their genre stand so straight and strong.
But there's a fine line between missing a thing and being nostalgic for it. Do the Soviettes miss being the Soviettes? Or are they satisfied looking forward as members of France Has the Bomb, the God Damn Doo Wop Band, That's Incredible, and the Gateway District?
Sparrows is quick with her answer. "I do miss it," she says firmly. "We all came from different upbringings. Such different places. It was such an amazing time. I have a big tendency to be nostalgic," she shrugs. "It's in my blood."
Drummer Danny Henry's emotions on the matter seem equally convicted. "I miss the people in the band," he says, smiling. "I miss playing with them. I miss writing those songs. I was proud of them." He pauses, groping with syntax. "How do I say this without sounding like a jerk? I thought those songs were really good."
But ask Macosko, and she folds her legs and looks away. For her, the Soviettes' music is a hallowed part of a past life, near enough to reflect fondly upon, but too distant and too eclipsed by the present to bother reclaiming. "Missing stuff has never proved beneficial to me. I've learned that I can be nostalgic for a thing, but I can make myself sick that way. Do I miss it? Not really. Was it great? Absolutely. It was an amazing time in our lives. But I think today and tomorrow are making that same special time five years from now."
THE SOVIETTES play a reunion show with the Awesome Snakes (final show), That's Incredible, and Gateway District on FRIDAY, MARCH 19, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486
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