Today on Aux.Out, writer Ben Wener traces the dramatic career arc of the on-again, off-again (but mostly off-again) alt rock quartet Superdrag. Over a lengthy conversation with frontman John Davis, the pair discuss the band’s origins in Knoxville; their move to the big leagues by signing to Elektra; some initial success on MTV during the mid-1990s; comparisons to another lauded Tennessee act, Big Star; their various break-ups and subsequent reunion attempts; their place in the canon of modern rock; and what the future holds.
To accompany the 4,000-word piece, we’re streaming the band’s 1998 major label swansong Head Trip In Every Key and the never-before-released demos collection Jokers W/ Tracers in their entirety. Both releases will be available on vinyl later this month.
Their second album with Elektra, Head Trip has a rather fascinating history. After the label gave the band extra money to record a “radio-friendly album,” Superdrag delivered something much more sonically bizarre, a “Beatle-esque” menagerie of strings, organs, and sitars. The band said they used the money to record the best album possible, but Elektra dropped them anyways. Consequently, the album was under-promoted and is widely unheard by the general public, despite it being regarded by diehard fans as Superdrag’s creative peak.
In a statement, frontman Davis said, “I think Head Trip In Every Key is the sound of us stretching ourselves in all directions; myself as a writer, ourselves as players, arrangers and producers. You can hear it happening on the demos, too. (This collection) is something that fans have been asking for for the past 15 years, and even the most hardcore collectors have never heard the demos sound better than this.”
Because of Head Trip’s deeply experimental nature, Superdrag spent a great deal of time recording demos. Jokers captures the band’s studio time at New York’s Utopia Rehearsal back in February 2007 (a full year before Head Trip‘s eventual release). According to a press release, the 23-track collection represents the “most creative and inspired music the band had ever recorded. Many of those songs made it onto Head Trip, but the rest have never been properly released.”
The tracklist includes alternate versions of “I’m Expanding My Mind” and “Anniechrist”, early versions of tracks like “She Is A Holy Grail” and “The Art Of Dying”, and more experimental pieces like “The Man On The Flaming Pie” and “Simpleton’s Make-Believe”. The entire collection was subsequently remastered by engineer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Deftones) at Sound City Studios.
Head Trip In Every Key and Jokers W/ Tracers are available August 12th via SideOneDummy. Pre-orders are ongoing.
Head Trip In Every Key:
Jokers W/ Tracers: