Supersuckers – Spaghetti western
That is not necessarily the case for country music. Eddie also had to demonstrate — to himself, and to Jamail — that he could sing country music. “I flew him down to Texas, by himself that first time,” Jamail says, “and we went into the studio. I kind of let him hear where my head was at in terms of where the songs might go. At the same time, we started listening to Eddie’s voice, and found that Eddie actually had a natural sort of vibrato in the low end of his voice that he had never really tapped into when he’s singing Supersuckers songs, mainly because he’s competing with two guitar players that are playing through Marshalls, and he’s screaming.”
And these are really not punk rock songs slowed down, with a little steel guitar added. Take Heathman’s “Non-Addictive Marijuana”, which sounds just a bit like “Okie From Muskogee”. “I wrote that song after being kicked out of the Supersuckers, and at a halfway house,” he says. (Heathman had been replaced by Rick Sims, late of the Didjits, on The Sacrilicious Sounds of the Supersuckers. “I was just sitting around, and I bought a guitar off some crack-head for $15, because I finally had $15 back to my name, and I wanted a guitar, so I sat down and that was the first thing that came to my head.”
“He came back to the band and had this great little tiny quiet country song,” Eddie grins. “God that’s great.” Indeed, many of these songs have been laying about for a bit. The Danny Bland-penned duet “Hungover Together” originally appeared on The Best Kissers in the World’s Sub Pop EP of 1991, with Gerald Collier and Carrie Akre (Hammerbox, Goodness) singing. Kelley Deal proves to have a fine country voice on this new version. “Juicy Pureballs” started out as a punk song (with a different name), but it didn’t work in that context. Eddie wrote “Blow You Away” a decade back, when he still lived in Tucson, and brought it to Seattle when the band first arrived as the Black Supersuckers.
“For some reason,” Jamail says, still slightly surprised by this discovery, “a lot of these punk rock — or whatever you want to call them — bands, when they were out there, they apparently were pickin’ up truckstop country cassettes that are racked in cafes along the road. They’re very fluent in terms of the vernacular of country music. Eddie several times would want to do a song like George Jones, want to do a song like Jerry Jeff. And not only said it, but had a song that fit in doing it in that way.”
And so, yes, they’re accustomed to charges of bandwagon-jumping. “I’m never far enough ahead,” Eddie laughs. “I moved to Seattle, and then everybody moved to Seattle. And then we started doing heroin, and then everybody started doing heroin. Then we clean up our act, now everybody’s clean and sober. And then, you know, the country thing. What is it called? Incipient country or something?” By the time he’s done, the whole room is engulfed in laughter.
At the same time, none of the Supersuckers really expect to be playing punk rock forever. “You can’t really be a valid rock ‘n’ roller when you’re 50,” Eddie says. “It’s about live fast, die young. It’s not about having a great life and entertaining people for your whole life. But in country, that’s okay. And that’s a big goal of ours, to be a band that is around for a long time. It’s just that we need to create things that we feel comfortable with for a long time, and that’s what led to this record.”
Besides, Must’ve Been High is really the Supersuckers’ second full-length country outing. Three or four years back, recording as the Junkyard Dogs (in which guise this project was originally conceived), they put out a country album on Sympathy For The Recording Industry. “It’s mostly covers,” Eddie says, “but there’s a couple originals on it. It’s just this band that we always take to the street fair and busk with, basically. It’s grown from, when we lived in Tucson, having to beg friends to come out to the fair with us and play and make fools out of themselves, to now we have to keep it secret until the last minute so that the whole neighborhood doesn’t find out.”
It is also, though they won’t come out and say so, probably the Supersuckers’ last recording for Sub Pop. A lot of money went into the packaging and promotion of Sacrilicious, including an expensive video for “Born With a Tail” that included a cameo from The Exorcist’s Linda Blair. The album didn’t shoot up the charts, and nobody’s real happy about that.
It is suggested that Must’ve Been High is their version of Neil Young’s Trans. Eddie cocks his head. “Our Trans? Well, there’s some grains of truth in the fact that we saw this opportunity to record a different kind of album for Sub Pop. We were always talking about making this kind of record, and we’re also talking about our future, and trying not to handicap ourselves anymore with being indie and cool. We saw this as pretty much our last opportunity to do something off the wall.”
Video plans? Heathman perks up. “We’ll just take the budget for the video, and then I’ll get a camera and I’ll film everyone buying a bunch of stuff.”
“That’s a treatment I can like!” Eddie laughs, and the whole band laughs and you can almost see them making shopping lists in the pause after.