From Pavement to Neutral Milk Hotel, there have been plenty of ‘90s indie rock bands cashing in on their respective legacies by touring behind their original material without releasing anything new. For a while throughout the 2000s, Superchunk was worried about falling into that trap. After a nine-year break between albums, Superchunk returned in 2010 with Majesty Shredding and recently followed it up with last year’s I Hate Music. Guitarist Jim Wilbur, who has been a member of the band since 1990, indicated that a sense of restlessness helped inspire the return to recording new material.
“We were playing more shows and didn’t want to play the same songs over and over,” Wilbur said. “We didn’t want to be a nostalgia act. It’s still fun to play ‘Slack Motherfucker’ but after a thousand times it’s not the same.”
Making that decision has played out well for the band, as I Hate Music ended up on year end Top 50 lists for websites like Spin and Stereogum. According to Wilbur, the fan response to new songs on this tour has been overwhelmingly positive.
“(Fans) are singing along to these new songs and I don’t remember that happening in the ‘90s,” Wilbur said. “I don’t know what the reason is.”
The band still plays fan favorites on tour, and Wilbur explained that he is at times surprised at which songs ended up resonating with fans. Songs like “Detroit Has A Skyline” and “Martinis On The Roof” are two of the most requested, even though the band always thought the former didn’t sound as well live as on the record.
“For a long time we thought it was hard to pull off live because it was so fast and hard to give it clarity,” Wilbur said.
They have been touring to promote the new record since last August, and are stopping in Texas for the first time since 2012’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. Fans may notice a change in the lineup, as founding member and bassist Laura Ballance has stopped touring with the band for the foreseeable future. Ballance developed a serious hearing condition called hyperacusis that makes it extremely difficult for people to cope with normal levels of noise without experiencing intense pain. Ballance posted made the decision to stop touring with the band last May, and bassist Jason Narducy, who previously spent time playing with musicians like Bob Mould, has been playing live with the band ever since. Wilbur said that Narducy has fit in well into the dynamics of the band and has done a good job at learning the band’s extensive catalog quickly. Wilbur insisted that the band’s fans have been supportive of the situation.
When asked about plans to follow up I Hate Music, Wilbur explained that the band has not laid out any concrete plans, but are open to the idea of recording another album. According to him, they never really planned anything more than a few months out when they were active in the ‘90s. For now, they prefer to focus on one thing a time, which is currently the tour.
“I would definitely want to make another record, but it might be that it’s not feasible because of other people’s commitments and priorities,” Wilbur said.
Currently, Wilbur claimed that they plan to at least remain as a touring entity for as long as there is a demand to see them live. Part of this is because Wilbur believes that the Internet has made it easier to survive as a band in 2014 than in the ‘90s. He explained that with record labels tanking, he sees more bands following in the model of Superchunk by using online media and word-of-mouth as their main promotional tools. Therefore, Superchunk doesn’t plan on calling it quits anytime soon.
“As long as there’s an audience, I think we would show up,” Wilbur said. “Our booking agent used to say that it’s much harder to book a new band on the way up than it is to book an older band on the way down.”