They Did It Their Way

Wurster agrees that the Chapel Hill hype helped plenty of bands get a foot in the door. But he also notes that the aftermath has been somewhat grim. "Now it seems people are less interested in going out to see bands," he says, noting that Mike Watt's recent concert in Chapel Hill drew a measly 100 people. "Maybe they're bored with it. And it seems that there are not too many bands locally that have members under the age of 25, or even older. I don't know if kids are not interested in playing guitars or drums, or if they just want to make music on their computers."

Even more depressing, says Wurster, are the bands that do draw the young crowds: Hootie, Blues Traveler, Tonic, and Matchbox 20, bands that dominate commercial radio. "I saw Matchbox 20 open for the Lemonheads," recalls Wurster. "It was right when their album came out. I could not believe how utterly generic they were and how he [lead vocalist Rob Thomas] sounded just like the singer-of-the-late-'90s. They're massive now, and I don't understand it. But that's what radio thinks people want to hear, and if that's all people get, that's all they think they want to hear. We'd made small inroads with the 'Hyper Enough' single a few years ago, but things have closed so much that no one's willing to take a chance anymore. They hear a voice like Mac's, and they say, 'That doesn't sound like what we're playing.'"

McCaughan's ardent, high-pitched warble and Superchunk's well-crafted pop make for the perfect antithesis to the beer-gut grunge that now defines "alternative" music. For a sound that's considered out-of-date, it's incredibly refreshing. It could be that Superchunk's indie-rock aesthetic is due for rediscovery.

"I think it's starting already," says Wurster. "Do you know the band Seaweed? They were on Hollywood Records for a few years, which is under Disney. Their next record's coming out on Merge. And I think you'll see a lot of that. I think a lot of bands are going to go back to tiny labels, thinking, 'If we do it right and not spend a fortune, we can make a living doing it.' Sure, we'll probably sell less records, but maybe not any less than we might sell on a major. If you have an independent label with good distribution, you get your records everywhere. We get our records in Best Buy, Circuit City, places I never thought I'd see our records. It can be done."

Superchunk plays with Ladybug Transistor at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, February 10 at Respectable Street Cafe, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $9. Call 561-832-9999.

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