By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
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By Brian Palmer
Eric Bachmann has had a whiff of success, and he says the smell is not so sweet, after all.
"All of a sudden you can't get a free moment at a show 'cause you have to talk to the publishing people, the tee-shirt people, the record-label people, whatever," says the 25-year-old front man for Archers of Loaf. "It makes it rather hard to sit down, have a beer and smoke a cigarette."
Bachmann and his bandmates are managing, though.
As the specter of fame has loomed over the Loafers in the wake of their sophomore release Vee Vee, the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, foursome has quickly developed a rep as a band that drinks as hard as it rocks. Bachmann says he and the other Archers are uncomfortable with their newfound popularity and often use a bottle to smooth out the wrinkles in their psyches.
"When you have a lot of people at your show, you feel tremendous pressure," he explains. "But if you're really drunk, that's a bad thing and you're going to have problems. A lot of people think we're a drunken-type band, which I guess in many ways we are."
Three years ago, the Archers sprouted from the same fertile ground of the Chapel Hill indie-music scene that produced Superchunk and, more recently, Ben Folds Five (Ben, by the way, played drums and piano for several tracks on Bachmann's first solo album, Barry Black, which was recently released by Alias Records).
In addition to Bachmann, the band is Eric Johnson on guitar, Matt Gentling on bass and Mark Price on drums. Together, they've pumped out two powerhouse pop-punk albums for Alias--along with a firecracker string of EPs and singles--and toured the nation in support slots for the Flaming Lips and Weezer.
No wonder Bachmann shoots so many angry rhetorical arrows at the "slacker band" stereotype that's shadowed theArchers since the band's inception. "'Slacker,'" he says, "is nothing but a catchword. Nosuch thing exists. If you're touring, recording, doing interviews, writing songs, you're not a slacker band.
"Honestly, we don't give a shit about much, but we do give a shit about music and doing what we do."
A gem of a recording, Vee Vee is a self-backlash to the Archers' more radio-friendly debut. The disc is highly experimental in tone and finds the band emulating a wild variety of artists--including Brian Eno, Tom Waits, the Ventures, Thin White Rope, and Shellac. Bachmann celebrates the obvious influences. "The bands I really like are those that, when you listen to their first record and their last recording, you can hear that they really developed along the way."
Led by gale-force guitars and Bachmann's crusty vocals, the Archers of Loaf sound is frequently compared to Pavement, Superchunk and the Refreshments. While all four bands can be slapped into one nebulous noise-rock category, the Archers distinguish themselves with unrelenting tongue-in-cheek weirdness and a zealous disrespect for even the most basic tenets of music theory. Their golden rule is: If it sounds good, do it.
Ironically, when Bachmann and Johnson were interviewed for a recent Guitar World article, they dropped a lot of phrases like "mixolydian deconstructed tonal fifths" and "bimodal metric modulation." The writer took them at face value and presented the two axmen as rabid theory hounds.
"Actually, we don't know any of that shit," says Bachmann, laughing. "We're not that kind of band. It should be obvious by listening to us."
The lyrics in Archers of Loaf songs provide more texture than focus, but, occasionally, a stanza warrants a closer look, such as the first verse to "Greatest of All Time":
They caught and drowned the front man/
Of the world's worst rock 'n' roll band ... /
The jury gathered all around the aqueduct/
Drinking and laughing and lighting up/
Reminiscing just how bad he sucked.
Bachmann says he was inspired to write the words to "Greatest" after reading the liner notes on a Glenn Miller album that described the bandleader's orchestra as "the greatest band of all time."
"The concept of calling anyone the greatest of all time is hilarious," the singer says. "Especially Glenn Miller--a white guy who stole black people's music."
A fury on the stage, Bachmann is soft-spoken off it, but still exudes punk attitude. If you meet him, he says, the words "quiet asshole" will come to mind. Asked for a parting sentiment to his fans in the Valley, the singer serves up the obligatory punk-rock outquote: "Tell everybody that I hate them."
Oh, Eric--we hate you, too.