Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
Trunk Federation was always good for some intriguing copy in New Times. In the September 7, 1995 story, "The Boys in the Trunk: Murder and Other Mundane Subjects," they blurred the line between truth and happenstance by saying their name was inspired by the Winnie Judd, a Phoenix woman was found guilty of packing her troubles in an old kit bag, namely the dismembered bodies of two of her friends in steamer trunks that were certainly steaming when authorities pried them open. Cementing the macabre deal, the band plastered her guilty manslaughter mug on their first 45 sleeve and sang "chop you into little parts" on "Young Cherry Trees." Ah, the '90s! Such joie de vivre!
Equally charismatic was Trunk's kitchen sink stage shows of the time. A typical Mason Jar show featured band all dressed in matching uniforms or else pajamas, employing "20 pounds of Christmas lights and four portable TVs set on static so that the stage resembles a pagan altar (or at least U2's Zoo TV tour on a shoestring budget)."
By 1996, they were voted Best Local Band on the Verge in the 1996 Phoenix New Times Music Awards, a buzz they made good on by the time of David Holthouse's cover story when they signed with Alias Records, home of Archers of Loaf.
The band was arguably at its artistic peak during their lone record for that label, The Curse of Miss Kitty, produced by Alex Newport. In the 1998 story just before its release ("Trunk Stop") I described the sound as "Meddle-era Pink Floyd in its laconic passages" and recalling "the Syd Barrett era at its most menacing. As proof of the band's allegiance to exploring trippier realms, (guitarist Jason) Sanford offers as Exhibit A that he is up to 15 effects pedals."
That article also stated that Trunk Federation was toning down its stage schtick, which led to a phony feud with Les Payne Product, leading purveyors of stage schtick at the time, drama that made for perhaps the most surreal CD release party ever.
The track from this seminal trippy album we chose for this week's Heritage Hump track is "Truck Lover," the same track Alias chose to release as its single. Although the band was experimental in all the best possible ways, it could also turn out great catchy pop tunes.
Jim Andreas, Trunk's lead singer, sole lyricist and rhythm guitarist, recalls it was "the only song that we ever received ASCAP royalties from because it had some success on the radio. Curse was the first record with our new bass player Bob Smith; he also played keyboards and wrote all the parts for the horns on that song. The synth solo is my favorite part of the song. It sounded like something off a Cars record. The Curse of Miss Kitty is still my favorite recording from Trunk Federation."
Andreas, who along with Trunk timekeeper Christopher Kennedy now play together in No Volcano, have their own CD release party this weekend. Expect to see the return to center stage of one of Trunk's most beloved props, the spinning mirror-ball wig head. Schtick lives!
No Volcano will be performing a dual CD release party with at the Smoke Bombs at the Pressroom this Saturday, February 7, with Scorpion vs Tarantula, The Father Figures and Poolside Sacrifice.
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