The first chapter of my book on Spiderland deals with the primordial period in Slint's history, discussing the obvious touchstone of Squirrel Bait (who Dave Grohl just singled out in a list of great 80s hardcore songs for Rolling Stone), but also the less renowned pre-Slint bands the Languid and Flaccid, Solution Unknown, and Maurice. Since the book doesn't contain any images or (duh) audio, consider this a supplement to that first chapter.
The original pre-Slint band was the Languid and Flaccid, formed by classmates Britt Walford and Brian McMahan when they were in 6th grade. Also in the band was Will Oldham's older brother, Ned, and two other friends, Stephanie Karta and Paul Catlett. You can read an excerpt from the book at the 33 1/3 blog which goes into some detail on this band. I'm not aware of any recordings existing for this band, but here's an amazing picture of the group hanging out outside the Beat Club before an all-ages matinee (via Louisville Punk).
By the time the band reached junior high, the Languid and Flaccid splintered into two projects, with Walford, McMahan, and Oldham forming a second group, Maurice. This was a much more aggressive and heavy band, and eventually the Languid and Flaccid evaporated.
Maurice was fronted by Sean "Rat" Garrison, who I interviewed in depth for the book. He is such a strong personality, and eminently quotable (I think my favorite was "Music is like being on a viking ship; I have come to humiliate you with my band!"); his presence in the book definitely makes this early chapter much more vivid, especially since awareness of Maurice doesn't really extend beyond Louisville.
Maurice quickly turned into a kind of incubator for ideas that would later wind up in Slint. Both Oldham and McMahan left the band early on, replaced by Mike Bucayu and David Pajo. It was the collaboration between Walford and Pajo in this band that eventually led to the creation of Slint.
I've done my best to describe Maurice's music in the book. They began as a straightforward hardcore band, then morphed into a metal band with lots of flashy guitar solos, before ultimately evolving into something more odd and obtuse—essentially Tweez-era Slint but with a screaming rage-aholic on the mic. This description is based partly on a few demos and live songs I've heard and partly on descriptions of the band given to me by Garrison, Pajo, and Todd Brashear, who was a fan of the band before he knew any of them personally.
Unfortunately I don't have any Maurice audio which I'm at liberty to upload, but given Garrison's strong presence in the book I wanted to at least give a sample of what he sounded like, so you could imagine this voice over a song like, say, "Charlotte" or "Warren." So, in lieu of Maurice, here are a couple of samples from Kinghorse, the band Garrison and Bucayu formed after Maurice broke up. Kinghorse was positively huge in the Louisville scene, pulling in hundreds and hundreds of kids to their shows and eventually landing a record deal with Caroline Records. Their debut album was produced by Glenn Danzig, who Garrison was chummy with (as readers of the book will learn, Maurice did a short string of dates around the Midwest opening for Samhain). "Caged" is a track from that debut. The video below is an early version of a song called "Freeze," performed at the legendary Louisville club Tewligan's Tavern (now known as "Cahoots" and quite a bit less legendary) back in Kinghorse's formative days.
- Kinghorse: Caged
Toward the end of Maurice's run, the bassist Mike Bucayu decided to start a second band in which he could put forth more of his own songwriting ideas (Maurice's songs were totally controlled by Walford and Pajo). The band was Solution Unknown, and David Pajo joined up as well—as the drummer. Midway into this band's brief run, Todd Brashear joined up as second guitarist. This band was in many ways formed as a reaction to Maurice, who were venturing into weirder and weirder musical territory. Innovation was absolutely not the name of the game in Solution Unknown. They really just wanted to be a hardcore band that whipped large crowds of kids into a frenzy. They recorded one album, Karen, with Don Zientarra.
- Solution Unknown: Used To Be
Concurrent with Maurice, Squirrel Bait was making its name in the Louisville and national scene. The band, I feel, is given too much credit for leading to Slint. The majority of the songs, both music and lyrics, were written by David Grubbs. People see the liner notes to their self-titled debut and see both Britt Walford and Brian McMahan's names and thus jump to the conclusion that that if half of Slint was in the band, it follows that Slint evolved from here. It's really not true. In fact Walford and McMahan were never in the band at the same time. Walford was in the group only briefly—long enough to record a demo which was never released. A year later, well after Walford was gone, the band pulled two tracks from this demo to add to their debut because they couldn't afford to re-record them. Here's another track from that same demo, which didn't end up on any official Squirrel Bait albums. You can clearly hear how the band was much more influenced by hardcore in these early recordings.
- Squirrel Bait: Insult to Injury
McMahan joined the group after that demo was recorded and Ben Daughtery was brought in as the group's permanent drummer. Still, he wasn't the primary songwriter. His only songwriting credit on the debut, to my knowledge, was the opening track, "Hammering So Hard." The rest came from David Grubbs—about which I'll say more in a future post.
- Squirrel Bait: Hammering So Hard