Archers of Loaf

By Cam LindsayIn the 1990s, Archers of Loaf were one of the bands at the forefront of indie rock. They weren't as prolific as Guided By Voices. They weren't as charming as Pavement. And they weren't as scrambled as Sebadoh. But thanks to their inimitable sound, a cerebral and tense collision of braying guitar lines and frontman Eric Bachmann's unmistakable bark, the Archers were one of the more popular bands at the time, building a devoted fan base that is still passionate about them today. Now 13 years later, the band have reunited, answering the prayers of their fans not just by teaming up with Merge for a series of vault-clearing reissues for their four albums ― 1993's Icky Mettle, 1995's Vee Vee, 1996's All the Nation's Airports and 1998's White Trash Heroes ― but also a tour that will carry on well into 2012. And of course, there's always the possibility of a new album. Exclaim! caught up with Bachmann en route to Toronto for a Crooked Fingers show to discuss what prompted the reunion, the trend of '90s bands coming back for a victory lap, the specific plans to tour each reissue, what lies ahead for the band and why Archers fans are like Republicans.

So how did Archers of Loaf get back together?

I moved to Taiwan for six months so Matt kept all my stuff at his house. We talked about it when I got back from Taiwan and it seemed like the right thing to do. We have a manager named Sean who organized it for us and everybody was up for it. There wasn't anything complicated about it. Everything just came together. And we thought if we're gonna do it, let's do it now. Because ten years from now we'll be too old to do it.

When exactly did the discussion to reform start?
There was joking. If I was in Asheville or wherever with Crooked Fingers they would all come see me. But the serious talks started when I returned from Taiwan. I was ready to do it.

What were you doing in Taiwan?

I have a friend there who owns a recording studio. I was burnt out on music so I went there to teach English. I did that for about six months and then came back. I realized quickly that I didn't want to do that! [laughs] I ended up missing music. I was teaching kids, which if you know me, I'm not trained in any way… I'm not necessarily bad with kids, but I have no business teaching them. I realized that wasn't what I wanted to be doing, and I had an offer to produce an Azure Ray record so I decided to come back to the U.S. I recorded it at a studio in Asheville, where Matt and Eric live and we got talking while I was doing that.

How did you do with the language over there?
I knew very little, but I was learning Mandarin. And Taiwanese Mandarin is slightly different from the mainland Mandarin. It was a very difficult language to learn. I could order a few things and ask for directions, but it's a tough one man. That's the kind of language where you learn a phrase and you say it back to them exactly as you heard it and they say it isn't quite right. You can do that for an hour!

How are you feeling now playing the songs on stage together?

It feels great man. It's like riding a bike. It's been really fun. They're great people to hang out with.

Does it feel like 13 years have gone by?
Actually, yeah it does. With those songs to me, I felt quite removed from the songs at our first rehearsal. I had to change my relationship with them, in my head and my mind in order to play them for people. Now that relationship has changed. The reward I got out of it in the '90s was a power, a belief in what those songs were. Now it's more that I'm looking out to an audience and they're singing those songs. That's the reward I get out of it.

There's been a real '90s revival over the past few years. Do you think Archers of Loaf reuniting can be beneficial because of that?
I know that it wasn't intentional, because none of us really follow things close enough to realize that. But we knew Guided By Voices reunited and Pavement and Dinosaur Jr and Polvo. We actually waited a while and may have done it sooner if those bands hadn't. We thought, "Now that all these bands are doing it, it might be harder for us to do it." But it will be fun because we'll get enjoyment out of it.

When the band broke up in 1998, it always struck me as one of the more realistic break-ups. Mark had surgery for carpal tunnel and you guys weren't really happy with how things had turned out after White Trash Heroes. Would you say reuniting was easy because breaking up wasn't so acrimonious?,
We didn't break up because of one record, we broke up because we were all tired of the whole thing. It wasn't because of performance sales wise of the record or tour. We were just bored of the rigorous touring schedule and not having time to do other things musically. We certainly had problems with each other every now and then, everyone argues, but we never had a really massive fall out. As you were saying, it was a very well thought out tour. "Let's do one more tour and if we're not happy with it we'll stop." So we did one more tour and decided to stop.
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I saw this band in Philly last weekend, and they sounded great. Bachman seemed bored as can be when he was playing the Icky Mettle stuff. He looked like he was just going through the motions.

When he was playing stuff of other albums, he was fine, but playing that first stuff looked like actual work for him.
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Article Published In Aug 11 Issue