In the annals of 1990s indie pop, Sacramento, CA's Rocketship weren't the most prolific act, but what they did produce has remained timeless to this day. More than a lot of their peers, Rocketship made at least two classics for their scene: their addictive single, "Hey Hey Girl," and its subsequent debut album, 1996's A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness.
The band's wistfully organ-driven pop made them one of the standout acts on Slumberland's scene-leading roster of the mid-'90s, which also included Henry's Dress, Boyracer, Stereolab, Lily and the Ropers. But like most great records of that decade, A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness went out of print after selling its original run. Since then, the album has become a cult favourite, with copies of the vinyl release retailing on sites like Discogs and eBay for well over $100. After noticing all of the demand, Rocketship's Dusty Reske decided it was finally time to reissue it.
"Despite its inherent flaws, vinyl, for whatever reasons, is currently even more popular than when A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness came out in 1996," Reske tells Exclaim! "I kept hearing stories of people paying way too much money for used vinyl copies of the record, and it didn't seem just that one had to sell one's bike or whatever to raise the cash to hear our debut on a turntable. Because so many people are into the record, I'm really happy to give them the opportunity to spin Rocketship."
Instead of handling the reissue through the album's original label, Slumberland, Reske is turning to crowdfunding so he can take full control over its release. He will be launching a Kickstarter via the Nonstop Cooperative, which currently handles Rocketship's digital catalogue. Reske doesn't have any hard feelings towards his old label, but for the reissue, he wanted to handle business on his own.
"I'm quite fortunate to have had Slumberland's help in popularizing A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness, and I'm thrilled Mike [Schulman] has had so much success," Reske says. "At this point, however, I don't much want to work with record labels if it can be avoided. Record labels (not just the big ones, but independents, too) have almost complete control over the sales data and finances of the artists whose records they put out and the artists, in turn, must trust that the information they receive is accurate. It's a very inegalitarian relationship between artists and labels, the latter being, of course, capitalist businesses which, by design, profit off the work of others. This is a criticism of the whole label scene, not directed at any one label."
Sometime in the fall Reske plans to launch the Kickstarter, and expects A Certain Smile, A Certain Sadness to be available in "early 2016, for it's 20th anniversary." The vinyl will be "just as the original sounded and looked, more or less, although we'll probably do recycled colored vinyl, orange or brown. It'll be remastered to be a little louder, but otherwise unchanged."
As for playing shows to support the reissue, Rocketship did reunite to play the Popfest in San Francisco and New York City last year, but Reske says don't hold your breath.
"Playing live is not of great interest to me for several reasons," he explains. "Rock music is much too loud and responsible for damaging the hearing, surely, of many millions of people, audiences and musicians alike. Music doesn't need to be so loud, but because of the availability of electricity, people electrified musical instruments and stereos and, being ever creative, invented new forms of music with these technologies. Perhaps Rocketship's next iteration will be me on a solar powered laptop, or we'll play acoustically in my backyard or something."
Although Reske doesn't have much interest in performing, he plans to make it up to his fans by releasing a brand new Rocketship LP titled Thanks to You. Expected around the same time as the reissue, this will mark the band's first studio album since 2006's self-released Here Comes... Rocketship.
"I'm very excited to put out this new album," Reske says. "The songs are guitar-heavy and very personal, and I'm working with a new singer, Ellen Osborn, who is excellent, bringing a rich expression to our sound. I tried to write very concise, tightly structured pop songs which are emotionally poignant, with beautiful, interesting arrangements, and the record is coming out very good. I think Rocketship fans will be very happy."
You can stream Rocketship's entire discography on their Bandcamp page.