[supplied by Chieko Hashimoto]
OUT OF THE COLD, INTO THE SPRINGHOUSE
It seems ironic that the back cover of the latest Springhouse CD, Postcards From the Arctic depicts two men staggering in a blizzard. Given the name of this NYC trio, you might think the CD would be adorned with blossoming flowers, plants and the like. Nevertheless, this was released the day of the infamous snowstorm that blitzed the Northeast! Somehow both ironic and fitting.
Swirling and swaying layers of acoustic effect - laden guitar punctuate this impressive sophomore effort from Springhouse (Caroline Records). Mitch Friedland's soaring, impassioned vocals, Larry Heinemann's chugging, steady bass and Jack Rabid's propulsive, yet crisp drumming create a tempo - shifting atmospheric feel. Bassist Heinemann spoke recently after an appearance in New Haven at the Tune inn, and explained the band's remarkable progression. "I have to credit our producer, Joe Chiccarelli, for bringing us a clean and bright sound that was lacking on our first record." (Land Falls). Chiccarelli's credits include Frank Zappa's "Joe's Garage" and American Music Club's "Everclear". The CD was recorded in Los Angeles on a soundboard used at the Who's Eel Pie Studios in London. "We were fortunate to find equipment that complemented Mitch's unique guitar sound, and Joe just happened to have heard us before so he was a fan already, which also helped."
"All About Me," the first single off Postcards, "Enslave Me," "Ghosts" and "Alley Park" are the standout tracks. These and other songs explore lost love, childhood, bittersweet memories and personal uncertainty. The focus though, Heinemann asserts, is on personal reflection supplied by Friedland's lyrics. "Mitch's songwriting has really improved and the group's playing ability has gone hand in hand with that. We've been together since 1989 and I believe this latest record blows the first right out of the water!"
Springhouse is currently touring the U.S. until early May, in support of the album. There are no current plans for a third release, however, Heinemann is not concerned with that now. "We are concentrating on touring behind 'Postcards' since it took two years to make, so we haven't thought about the next record yet."
by Kevin Linehan
[supplied by Chieko Hashimoto]
With melodic dissonance and epic narratives, Springhouse supply bittersweet odes about survival in New York City. As inspiring as it is frightening, as beautiful as it is grotesque, the Big Apple has had quite an effect on this trio.
Drummer Jack Rabid, aka the editor of the 12-year-old rock fanzine The Big Takeover, formed Springhouse with vocalist/guitarist Mitch Friedland and bassist Larry Heinemann in 1988. After a successful outing on Bob Mould's Singles Only Label, they hooked up with Caroline Records for 1991's socio-environmental music essay Land Falls, featuring "Eskimo," a cryptic statement about homelessness.
This year's model, Postcards from the Arctic, picks up where Land Falls left off in the man's-inhumanity-towards-man department. It also explores tales of the heart.
"The theme of the album is surviving romantic heartbreak in the city of New York," explains Rabid, who shares lyric duties with Friedland. "The arctic being the metaphor not only for emotions but also for New York."
"We had a pretty emotional year while we were writing this record," adds Heinemann, "so it's more based on personal experience than the first record."
"But it's not a woe is me, my world is falling apart album," Rabid continues. "It does take an introspective look at things.
"Living in New York gives you this certain mindset, a survivalist, 'you're not going to get the better of me' attitude. When you survive the death of longtime romances, it just puts that in you further: 'I can overcome whatever disasters life throws my way, hopefully. 'Surviving in New York, I don't think anyone who's not from the city knows what that entails."
Opening the 11-song Postcards is "Asphalt Angels," a song about getting out of New York, which Springhouse hope to do soon.
"We really want to get out on the road and just stay there," says Rabid.
What makes touring difficult for Springhouse are outside responsibilities. To hit the road, Rabid has to suspend production of The Big Takeover, Heinemann must find a temporary replacement for his post as music director of the performance art troupe Blue Man Group, and Friedland must take a leave of absence as a N.Y.C. paramedic.
Like their songs, the trio's lives are rooted in reality; because they haven't given up their day jobs. In Friedland's case, "the job" influenced "The Light," which hauntingly closes Postcards.
"Mitch definitely has a unique eye for seeing what goes on in the city," says Rabid. "He gets into places where you can't stand because you're kept back by the ropes. He sees it not on the news. He sees it right in front of his face. On the other hand, I think the average New Yorker knows intuitively the things that Mitch sees firsthand.
"All three of us could survive outside of the city too," the Summit native continues. "We're not like this Woody Allen thing, where you absolutely have to get Chinese food at 2 in the morning." For more information about Springhouse, whose video for "All About Me" can be seen on MTV's "120 Minutes," contact Caroline Records at 212-989-2929.
[supplied by Chieko Hashimoto]
Springhouse: Melodious Music Lovers
"Basically, I want our music to have the shiver effect," says Springhouse guitarist Mitch Friedland. "That's when you listen to a record and something happens that gives you a chill down your spine, and you just want to play that song over and over again."
Maybe that chill is why Springhouse is named for an early version of the refrigerator - a cabin placed over a spring to keep food cool. Dominated by Friedland's heavily processed acoustic guitar, the group's lushly melodic debut, Land Falls, does have a curiously refreshing quality.
Since 1980, drummer Jack Rabid has single-handedly written and published the respected fanzine The Big Takeover. He's a voracious music fan who is knowledgeable about everyone from the Byrds to the Buzzcocks, as are Friedland and bassist Larry Heinemann. "I don't think it's hidden in our sound what music lovers we are," says Rabid. "I think it's the best thing about us."
But Rabid says the group steers away from simply aping its favorite bands - postpunk giants such as Wire and the Smiths. "I don't want us to be nostalgic," he says. "All these new bands, even the ones we like, the only reason we like them is that they remind us of our heroes. There's such a lack of real music."
The members of Springhouse are well aware of how hard it is both to make music that compares with that of their heroes and to remain original. "Nothing can be completely original in rock & roll,but it's a cool thing to strive for," says Rabid.
"I think we've avoided schmaltzy romance and knee-jerk gloom," says Heinemann. "We tend to fall in between the two."
- Michael Azerrad
[supplied by Chieko Hashimoto]
The Manhattan flat of SPRINGHOUSE drummer and co-lyricist Jack Rabid is not so much a residence as a museum of, and shrine to, rock'n'roll history. Ancient Comsat Angels and Saints interviews serve as wallpaper, the record collection as furniture.
Springhouse are obsessives.
"For me," says Jack, "the biggest thrills in the world are like for Martin Phillips from The Chills to say we were his favourite American band, or for Bob Mould to be a big fan of ours and to say one of his new songs is influenced by us."
Jack and his co-conspirators, Mitch Friedland (guitar/vocals) and Larry Heinemann (bass), formed Springhouse in 1988. Since then, they've opened for almost everybody who's played New York in the intervening interval, made their debut on Bob Mould's singles-only label and finally gotten around to releasing a beguiling debut album called Land Falls. Unusually and encouragingly, it displays little of the trainspotter contrivances that tend to plague the recordings of devoted fans, while managing a fair old degree of individuality and some tunes, even. Springhouse seem pretty happy with it, and would doubtless seem a lot happier if they could make a living at it.
"It can't be our whole life," sighs Jack. "You can't do that in America. There's no dole here, there's no way to bum around and make some money and still keep a band together. The difference between young American bands and young British bands is that young American bands have day jobs."
Jack is a teaching assistant, music journalist and author/editor of The Big Takeover fanzine. Larry is a waiter who could only get 10 minutes off for the photos. Mitch is a paramedic in Queens and disappointingly if understandably reluctant to part with too many urban horror-type anecdotes.
"I don't like tying my job into the music," says Mitch, "because then people look at you thinking (assumes Bela Lugosi tones), "He knows what it's like, he's been there, and I don't want people asking me how many dead bodies I've seen."
Steve Albini did once ask to see photos, though. Springhouse's imminent plans include more touring, meeting people ("We're band with no dressing room"), buying copious amounts of records and attempting to stay a leap ahead of the landlords. Life obfuscates art, again. Land Falls is a bit of a stormer.
- Andrew Mueller
[supplied by Chieko Hashimoto]
The New York trio Springhouse seem at first to be on a heavy ecology trip. Song titles like "Landslide" and "Eskimo," a forthcoming album called Land Falls and the name Springhouse itself alludes to an earth consciousness.
Not so says drummer Jack Rabid: "If you think so that's interesting to me. But actually, 'Landslide' is about the cave-in of a relationship where everything's falling apart but it doesn't really bother you." However, he admits that, at one time, the band thought of naming themselves after Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, which forecast the environmental despair of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.
"Eskimo," which Rabid wrote and sings "is just my name for homeless people," he explains. "They sleep in the street when it's 20 degrees out and build barriers out of newspapers and magazines. I don't know about you, but they're doing something I can't do. That kind of fortitude is way beyond any Eskimo I ever learned about in school. And it also tells you something about the shelters 'cause if people don't want to go there when it's 20 degrees out, there must be something pretty bad about them."
The band has been around for a couple of years, evolving in the detritus of Rabid's previous punk band, Even Worse (which briefly housed Thurston Moore). Along with Rabid, the band consists of bassist Larry Heinemann and singer/guitarist Mitch Friedland. They released their first single on Bob Mould's Singles Only Label (SOL) entitled "Menagerie Keeper" which was about religious demagoguery but caught attention for its controversial picture sleeve, a grainy photo of Jim Bakker many mistook to be Jimmy Carter.
The group bears a resemblance to the jangling British pop sound that developed in the wake of punk. Such comparisons don't bother Rabid, who names The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Buzzcocks among a few of his favorite groups. "Certainly we like that stuff," he says. "That wide spacious expansion."
"The underground has been so elitist for so long that it's just championed everything but what is genuinely good and will last. In this sense, they're getting their just deserts because so little of what they've produced has been remembered. To play in a band like that now would be counterproductive to me as a human being." Or as Rabid's bandmate Mitch Friedland aptly puts it: "The first time around it's history, the second time it's bullshit."
Springhouse have recently signed with Caroline records and their debut, Land Falls, should be out momentarily. It is an excellent album with an evocative texture that brings to mind wet leaves and green grass.
"We want to make music people will still be playing in 15 years without having to put it into context," says Rabid. "I must admit though, what's really nice is to be able to play music at all." Which, when you think about it, is a pretty warming thought for any reason.
- Joe S. Harrington