Time magazine recently lumped Archers of Loaf into a crowd of “chartbusters,” artists they deem as ones to watch. So where does singer-guitarist Eric Bachmann stand on the massive buzz about the rock quartet’s fourth Alias Records album, “White Trash Heroes” (out Sept. 22)? Sorry, he’s too busy delivering pizzas to make ends meet in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“I’m working four days a week,” Bachmann said recently. “It’s not a big deal, and it’s only until late September when we go on tour.
“Still, I was talking with my friend, Tim, and I was bummed, ‘I’ve got this stupid pizza delivery job.’ He’s this really hyper guy, he’s really funny; when you leave a conversation with him your face hurts because you’ve been smiling so much. He says, ‘Dude, that’s good karma, man. You’ve gotta have that kind of thing if you’re gonna do what you do. You gotta have a shitty job to keep you real, man.’ ”
Archers of Loaf is real, all right, a real working-class indie rock band. Critics have been extolling Bachmann and guitarist Eric Johnson, bassist Matt Gentling and drummer Mark Price since their 1993 debut album, “Icky Mettle,” which Spin magazine called “the near-perfect indie guitar-rock album.”
Their second album, “Vee Vee,” spent seven weeks in the Top 10 on CMJ’s chart in 1994, and they toured with the Flaming Lips and Weezer. Their 1996 follow-up, “All the Nation’s Airports,” expanded their fervent following, but the steady touring pace took its toll.
“When ‘Vee Vee’ came out in ’94,” Bachmann said, “from then all the way to the end of the ‘All the Nation’s Airports’ tour in ’97, I didn’t have to work because we were playing and occasionally getting royalty checks. We quit touring because we were burned out and, basically, I had all this money saved and I went nuts traveling. I went to Alaska, Newfoundland, Puerto Rico, all over the place. I spent all my money thinking ‘We’ll be on tour again,’ but we didn’t tour for a while because (Price) had carpal tunnel. We took a year off.”
Between stints as a courier and delivering newspapers, Bachmann worked on material for “White Trash Heroes.” From there, the band went into Ardent Studios in Memphis with producer Brian Paulson (Dinosaur Jr., Wilco, Son Volt, Superchunk). They smoothed out the rough edges of their trademark bare-bones rock sound and introduced some synthesizer and samples, creating an expansive, tuneful album.
“We definitely wanted to shake things up,” Bachmann said, “but that stuff was on the other album too, it’s just that you didn’t hear it as well. I think the problem with the last album was that there were too many songs. We were trying to do the same thing we’re doing on this one, except that we sort of diluted it with too many songs like we used to sound.
“There’s no songs like ‘Vocal Shrapnel’ or whatever on the new record. We didn’t water this one down, it was all new ideas. The synthesizer thing is actually a little Casio, a little electronic keyboard. It’s not like it’s a Moog or anything. You can spend $30,000 on a fancy-ass keyboard and it makes only two amazing sounds or you spend $30 on a shitty keyboard that has 100 sounds with only two good sounds.
“I wanted it to be a better arrangement of sounds. I know I didn’t want to hear a bunch of loud guitars and loud basses and loud drums and screaming vocals. Not that we’ve always done that, but I know we wanted to make sure everything had its place.”
All four members originally are from Asheville, but they teamed in Chapel Hill in 1992, lured by the area’s fertile atmosphere for bands.
“It’s a good environment,” Bachmann said, “because this area has a lot of radio stations and clubs. If you were going to put something into a Petrie dish to form a creative atmosphere, the scientists wouldn’t change very much about the variables in Chapel Hill. It’s just a good place to be in a band and work 30 hours a week to pay rent so you can have time to be in a band, even if it means delivering pizzas.”
BWF (before we forget): Take a bite out of Archers of Loaf on the Web @www.archersofloaf.com. … The Archers of Loaf album discography – “Icky Mettle” (Alias, 1993); “Greatest of All Time” EP; “Vee Vee” (1994); “The Speed of Cattle” (collection of B-sides, 7-inch singles, etc., 1995); “All the Nation’s Airports” (1996); “Vitus Tinnitus” (live EP, 1997); “White Trash Heroes” (1998).