Archers Of Loaf - Biography
Archers of Loaf were an indie noise-pop band that first came together in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the early 1990s, who went on to gain national attention with the release of the novel, critically lauded, Icky Mettle (1993 Alias). Inspired by such bands as The Replacements and indie rock staples/fellow North Carolina brethren Superchunk, the two-guitar four-piece—comprised of UNC students Eric Bachmann (vocals/guitar), Matt Gentling (bass), Eric Johnson (guitar) and Mark Price (drums)—added caustic wit, over-the-top dissonance and spirited lo-fi, punk production to carve a Southern-inflected niche at the edge of college rock. Centered on Bachman’s breaking, raspy vocals, imperfect choruses and distinctive, piercing guitar (particularly in concert), Archers of Loaf would release five full-length albums and several EPs, and tour incessantly all over the world before calling it quits in 1998. In that time, they established themselves as one of indie rock’s finest, drawing comparisons to everyone from Pavement to Sugar to Sonic Youth.
Though they all hailed from Asheville at the western end of the state, Archers of Loaf came together as students at the University of North Carolina when Johnson—who models his playing after Thurston Moore—introduced himself to the already established Bachmann as a fan. Bachmann was looking to put together a new band at the time, and shortly thereafter Gentling and Price came aboard to form the as yet unnamed band. Though the origins of the group’s name remain mysterious, it is believed the name was thrown together as they set to play their first live gig, just so something would appear on the marquee. Playing regionally under the moniker, the band signed to Los Angeles-indie label, Alias Records, and went to work on their debut. With all the members working day jobs, they recorded what would become Icky Mettle between the hours of 3am and noon at Craptone Studios with Caleb Southern (Cat’s Cradle), fueled on beer and restless energy.
The album came out in 1993, and the alternative and college radio stations began playing tracks like the uneven “Web in Front” in heavy rotation, which prompted a tour in its support. This would be the beginning of a rigorous, half-a-decade-long tour schedule that often exceeded 200 dates in a year. The national media heralded the band’s intense live performances and the record as well, with Spin calling it “a near perfect guitar rock album.”
The Archers followed this up with the EP Archers of Loaf vs. the Greatest of All Time (1994 Alias)—which many people regard as their masterpiece. Often referred to as GOAT, the 17-minute concept album featured the tracks “Audiowhore” and “Freezing Point.” With more critical attention and radio play, the band toured North America and Europe, appearing at the Reading Festival in England.
The following year, the Archers put out Vee Vee (1995 Alias), their sophomore album recorded at Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago with Bob Weston. In the college radio circuit, Vee Vee went into the Top Five, and media attention reached a fever pitch, making the band a darling in the indie rock circuit. With the spotlight now directed at them, the Archers toured higher profile dates, including opening for Weezer and Flaming Lips on different legs. Given the quirky and specific nature of Weezer audiences, the Archers of Loaf were not always well received, but the exposure still led to recognition.
After shirking an offer to sign with Maverick Records, fearing the lumped-in association with acts on the label like Candlebox, the Archers released their third LP, All the Nations Airports (1996 Alias), a highly textured album which was put out on Elektra Records. The album was recorded in Seattle with Brian Paulson (Son Volt, Dinosaur Jr.), and was considered their most accessible to date, with subdued, quieter songs such as “Form and File” juxtaposing the more vintage folk-noise tracks. Wrote Spin at the time, their “riffs enter the songs like a drunk entering the freeway.” The Speed of Cattle EP (1996 Alias) came out next, which was a grab bag of b-sides and John Peel session tracks, which hit #2 on the CMJ charts.
In October of 1996, they recorded a live performance at the Middle East Café in Boston of all their classic material for an EP called Vitus Tinnitus, which captured the dissonant flair of the live show.
The band’s final LP, the 13-track White Trash Heroes (1998 Alias), was recorded in Memphis with Paulson and Mitch Easter. Unlike previous material that often seemed purposely crammed and raucous with Bachmann’s screaming “yowl-to-croak,” as Robert Christgau described it, the incorporation of synths and samples spread things out and distinguished the album as a change in sound. Highlight tracks were the spooky “Dead Red Eyes” and “One Slight Wrong Move,” which centered on—and simulated sonically—Armageddon.
The Archers of Loaf split up in 1998 when Price was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome to pursue career paths that were both musical and non. Johnson went on to a law profession, with Price working in a bike shop and Gentling selling outdoor gear. A final album was released posthumously called Seconds Before the Accident (2000 Alias), which was a live album recorded at their final concert at the Cat’s Cradle in November of 1998. In 2011 the band reformed.