June Of 44 - Biography
Of all the post-rock and math-rock bands to erupt in the wake of Louisville, KY’s mighty Slint, Rodan seemed to be the most promising. Slint’s slowed down, hyper dynamic take on post-hardcore music proved to be highly influential. This was the case quickly in the band’s home city. Rodan’s personal take on the Slint template burned fast and bright, resulting in the now classic Rusty from 1994. Rodan’s existence was all too short, but when the group splintered each member went on to play in a number of excellent new projects. Closest to home was guitarist Jeff Mueller’s June of 44.
Mueller formed June of 44 in 1994, recruiting bassist Fred Erskine (Hoover, The Crownhate Ruin), guitarist Sean Meadows (Lungfish), and drummer Doug Scharin (Codeine, Rex). Even though each member lived in a different city, immediate chemistry was apparent and the quartet went to New York for its first recording session. The results were released on the Quarterstick label in the summer of 1995 as the band’s debut full-length, Engine Takes to the Water. The record bares a lot of similarities to Rodan. All the angular guitar patterns, swelling loud-quiet-loud dynamics, and shifting time signatures are here in abundance. Complex, prog-like arrangements define extended post-hardcore songs like the stunning “Have a Safe Trip, Dear” and “Mooch.” June of 44 proved to be a surprisingly melodic band right from the start, as evident on “June Miller” and “Mindel.”
1996 brought the band’s sophomore release, Tropics and Meridians. Undoubtedly the quartet’s best record from its early years, this set expands on and fully realizes the sound of the debut. Still focusing on churning riffs and odd time signatures, the arrangements for songs like the epic “Anisette” and “Arms Over Arteries” show a band flexing its experimental muscle. While the sound is firmly rooted in post-hardcore and indie rock, the quartet folds in field recordings and swaths of ambient noise. Erskine and Scharin emerge on these songs as one of ‘90s underground rock’s most inventive rhythm sections, adding rubbery dub bass and polyrhythmic drumming to these slithery, dark songs. Mueller and Meadows deliver whisper to scream vocals that add emotional tension and catharsis just as much as the swelling wall of guitars on tracks like “Lawn Bowler” and “June Leaf.”
All of the band’s members were active in other projects during this time. Erskine played in several bands, including Scharin’s rhythm centric avant-dub group HiM. Meadows played with another ex-Rodan member, Tara Jane O’Neil, in the Sonora Pine, while Mueller was beginning to form the Shipping News with yet another Rodan alum, Jason Noble. All of this was concurrent to June of 44’s active touring and recording schedule. In 1997 the band released a transitional EP that reflected the input of the members’ various other projects. The Anatomy of Sharks remains a favorite among loyal fans. The EP features three tracks centered around the eleven-minute epic, “Sharks and Sailors.” These songs incorporate larger amounts of ambient texture and elements of post-rock, avant-jazz and dub. Erskine even adds eerie, echo-laden trumpet. The EP signaled June of 44’s move away from guitar heavy post-hardcore toward a more diverse sound.
Four Great Points, the band’s third studio full-length, landed in 1998. These eight songs furthered the sonic expansion, folding in Scharin’s interest in dub and abstract electronica and lending more trumpet time to Erskine and adding additional percussion and violin. While more temporally concise than many earlier songs, tracks like “Of Information & Belief,” “Cut Your Face,” and “Shadow Pugilist” traverse a wider and more diverse sonic territory. Four Great Points manages to expand on June of 44’s sound while still retaining its post-hardcore spirit.
The band’s last proper full-length came in 1999. Anahata expands on the developments of its immediate predecessor. While overall slightly less focused than Four Great Points, this record has more than its share of brilliant moments. Erskine and Scharin are definitely the stars here, creating snaky, rubbery, hypnotic grooves that lock in like the best dub or techno. Trumpet, violin, electronics, vibraphones, and piano all lend color and depth to the arrangements. Songs like “Cardiac Atlas” and “Five Dollars in My Pocket” showcase the funky, Liquid Liquid inspired rhythms while “Southeast Boston” and “Equators to Bi-Polar” showcase the passionate vocals of Mueller and Meadows.
The last document of this great group was released the same year. June of 44 recorded six songs as part of the Konkurrent label’s In the Fishtank series. The EP sounds like outtakes from the time between Four Great Points and Anahata, merging feedback drones, intricate guitar patterns, and buoyant melodies with tight grooves and shifting tempos. June of 44 had traveled far away from its Louisville, KY math-rock roots to experiment with dub and ambient music. The results were never less than intriguing and produced at least three classic post-rock releases. After the band’s split in 2000, each member continues to be active. Meadows records solo as Everlasting the Way, while Erskine played in countless bands including the Boom and Abilene. Scharin continues to release records as HiM and plays in Mice Parade. Mueller continues to play in the Shipping News and releases sporadic solo albums.