Hell Is Hot: How Squirrel Nut Zippers Accidentally Sold a Million Records | Music Feature | Indy Week

Music » Music Feature

Hell Is Hot: How Squirrel Nut Zippers Accidentally Sold a Million Records

by

7 comments

Page 4 of 4

snz_6.png

IN THE SWING OF THINGS – AND OUT AGAIN

Tom Maxwell: We had weird and interesting crowds. It was a tremendous mix of ages. Older people, middle-age people, kids. Punk people, oddball weird people. I described it once as like the Peanuts Christmas dance. Then, when "Hell" hit, the swing kids started showing up. I like it when people dance, but we saw people getting pushed out of the way, and it was kind of a drag.

Steve Balcom: When we broke with "Hell," we were the first one with a song as weird and different as this. And then, in our wake, here comes Brian Setzer in a Gap ad, and here comes Swingers and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, all of a sudden. There was a lot of pressure on us to kind of be a swing band, do swing tours.

Chris Phillips: We were making constant, conscious decisions to avoid being attached to that movement. We felt like it was a fad.

Ken Mosher: I remember having talks with Tom like, "Now we're part of a trend, our careers are over." And really, they were. But we didn't need to obsess that hard about it. Really, our careers were over when we had a hit anyhow.

Tom Maxwell and Jimbo Mathus take advantage of Kingsway's unorthodox recording environment. - PHOTO BY ROGER MANLEY
  • Photo by Roger Manley
  • Tom Maxwell and Jimbo Mathus take advantage of Kingsway's unorthodox recording environment.

Tom Maxwell: We had a sell-by date stamped on us, and that really, really bummed me out.

Jimbo Mathus: I didn't really have that much thought about it. It seemed like apples and oranges to me. I've never been concerned with popular trends.

Steve Balcom: As it continued to develop and we got into the next record, it started to fracture and disintegrate.

Tom Maxwell: We finished Perennial in January of '97, and they didn't release it until August of '98. So Hot was eight months old when the single broke, and then we toured it for another year and a half. It was horrible. The band wasn't making that much money. Once we went platinum, we renegotiated our contract to make a dollar and a quarter per CD sold, when the CDs were being sold for fifteen bucks.

Ken Mosher: It was constant touring, and getting home and feeling like you just got off of a lunar mission. It was disorienting. I remember getting home from tours and not being able to speak to my wife for, like, a day. When we started, it really was just to put on one show [at Henry's Bistro] because Cat's Cradle wasn't open, and everyone's band either broke up or was taking a hiatus. Only in Chapel Hill would that have been as successful and launch a career.

Chris Phillips: I've described it as redneck Camelot, and it kind of was. That band was born under a good sign. From the very beginning, the band was so fortunate.

Tom Maxwell: You do the thing that you hear in your head. Nobody's going to do it for you. Do it yourself. Look the way you want. Play the way you want. And then see how it works for you. It worked great for Archers of Loaf, and it worked great for Squirrel Nut Zippers, and it worked great for Ben Folds Five. And that's the Chapel Hill thing: "Do you want to hear this? You better do it yourself."

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment
 

Add a comment