Slint: Having to relearn all our old songs again has been weird
More than two decades after their iconic album Spiderland was released, the US rockers tell Andrew Johnston of the ups and downs of being back on the road
A lot of people form bands when they're kids, but not many see their youthful outfit go on to become a revered cult name. Yet, 23 years on from the release of Slint's seminal second album Spiderland, that's exactly what has happened to the pioneering alternative rockers from Louisville, Kentucky.
"Imagine if your high school band wanted to get back together, and you had to relearn the songs that you wrote when you were 18 or 19," smiles guitarist David Pajo, now 46. "It's just really weird."
Slint re-united in 2005 and 2007 to great fanfare, and are back together again for a tour in which they will perform Spiderland in its entirety. And thanks to a campaign by a Belfast fan, this time the band – minus bassist Todd Brashear – will be visiting Northern Ireland.
"I have a friend in Belfast, who, since he heard we were doing shows again, has been asking if we would play Belfast," David explains. "We've all wanted to, and finally we had a chance to do it. We're really excited. I've played there twice before a long time ago [in 1993 and 2009, and it was awesome."
The tour follows the deluxe re-issue of Spiderland.
"Originally, I thought we should have it come out for the 20th anniversary, but we've missed that mark," he sighs. "I had the initial idea, then Todd took the helm, and when Lance [Bangs] started making the documentary [Breadcrumb Trail – included as a bonus DVD], it all came together."
The career-spanning Breadcrumb Trail was shown at a special Belfast screening in March, and David remains modestly content with it.
"It's good enough for people to get an idea to the band," he says, "but to me, there's a lot more to the story than what's there, but I don't think we'll ever do a part two."
Part of David's dilemma regards revisiting Slint is looking back, something the musician – who in the interim has played with a who's who of independent acts, including Tortoise, Stereolab, Royal Trux, Billy Corgan's Zwan and Interpol – is reluctant to do.
"I never was nostalgic about Slint," he shrugs. "I didn't listen to Spiderland after it came out. It's a strange feeling to play these songs after so much time, but at the same time I can appreciate the songs more now than I ever have."
Another challenge is that even Slint's recorded music – created when David, Todd, guitarist and vocalist Brian McMahan and drummer Britt Walford were in their early twenties – was a work in progress.
"We never had a finished song," David laughs. "We got a song up to a point where we all happy with it, but if we weren't feeling it three months later, we would change it."
But the album has taken on a life of its own, picking up more fans with each passing year. Slint's music has been cited as important and influential by the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Isis, PJ Harvey, Pavement and Dinosaur Jr.
"I really thought it was just going to disappear," David says. "I mean, it's taken me this long to realise just how lucky I was and how fortunate I am to be part of something that continues to find a new generation."
Still, don't be expecting a follow-up any time soon.
David admits. "I don't think it's anything we're thinking about right now, because we still have our heads in trying to perform Spiderland!"
Slint play the Limelight 2 in Belfast on Monday, August 18. For details, visit www.limelightbelfast.com