If you've found yourself listening to indie rock music at any point during the past couple of decades, you have most likely been affected by Superchunk in one way or another. This Chapel Hill quartet has been pumping out poignantly mature indie rock since before indie rock had such a name. In fact, they had a large influence on the naming of the genre by forming Merge records in 1989. Superchunk's fantastic new record Majesty Shredding has just dropped, and the original cast is coming to our town. I called Merge Record's main office, and Mac McCaughan, Superchunk front-man and Merge co-founder, answered my call. He is humble and articulate. It's refreshing to hear such a positive voice from the epicenter of underground music.
Since you are responsible for, arguably, one of the most important indie record labels, and one of the most influential indie rock bands, have you always sort of felt like you had a big say in what the underground was going to love?
No. I don't think that we have a large say in that at all. One of the main things about starting our own label was that we just wanted to have a large say in what we put out as a band, and as a label. If other people happen to like it, that's great. I think one of the biggest challenges as a label, especially when we first started, was to make sure that as many people as possible actually heard [our records] to make that decision for themselves. Distribution was hard, but that has gotten better over the years. I think there was a point at which [distribution] became difficult again, in terms of where people could buy music — when so many record stores went out of business. I mean the Internet is there, but it's a little bit of a morass, so it's a double-edged sword, really. I don't think we ever saw ourselves as the arbiters of anything other than what we were doing ourselves.
So it doesn't feel like a heavy responsibility to know what is relevant before everyone else?
No. I don't think we've ever been on the cutting edge of anything. I mean, listen to the first Superchunk record. It's not exactly, like, a groundbreaking document. I think we sound like a lot of the bands we really like, ya know? Since that was never really our mantle, to begin with, or our goal, really — I don't think it's something that hangs over us.
Where did the name Majesty Shredding come from?
The name is an imaginary software application. If you were making a record in pro-tools, for example, and you had a crappy guitar part, you could apply this software to it and your guitar playing would sound awesome. It's something we dreamed up with our producer Scott Soulter while making this record, no doubt in the midst of some take where I was not playing very well. [Laughs]
How have you been traditionally received in Detroit?
We've had really good shows in Detroit. We actually played there on our first-ever nationwide tour. We played at St. Andrews, and I think we were opening for Screaming Trees, and they've been good pretty much since then. The last two times we came through we played at the Magic Stick, one with Mike Watt, and the other was with Rilo Kiley and they were both great, so were looking forward to it. I'm also expecting it to be cold as shit, so I'm personally preparing for that. | RDW
Superchunk w/ Times New Viking • 12/10, 8 p.m. • Magic Stick • 4120-4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit • 313.833.9700 • majesticdetroit.com • $17 • All ages