The common link between the bands The Halo Benders, Treepeople, Butterfly Train and Caustic Resin is Doug Martsch, leader of Built to Spill. Once he was a member of the band Treepeople, but today, besides being in Built to Spill he’s also a member of the on again off again The Halo Benders. His connections to Butterfly Train and Caustic Resin run through Built to Spill. Caustic Resin’s Brett Netson and Ralph Youtz played on Built to Spills debut release, Ultimate Alternative Wavers, currently Brett Netson plays bass for BtS while Ralph Youtz and bassist Wayne Rhino Flower (Treepeople) are members of The Halo Benders. Butterfly Train’s Andy Capps and Brett Nelson have been members of BtS, presently only Brett Nelson is still one.
Before founding Built to Spill Doug Martsch played in the Boise punk band State of Confusion. When grunge was the next big thing and Seattle became America’s new musical Mecca State of Confusion relocated to Seattle. Once there they reformed and changed their name to Treepeople, but that group would only last about as long as the hype about grunge lasted. Interestingly, the band’s dense post-punk music proved to be relatively unaffected by their exposure to Seattle’s music scene.
Time Whore, the quartet’s 1990 debut EP, blends aggressive punk, catchy pop and quirky art-rock, but is flawed because with two singers and lead guitarists (Martsch and Scott Schmaljohn) the music is “cluttered and busy,” with guitar solos covered in fuzz and vocals buried in the mix.
Guilt Regret Embarrassment, Time Whore’s follow-up , finds the band adding David Bowie and Butthole Surfers covers to their repertoire, along with the occasional TV or radio sample.
1992’s Something Vicious for Tomorrow repeats those very things that detracted from Time Whore, namely
every interesting lyric, voice or guitar sound that emerges from the noisy swirl is pushed back under again.
1993’s Just Kidding is like getting two albums in one
with the first half is dominated by Schmaljohn… the second by Martsch.
Songs like the Martsch penned "Anything’s Impossible" with it’s “rapid tempo changes and twisted guitar lines,” and "Neil’s Down," with it’s angsty explosions of guitar and drums make Just Kidding, despite the album’s obvious schism, more of a straight forward rock record then the band’s previous efforts.
Claiming he was sick of Seattle and sick of touring Martsch left the band after the release of Just Kidding returning to Boise where formed Built to Spill. For Treepeople’s final album, 1994’s Actual Re-Enactment, the only original remaining member of the band, Scott Schmaljohn, replaced Martsch with guitarist/vocalist John Polle. Songs on the album occupy a narrow musical range, hard rock ("Wha’d I Mean to Think You Said"), or indie-rock ("Bag of Wood"). With this last album the Treepeople come across as a band
searching for an identity as a sensitive but aggressive alternative-rock group.
No Mouth Pipetting (Cass) (No Label) 1988
Important Things (7") (Silence (US) 1989
Makin The D (7") (Battery Records) 1990
Time Whore (LP) (Silence (US) 1990
Treepeople/House Of Large Sizes Noise From Nowhere Volume 6 Split (7") (Toxic Shock) 1990
Guilt Regret Embarrassment (CD, LP) (Toxic Shock, Musical Tragedies) 1991
Guilt Regret Embarrassment (LP) (Toxic Shock, Musical Tragedies) 1992
Guilt Regret Embarrassment (CD, LP, MP3) (K Records) 1997
Mistake (7") (Sonic Bubblegum) 1991
Outside In / Hide And Find Out (7") (C/Z Records) 1992
Something Vicious For Tomorrow / Time Whore (CD, LP) (C/Z Records) 1992
Just Kidding (CD, LP, MP3) (C/Z Records) 1993
Treepeople / Archers Of Loaf (2×7") (Sonic Bubblegum) 1994
Actual Re-Enactment (CD, MP3) (C/Z Records) 1994
Tracks Appear On:
"Nod and Blink" 1993 Rawk Atlas Promotional Sampler (CD) (C/Z Records) 1993
"Liquid Boy" Kind Of Like Spitting (Cass) (Jealous Butcher Records) 1996
"More Than A Feeling" Bostonot (2×7") (Face The Music) 1992
"Drawing Lessons" Teriyaki Asthma Volume VIII (7") (C/Z Records) 1992
"Liquid Boy" The End Unleashed (CD) (3:23 Reckerds) 1992
"Boiled Bird" 4 On The Floor (7") (C/Z Records) 1993
"It Was A Very Good Year" Chairman Of The Board – Interpretations of Songs Made Famous by Frank Sinatra (2xCD) (Grass Records) 1993
"Shit From An Old Notebook" Our Band Could Be Your Life – A Tribute To D Boon And The Minutemen (CD) (Little Brother Records)1994
Decade of Disaster-Toxic Shock (CD) (Westworld) 1994
"My Legs Are Broken" West x North-South (5×7") (Vagrant Records) 1995
"Better Days" Notes From the Underground, Volume 2 (CD) (Priority Records) 1995
"Andy Warhol" Crash Course for the Ravers: A Tribute to David Bowie (Undercover Records) 1996
"Guilt Regret Embarrassment" Sleepless in Seattle: The Birth of Grunge (CD) (LiveWire Recordings) 2006
"Big Mouth Strikes Again" (Smiths) Emusic: Awesome 80’s II – The Covers 1
Treepeople – Just Kidding (1993)
Playing Time: 40 minutes 20 seconds
1. Today (4:22)
2. In C (3:13)
3. Cartoon Brew (1:41)
4. Ballard Bitter (3:07)
5. Clouds And Faces (3:19)
6. Fishbasket (2:25)
7. Nod And Blink (4:06)
8. Anything’s Impossible (2:09)
9. Neil’s Down (3:29)
10. Outside In (12:29)
The roots of Butterfly Train run deep, extending back to the high school days of the Butterfly Train’s Brett Nelson and Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch. Raised in Twin Falls, ID, Nelson and Martsch both played in the 80’s punk band Farm Days while still in high school. Formed in 1993 Built to Spill was conceived by Martsch “ as a loose collective that would allow him to work with different musicians he knew and liked.”
That’s how Nelson and ex-Farm Days drummer Andy Capps found themselves playing on Built to Spill’s second album, 1994’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love. That exposure resulted in a deal with Up Records for Nelson’s side project, Butterfly Train. Originally a punk-pop group Butterfly Train included bassist Forrest Orr and drummer Tim Harris with Nelson on guitars and vocals. 1994 saw the group release both a debut single, "Blame Weight" b/w "Dog Day," and a debut full length, Building Distrust From Trust, an album devoted to lost love set to gently driving pop-punk.
Butterfly Train’s sophomore album, 1996’s Distorted, Retarded, Peculiar Nelson was recorded by an entirely new group: guitarist Eric Penney, bassist Ambrose Richardson, and old cohort and ex-Farm Days drummer Andy Capps. Influenced by 80’s new wave pop this album found Nelson playing bass, guitar, and piano.
Nelson had played on every Built to Spill release since 1994’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, so following the release of BtS’s major-label debut, 1997’s Perfect From Now On Martsch made Nelson a permanent member of the group, effectively ending Butterfly Train.
Butterfly Train Discography
"Blame Weight" Stacked Up! (CD) (Up Records) 1995
Butterfly Train – Distorted, Retarded, Peculiar (1996)
Playing Time: 36 minutes 46 seconds
1. Beneath (4:38)
2. Cartoon Hole (3:27)
3. Decompression (3:41)
4. Undiseased (4:02)
5. Louise (5:45)
6. Chocolate (3:25)
7. Rain (2:32)
8. Disgruntled Pony Ride (4:56)
9. Distorted, Retarded, Peculiar (4:20)
Buy Distorted, Retarded, Peculiar from Up Records
Buy Distorted, Retarded, Peculiar from Amazon.com
With it’s combination of Calvin Johnson’s baritone and Doug Martsch’s tenor voice plus the backing of keyboardist Steve Fisk, bassist Wayne Rhino Flower (ex-Treepeople) and drummer Ralf Youtz (ex-Caustic Resin) The Halo Benders “quickly became known for their unique song structure and their wry and humorous lyrics.”
Their debut, the 7" "Canned Oxygen," was released on Atlas records in 1994; with their debut full length God Don’t Make No Junk also released that same year. The ten songs on God Don’t Make No Junk display an extraordinary musical diversity, hopscotching from the
surf-twang goofiness of "Dont Touch My Bikini," to the dramatic Traffic sweep of "Freedom Rider," the hauntingly wistful "Will Work for Food," the overdrive punk pop of "Canned Oxygen," the skittering organ and tick-tock tempo of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and the brief dub dose of "Sit on It."
They recorded their follow-up album, 1996’s Don’t Tell Me Now, while Built to Spill was still in the process of assembling their major-label debut, 1997s Perfect From Now On.
While Don’t Tell Me Now can’t match God Don’t Make No Junk’s eclecticism it still has it’s moments, notably on the “charmingly pointless theme song "Halo Bender," the gentle and pretty "Mercury Blues," and "Bomb Shelter Part 2" where Calvin Johnson
in a deadpan Homer Simpson voice offers a confusing tribute to draft dodgers, military deserters and conscientious objectors.
Don’t Tell Me Now solidified their indie following setting the stage for 1998’s The Rebels Not In. Songs like
Do That Thing" and "Love Travels Faster" are as strongly (and weirdly) collaborative as anything on the first two albums
but on "Virginia Reel Around the Fountain," probably the album’s highlight, it comes across that this album is more Martsch’s than Johnson’s.
As BtS’s touring schedule got busier the Halo Benders went on hiatus in 2000, reuniting in 2007 to play at the Visual Arts Collective in Boise, ID. In 2008 there were rumors of new Halo Benders material appearing, but as of yet nothing has materialized.
The Halo Benders Discography
Canned Oxygen (7") (Atlas) 1994
God Don’t Make No Junk (CD, LP, MP3) (K) 1994
God Don’t Make No Junk (CD, LP) (Fire Records (UK) 1994
Don’t Touch My Bikini (7") (Fire Records (UK) 1995
Don’t Touch My Bikini (CD Single) (Fire Records (UK) 1995
Don’t Tell Me Now (CD, LP, MP3) (K) 1996
The Rebels Not In (CD, LP, MP3) (K) 1998
Tracks Appear On:
"Freedom Riders" Yoyo A Go Go (3xLP) (Yoyo Recordings) 1996
"Freedom Riders" Yoyo A Go Go (2xCD) (Yoyo Recordings) 1996
"Can’t Believe It’s True" I Wouldn’t Piss On It If It Was On Fire (2xCD) (Fire Records) 1998
"Virginia Reel Around the Fountain" Universonoro Volumen 4 (2xCD) (BOA Music) 1998
"Halo Bender" 25 (CD) (Sinedín Music) 2000
"Volume Mode" Five Days Over Seattle – An Audio Document Of Free Radio Station Y2WTKO (CD) (Cascadia Media Collective) 2000
"Your Asterisk" You Can’t Have It All (CD) (Skatterbrain) 2008
The Halo Benders – Don’t Tell Me Now (1996)
Playing Time: 35 minutes 26 seconds
1. Phantom Power (1:51)
2. Halo Bender (4:30)
3. Mercury Blues (3:10)
4. Bombshelter, Pt. 1 (1:50)
5. Bombshelter, Pt. 2 (4:15)
6. Volume Mode (3:18)
7. Inbread Heart (2:13)
8. Planned Obsolescence (4:40)
9. Magic Carpet Rider (2:08)
10. Blank Equation (3:17)
11. Crankenstein (4:14)
Buy Don’t Tell Me Now from K
Buy Don’t Tell Me Now from Amazon.com
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