Hear Music from the Newly Reunited, Newly Reissued Painkillers
Painkillers never got its due. Back in the '80s, the St. Louis band was recording the kind of purposeful pop that evolved from the likes of Big Star. Euclid Records' Joe Schwab was a fan then, and he's still a fan today -- that's part of the reason he's re-releasing the band's original cassette on CD, along with thirteen unreleased tracks. The surviving members of the band will be playing a reunion show tonight at Off Broadway. Below, listen to two Painkillers songs from the reissue, and read our interview with Schwab.
Courtesy of Euclid Records
A to Z: How'd you get involved with the Painkillers?
Joe Schwab: We were selling the original cassette at the store. Back then, it was pretty rare that local bands put out vinyl LPs and this was 1986, so pre-CD era. I fucking loved that tape, I played it everywhere, including a bunch in the store. I started going to a number of shows and was always a big supporter. I even spent some time trying to figure out how I could manage these guys, but I was pretty immersed in the store at the time.
Do you remember anything in particular about them from back in their heyday?
I remember how impressed I was with the strength of the songwriting. Jeff really had a way with a hook, very much like the bands that I dug at the time: The Replacements, dB's, Let's Active, Redd Kross, etc. Those guys were pretty young at the time so I thought it was cool that they did great covers -- the Beatles, English Beat, Big Star, Wire -- but the originals are what really stood out.
Why'd you decide to put this record out now?
Thomas Crone had the CD player in his car crap out on him last year. He was stuck with a cassette player and brought out the old Painkiller cassette. He fell back in love with it and started contacting people about doing something with these recordings. I was all for it, but I had my hands full with new artists and our 45 series. Dan Crowley, who used to tend bar at Cicero's back in the day, brought me a copy of a CD that's been floating around among fans. I hadn't listened to it at least fifteen years. I was blown away with how fresh it sounded. It didn't have that '80s production with those big drums or that keyboard heavy new-wave sound. The songs still resonated; the playing was even better than I had remembered, and Jeff was such a strong vocalist, with all the cool of a Westerberg or Chilton.
Where did the thirteen new tracks come from?
The band was working on a second cassette to send to labels, but as time progressed, Jeff would often spend months perfecting a song. He was really brilliant, had a great pop sensibility but was a tortured soul. He would just get sick of the songs; he would begin to hate and disown them. Jeff would stop in the store, or I'd see him on the street. I'd ask him what he was working on, and he'd always hand me a cassette with some brilliant number on it and say, "Here, you can have it. I'm through with it."
Have the recordings been changed/re-mastered?
Jack Petrocek, the Painkillers drummer, has been the keeper of the masters and had remixed nearly everything a few years ago. As I said, it became a viral CD with hardcore PKs fans. We found a few extra songs and added that to the package. I just wanted to make sure that the CD started with the original running order, the thirteen tracks are sequenced after the original eight songs.
11 What's Inside by Painkillers
What can people learn from the eight-page booklet?
Thomas Crone did a really nice job of documenting their history, the rise and fall. Going from high school buddies jamming and picking up chicks, the frustrations of trying to be heard and the tragedy of genius. Jeff was a tortured soul, never really satisfied with perfection, and it ultimately took his life.
The photos, odd pieces of memorabilia and little notes really season it beautifully. The package was laid out by Bill Michalski, who did a wonderful job. It's funny because Bill is a huge fan who was way too young to remember them when they were around.
What else is Euclid working on or excited about at the moment?
Lots. We have the debut release from Sleepy Kitty called Infinity City coming out in June. The record is incredibly strong, and it's going to blow people's minds. A true album in every sense of the word, it flows beautifully from soft and lovely to full out loud bangin' rock & roll.
In July we're releasing Troubadour Dali's sophomore full-length called "Let's Make It Right." The first Troubadour record was great, but by the time we released it, it was already three years old. This record is a better reflection of where the band is now. It's truly original, with dreamy melodies and gorgeous harmonies.
After the two full-lengths I'll get back to the 45 series. We have a great single in the can by J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound. We're also doing a project with Chuck Prophet, which might end up being a full-length LP. We also just recorded The Baseball Project at a recent in-store at the New Orleans location. We'll be pressing 1,000 copies of this one, which will be our largest run of the fifteen or so Sessions projects that we've done.