When alt-country began to reach the height of indie rock consciousness, the Scud Mountain Boys of Northampton, Mass., went from being a blip on the local radar to a universally renowned band destined for reverence, but limited by brevity.
“We really weren’t making records for all that long when you think about it,” singer/songwriter Joe Pernice reminisces. “I think our first record came out in 1995. … Our second record came out in February of 1995. And then we signed a record deal with Sub Pop and recorded our third record in September of 1995. It came out April of 1996 and the band was broken up by July of 1997. I became a little detached in a way. I had already started feeling like I didn’t want to do it. I was uncomfortable playing the music live.”
The band possessed the smoky whisper of hushed vocals and back-country balladry with the southbound twang and slang of steel guitars. Not only was their career cut short, but their breakup led to more than a decade of bad blood and non-correspondence.
“When the band broke up, it wasn’t a very good break,” Pernice confesses. “We went from being tight friends to not speaking. I’m not kidding when I say I didn’t say a word with them. I am the one who split up the band. I was the reason that it ended. I wanted to do something else.”
Since then Pernice has re- corded solo, recorded with his brother as Pernice Bro-thers, written two novels and co-founded Ashmont Re- cords. Now, after relocating to Toronto, he’s ready to be a Scud Mountain Boy again.
“It was really the death of our friend that was a catalyst for me,”?he says. “He was a good friend of ours, probably our biggest fan. … I listened to the music for the first time and thought it was really very good and maybe we should play a show just for fun. In my mind, it’d be a great reason to patch up with my old friends. You get older, and stuff really doesn’t matter anymore.”
The moment of reunion
“I was playing a show in Boston, so I wrote an e-mail to Tom [Shea, drums, mandolin] and Steve [Desaulniers, guitar, piano, bass] and said ‘I’m going to set up a bass rig and a few mics and here’s my set list. I’m going to play these eight Scud Moun-tain Boys songs. If you wanna show up and play I’d love it, but if you want to drive on, I understand too. I knew Tom would show up, but Steve showed up too — not a word of conversation in 14 years. I was getting chills, really. It was very emotional. These guys were my good friends, and man, they sat in and it was like we never stopped playing.”