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the best undiscovered band ever #23 : grand mal. bill whitten is a pop song genius.
— ireallylovemusic (@marke23) January 1, 2017
We’re proud to announce the arrival of Burn My Letters – first physical release from former St Johnny / Grand Mal mastermind Bill Whitten! The record was mastered by Dave Friedmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Sparklehorse) at Tarbox Road Studios.
COMING SOON!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/7zjQ4G4PE8
— Petridisch (@petridisch) April 26, 2018
Right now you can preview 4 tracks from BML on our Bandcamp page / pre-order the album. You can also read a piece that Jason Sebastian Russo (Hopewell/Mercury Rev/Guiding Light) wrote on the video for title track.
Bill’s career spans 3 decades – in addition to St Johnny (who appeared on Geffen Rarities compilation alongside Beck, Nirvana, Hole and Weezer) and Grand Mal (who received a nearly perfect score on Pitchfork), he contributed to records by Shady (aka David Baker from Mercury Rev/Variety Lights), Charles Douglas and The Silent League.
Lets take a detailed look at Bill’s career and accomplishments.
[nextpage title=”St Johnny” ] St Johnny
The jeering that St. Johnny endured in its brief years in Hartford — from bar owners, patrons and even the metal bands that shared rehearsal halls — made the band’s almost-instant success in New York even more astonishing. Decried in its hometown, St. Johnny became the first Hartford rock band to land a major-label record deal when it signed with Geffen two years ago.
Roger Catlin / Hartford Courant
Formed in Hartford CT in 1989, St Johnny signed to Geffen on the strength of records/singles they put out through Ajax and Rough Trade / recommendation from members of SY. The band put out two albums via DGC/Geffen (1994 Speed is Dreaming and 1995 Let It Come Down) and played side stage of Lollapalooza 95 while their track Wild Goose Chasing ended up on Geffen Rarities alongside creme de la creme of alt-rock scene of the time.
Further Reading: AllMusic | Trouser Press | Hartford Courant | Willfully Obscure
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Bill Whitten knows what he’s talking about when it comes to bad timing: with his early-90s band St. Johnny, the Grand Mal leader got a couple toes in the door as part of the post-Nirvana alterna-signing sweepstakes, arriving too late to cash in on the opportunity. Where that might be enough to discourage an average rocker, inviting the certain state of laziness that so often results from near-successes, Whitten reinvented himself as glam-rock savior well ahead of the current revivalist trend– except now that he’s perfected the style, it’s already a casualty of overexposure and style-over-substance bandwagon-jumpers.
Scott Hreha / Pitchfork
Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Bill Whitten, and supported by a lineup of band members that has constantly rotated over the years, Grand Mal sound, and look, like they’ve come straight from the grimy streets of New York City 30 years ago, channeling the best music from that pre-punk era. Their sound seems like one that’s been done before by countless bar bands, but as you listen to them, you begin to hear some variety in each song, interesting little hints of other sounds that keep things from getting too monotonous. Produced by Dave Fridmann (he of Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, and Sparklehorse fame), Bad Timing is a very solid rock ‘n’ roll record that, despite recycling sounds that we’ve heard so many times before, still manages to sound fresh and energetic.
Adrien Begrand / Popmatters
Further Reading: ireallylovemusic | Free Williamsburg | Allmusic | The Big Get-Even | New York Night Train | The Vinyl District | Magnet Magazine