Associated Entries: Lake Of Dracula, Mount Shasta
Originally named Snailboy, this Illinois band included future members of another Skin Graft act – US Maple, as well as members of Nursery and Muckrackers. Throughout the early and mid 90s, they released a string of singles, EPs and one LP on such labels as Gasoline Boost, Worry Bird, Bovine Records and Skin Graft.
Founding members Al Johnston and Mark Shippy met in the late 80s, since both were members of various local bands. In 1988, they joined forces and were joined by Todd Lamparelli and Anthony Ciarrocchi (both ex-members of Chicago Heights band Tricot Mesh). Together, they started playing under different names, but by the late 80s Ciarrocchi left the band and was replaced with Tim Mescher.
In 1989, they finally chose a permanent band name – Snailboy, a reference to a slow racehorse. As Snailboy, they released two singles – one (“Mungo” on No Blow (label owned by Tar guitarist John Mohr), which was recorded with Ian Burgess and Brad Wood and the other one was “Spoo Heaven”, which was recorded at Smart Studios with Butch Vig and came out on Sympathy For The Record Industry label in 1991. Left Of The Dial magazine compared the band’s sound on “Mungo” to that of Unsane and called it “Amphetamine Reptile gravitational force on the Windy City.”
More line-up changes followed, as Mescher departed and was replaced with former Nursery member Luke Frantom (he was also a member of metal band A Goldfish Named Blade). The band also changed their name from Snailboy to Shorty in 1991. New name was chosen because Shippy liked the music of bluesman Guitar Shorty and Johnson saw it as a common street name and described the band’s sound perfectly.
Their debut as Shorty was 1991 single “Last One In A Mouth Is A Jerk”, which came out on Worry Bird label. Same year, they also contributed a track to a compilation called “On A Clear Day You Can See Byron”, which also included tracks by Illinois bands Renfields, Junebug Massacre, Smile and many others.
In late 1992, the band recorded “Niggerhat” single with Steve Albini and released it through Bovine Records. Following the release, John Mohr (Tar) was approached by Gasoline Boost founder Rene Herbst who heard “Mungo”, Snailboy’s debut single for Mohr’s label No Blow. The band accepted Herbst offer and, once again, enlisted Albini as a producer.
“Thumb Days” came out in 1993 on Gasoline Boost and featured artwork by Mark Shippy. Flex Discography website compared the sound of the record to NoMeansNo and Helmet, but “louder and weirder”. Apparently, one of the members of Unsane also called it the best record of the 90s.
Eventually, the band also caught the eye of Skin Graft founder Mark Fischer, who put out the band’s 7″ single Kaput (which included a cover of Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher) on his label and arranged tour dates with Zeni Geva and Dazzling Killmen. Once the American tour was over, the band started working on their next LP.
In 1994 the band embarked on their first European tour. When he returned to America, Franton was forced to quit the band and this eventually led to the band’s break-up. Following a show at Chicago club Lounge Ax, the band called it quits in June of 1994.
“Fresh Breath” came out on Skin Graft at the time when the band was on the verge of break-up. All Music Guide pointed out that those who expect to hear anything similar to US Maple (a band that formed in the wake of Shorty’s dissolution) are in for a surprise as two bands sound nothing like each other. AMG compared the sound of the album to that of Jesus Lizard, Motorhead and In Utero-era Nirvana.
Following the break-up of Shorty, Mark Shippy was struck by a car but survived and together with Al Johnson they formed US Maple. New band also included Todd Rittmann and Jim Kimball (Denison-Kimball Trio, Mule, Laughing Hyenas, Jesus Lizard), but Kimball was eventually replaced with Pat Sampson.
With US Maple on Hiatus, band members went on to play with Singer (who released “Unhistories” album on Drag City label in 2008) and Miracle Condition, a trio which includes Pat Sampson, Matt Carson and Mark Shippy. Shippy also toured with guitarist Marnie Stern in 2008. Lucas Frantom toured with reunited A Goldfish Named Blade and a new band called Ready Set Go.
Al Johnson (Lake Of Dracula, Mount Shasta, U.S. Maple)
Luke Frantom (A Goldfish Named Blade, Ready Set Go)
Mark Shippy (Miracle Condition, U.S. Maple)
Mungo 7″ (1990, No Blow)
Spoo Heaven 7″ (Sympathy For The Record Industry, 1991)
Last One In My Mouth Is A Jerk 7″ (Worrybird Disc, 1992)
Niggerhat 7″ (Bovine, 1992)
Kaput! 7″ (Skin Graft, 1993)
Thumb Days LP / CD (Gasoline Boost, 1993)
Fresh Breath 10″ / CD (Skin Graft, 1994)
“Kept Turd” on On A Clear Day You Can See Byron (unknown label, 1992)
“1979” + “Really Pointy?” on Threadwaxing Space Live: The Presidential Compilation 1993-1994 (Zero Hour, 1995)
“Mitzy Lodge” on Camp Skin Graft: Now Wave (!) Compilation (Skin Graft, 1997)
MP3: Tomato Kisser
Coopie N’ Me
- A-Z of Skin Graft Records – Big’n
- A-Z of Skin Graft Records – U.S. Maple
- A-Z of Skin Graft Records – Lake Of Dracula
- Skin Graft Records – Compilations and Splits
- A-Z of Skin Graft Records – Mount Shasta
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