Shopping For Records: Rites of Spring's Six Song Demo

Dischord Records will be releasing Six Song Demo by Rites of Spring on October 22nd.  All info comes courtesy of Rarely Unable.


Rites of Spring were among the most important and beloved bands to emerge from the DC underground music scene in the mid-80s. Formed by Guy Picciotto (vocals/guitar), Mike Fellows (bass), Brendan Canty (drums), and Eddie Janney (guitar) in 1984, the quartet released a self-titled LP and a 7” single before disbanding in 1986. They were central to what came to be known as 'Revolution Summer', a period of redefinition and creative burst from the DC scene in 1985. Before that – before they even played a show -- the band recorded a six-song demo tape at Inner Ear with Don Zientara and Ian MacKaye.

After the dissolution of their previous band, Insurrection, in 1983, Canty, Picciotto, and Fellows joined with Faith guitarist Eddie Janney and began writing new songs. Unfortunately, just as they became ready to play out, Fellows announced plans to relocate to Los Angeles, effectively ending the band before it even got started. Before the bassist departed, the group decided to go to Inner Ear to document the handful of finished songs that they had written.

At this point, not only had they never played a show, Rites of Spring hadn’t even settled on a name (on the tapes, Zientara listed the ses- sions as Insurrection II). But already, the music marked a musical shift for the DC punk community, consciously breaking away from the macho-clichés that had come to plague hardcore music.

The sessions were notable for being the first time that anybody had heard Picciotto sing. At the time, few bands had access to a PA system during practice and the volume of the other instruments often blotted out vocals. Shortly after tracking was completed, Fellows hit the road and the recordings were mixed in his absence, hence the Beatles-inspired “Mike Fellows is dead,” gag at the end of “By Design.” Because the band had broken up before ever playing, there was no plan to officially release the recording, so the completed songs were dubbed onto cassette tapes and given out to friends, who passed them along to others. As a result of the tape-trading the recordings were heard far and wide, though each copy suffered a loss of sound-quality.

As it turned out, the West Coast didn’t agree with Fellows and in July he came back to DC to rejoin the band. Shortly after his return the band performed its first show at Food For Thought opening for Gray Matter. They would perform fewer than 20 shows before they dis- banded.

These six songs capture Rites of Spring in its earliest stages. Once the band started playing out, the songs gained velocity and intensity (see the 7-minute plus version of “End on End” that closes their LP), but many of the elements that defined their music – frenzied energy, sharp melodies, and introspective lyrics -- were already very much in place. The release has been mastered from the original tapes and is presented exactly as it was on those cassettes in 1984 complete with the tape collages and assorted audio-graffiti. Members went on to play in Happy Go Licky, Fugazi, Royal Trux, and Silver Jews.

Tracklisting:
1) End on End
2) Remainder
3) Persistent Vision
4) Hain’s Point
5) All There Is
6) By Design 

Sincerely,
Letters From A Tapehead
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