If this sounds like the setup to a joke, no one can agree how to tell it or even remember the whole punchline. The truth, if it ever existed, was lost long ago in the space between the fuzzy and the flat-out forgotten - one's time is just as well spent looking for El Dorado.
There were five of them, that much we know for certain. They came from towns like Red Bank, Howell, Leonardo, Ocean Grove, places largely forgotten with the browning of the leaves by those who use the Jersey Shore as their idyllic escape from the pressures of adjacent metropoli like New York City and Philadelphia. Life went on after summertime ended for these men, boys then, and they had to live it until they couldn't.
They had all left long ago, except for those who hadn't, dispersing themselves across America, and if they couldn't quite remember if they were running towards something or away from something, that may be because they were usually doing both.
Still, there they were. The trail they followed there was strewn with dashed hopes and abandoned dreams. Many that had walked the path with them were long gone, but these five were still standing, beneath the first floor of an unassuming rental house, somewhere in Chapel Hill, North Carolina...
By the early months of 2008, less than a year after the release of their classic debut, the original lineup of Spider Bags had effectively dissolved, with only Levy and McGee remaining from the original New Jersey contingent. They would put out one more record on Birdman, a third on Finn's own imprint Odessa Records, and, most recently, two on the pride of Chapel Hill, Merge Records. Now a father of two, making a decent enough living as a music educator, McGee doesn't make it out to Fargo as much as he used to, but he continues to lead the Spider Bags into the studio to crank out one great record after another. Still, he recognizes that what happened in that basement that fateful February was something truly special, something precious, perhaps even something sacred.
The great man concludes thusly : "You know, I kinda remember having this thought when I was really little, like three or four [years old]. I was in a McDonald's playground - you know how they have those at some McDonald's, the little gym set? I was having a fucking blast, but I remember going down this slide and thinking, 'this is fun, but this is never going to ever be this much fun again. This is just happening right now and I'm not always gonna think that this little shitty fucking playground is a blast.'"
"I can remember thinking that when we were making that first record, too. We were going over to the studio and I remember thinking, "wow, I'm only gonna really get one shot at this first record. The next one's not gonna be like this. You know what I mean? 'This is really great. I'm loving this but this isn't how it always works. This is the only time I'm ever gonna do the first one.'"
released November 29, 2019
Spider Bags are:
Dan McGee - guitar, vocals
Gregg Levy - metal appendage, bass
Rob DiPatri - lap steel, guitar, bass, vocals
Chris Girard - guitar, bass, vocals
Paul Finn - electric piano, organ, backing vocals
John Jaquiss - drums
All songs recorded in Chris and Paul's basement (RIP Pine Manor)
Engineered by Brian Paulson
Track 9 recorded in Levy's basement on the Fourth of July while John Gatland slept on the couch upstairs. Andrew Low sang backing vocals, played drums, and engineered. Beat that. Dan McGee played guitar, harmonica, and percussion on tracks 5, 7, and 11 and recorded them in the hallway of 88 East Front St., Apt 3. Carl Swanson played accordion like a percussion instrument on tracks 3 and 7, bruising his hands and his brain. Josh LaJoie provided backing vocal and overall vibe to track 13. Miss Gerri Lynn Bareis provided reluctant, ethereal backing vocals to track 5. All insert photos by Dan McGee, Gregg Levy, Rob DiPatri.