Photo Courtesy of Sub Pop
There is no album that reminds me more of being 15-years-old than Love Tara by Eric’s Trip. In November 1993, I was 15 and a big fan of the Moncton, New Brunswick band’s first two widespread releases: the Peter EP, courtesy of Sloan’s Murderecords imprint, and the Songs About Chris 7”, their debut release for Sub Pop. But as much as I dug those two records, they didn’t quite prepare me for the feels Love Tara would give me. At a time when I was mostly immersing myself in any artist associated with the Lollapalooza generation, I found that Love Tara offered me something the likes of Sonic Youth and Primus couldn’t: honest love songs that dealt with the same bullshit I was experiencing as a teenager. Love Tara was the proper debut album by Eric’s Trip, and the first Canadian album released by Seattle’s grunge-founding Sub Pop Records, which at the time was the preeminent independent label in North America. Recorded in a basement on a four-track, Love Tara was also an album rooted in such raw and intense heartbreak that at times it felt almost too intimate. There is no better example than the fuzz-thrashing “Blinded,” where at its climax Julie Doiron cries “To bend that way” like she’s literally had her heart ripped out. Of course, Doiron only had her heart ripped out figuratively by songwriter Rick White when the pair broke up during the making of the album, and White not only began dating their mutual friend Tara S'appart, but named the album after her. For a while, this soap opera became the driving force of Eric’s Trip’s songwriting, but never stronger than on their debut.
What’s so fascinating about Eric’s Trip was White and Doiron’s ability to bounce back and remain both friends and bandmates. Two more full-lengths for Sub Pop followed, as well as their own separate projects: both White (as Elevator To Hell, Elevator Through and Elevator) and Doiron released albums for the label. (Meanwhile, guitarist Chris Thompson had Moon Socket and Orange Glass, and drummer Mark Gaudet had his ridiculously long-running Purple Knight and Elevator with White.) Reunions even happened in 2001 and 2007, not to mention a number of collaborations between members during those periods and subsequently after. Now, finally after years of being out of print and going for big money in second-hand markets, Sub Pop is repressing Love Tara for new generations to discover and use as a coping mechanism for broken hearts. Noisey phoned up Rick White at home to talk about the album’s second life, all the drama behind it, and how it inspired the Tragically Hip.
Noisey: Why is Sub Pop reissuing Love Tara now, after all these years?
Rick White: I think it’s just that they’ve been reissuing a bunch of the earlier Sub Pop records, and they’ve always had requests for Love Tara because it went out of print quite a while ago. No one can really find it, so they’re finally doing it. I think maybe Chris had been talking to them about it too. I’m not sure how many were even made. It may just have been 5000 or something, I’m not sure. I know it was also released in Europe and Australia too, but there probably weren’t a lot of them sold [laughs].
Was there any discussion of expanding it into a deluxe edition?
They didn’t ask me for any outtakes, so I’m not sure. I originally thought it’d be two discs, but we don’t really have any outtakes from it. I think I put a couple on that bootleg we put out a few years ago. I think there may have been a couple songs from the Love Tara time on that one.
When Sub Pop first approached Eric’s Trip in 1992, you guys turned them down. Why was that?
I think that’s because we had the same guy managing us, Peter Rowan, who was with Sloan at the time too. The guy who I think still manages them, Chip Sutherland, he’s an entertainment lawyer, Peter asked him what he thought of the deal and he said we should ask for something different. We were so young at the time we were lucky to have him because he worked it out a little better. So I think we had more for each record that we agreed to. Because without him we were so young we would have agreed to whatever [laughs]. “We just want to make a record!”
What made you sign the next year?
I guess we were just exciting about putting out records with somebody. Before that it was all cassettes and the Peter EP was on [Sloan’s] Murderecords. So it was surprising for us to be on Sub Pop, that they would come looking for us. That all just came from Joyce [Linehan] who worked for them. Back then she was just visiting folks in Nova Scotia and she saw us play one night at a bar. She went out to see what the local bands were doing, and I think it was us and Jale playing.
Did you see the interest in the East Coast as some kind of “Sloan Effect”?
For sure, because we were the second band after Sloan to get signed. Most bands signed after us, like Jale and Hardship Post. When we first played Halifax in early 1992, there was really nothing going on in Halifax either. Sloan were just kind of starting. And we showed up one night, and we had just gotten Mark [Gaudet] as our new drummer, and we’d been playing for about a year. So we just showed up to Halifax out of the blue, and surprised all of the locals down there by being kind of heavy and good. We were sort of doing a similar thing as Sloan at the time. We both had that hardcore background to us, but we were also into My Bloody Valentine.
Was playing in Halifax a pivotal moment for the band?
Yeah, because we just made our own scene in Moncton. There wasn’t really much going on but the remnants of the old punk scene in the ’80s. But we started making cassettes and playing our own shows with our wacky lighting set-ups, which made it popular. When we brought it to Halifax they were just starting to kick in down there too. So we fit in well with their scene at the same time. We always got viewed as a Halifax band because that’s where we had to drive to in order to get gigs. And soon Halifax became “the Next Seattle.” The bands were from all over, but Halifax being the biggest city is why I think it became the “Halifax scene.” I mean, Hardship Post were from Newfoundland, but they had to go to Halifax to get bigger. It's funny because I don’t think they tried looking for bands in Canada until they found us and thought, “Fuck, maybe the rest of Canada has bands too that are a lot more naïve and cheap to sign.” We were pretty naïve at the time.
Is it true that once you were signed you almost changed the band’s name?
I think so, but we didn’t come up with another name so it stuck. We felt embarrassed about Eric’s Trip at first because it was a Sonic Youth song. We thought, “Maybe we should come up with more of an original name.” Then we played a show with Sonic Youth in Toronto, and Lee Ranaldo told us he liked the fact that we named our band after his song. So we got his blessing. It was a little bit awkward. We weren’t sure if they’d just think of us as some kids band that were named after one of their songs. I remember us looking for names from a list of old album and song titles from different bands. Not sure why we stuck with Eric’s Trip. I felt we should have thought of a better name. Like with most things, once it becomes a name it tends to stick. It seems better now to me because I’m used to it.
How did making Love Tara feel different from those first cassettes?
We had most of it done already. Half of the songs were ready because we were going to do another EP like Peter. And then we started saying we should make it into a whole record. So we finally bought a quarter-inch eight-track, which was the first time we weren’t working on a cassette four-track–even though it wasn’t that much better quality. And then Bob Weston flew up from Boston and helped us mix it in my parents’ basement. He knew more about EQ-ing it, so it sounded a little better than our previous records.
The whole soap opera between Julie and I was starting to happen too at the time. By the time we got signed we had already broken up. We were so young, and everything is so important with love and relationships when you’re that age. I guess it still is when you get older, it just seems more dramatic when you’re younger. So everything that was being written came from me listening to Neil Young, and how he sang emotional stories was why we started writing songs like that. We were just documenting everything in reality.
Was there any input from the others in writing the album?
I was writing the record and they were the band playing it. I always split everything four ways because I felt it was more important to be a band. Writing the songs was the easy part. I felt lucky that I was able to write all of the songs. Mark and Chris really just wanted to play. When Chris would write something he would just make his own tapes as Moon Socket. If I wanted to use some of his songs for the Eric’s Trip record I would have to say, “We’re taking this one!” He never minded though.
You named the album after your new girlfriend at the time, Tara S’appart. That seemed like a ballsy move. Did you get any grief?
Maybe, but only from Tara or Julie. I think Tara may have felt that she was put on the spot, and turned into this character from a drama, which she wasn’t. The way we wrote all the songs made it seem more like a soap opera. She and Julie were good friends before, so it was that weird, young age crossover thing that we all did in our scene. I think we all went out with everybody throughout our teens and early 20s. Julie was 19 at the time, and I was a couple years older.
How do you feel about Love Tara after all these years?
I like it. I’ve always been proud of everything I’ve done. It’s always too bad when I hear of bands hating their early records. It’s like opening your old journals–you can’t really hate them. Maybe that’s why I like them, because they’re true. I’ve never made a character, and I know some bands do and sing about stuff that isn’t personal. But the way that I always have it in mind is like I'm looking through old photo albums. I think Love Tara is a neat period. I like the drama of relationship crises. Even when I’m in the middle of it I think, “Yeah, this is interesting!” I guess that’s just the way I am. I don’t get as emotional, I get more analytical.
One of the great stories about this album is that it was name-dropped by Gord Downie in the Tragically Hip’s “Put It Off.”
That was weird. I think that’s what hit [Gord]. When he first heard the record I think his wife was pregnant. He was in this wacky stage in his own life, and when he put the record on he had this epiphany of youth and innocence. Just us making this record about emotions and being young. I think it just hit him in a way that stuck with him. By him writing that song and sticking that moment he had with the album in the lyrics was kind of funny. After meeting him I realized how similar-minded we were. He’s just a big, over-analytical pot smoker too. So we’re similar. [Laughs] I don’t know if it’s just Canadian bands or what, but the first time I met Blue Rodeo I just realized that those guys were all stoners!
With any kind of long-awaited reissue, the question of a reunion often comes up. Is there any chance?
In 2001, when we did the main reunion, we still felt youthful, we felt the same as we used to. And then when we did one in 2007, those were good too, but we were starting to feel different, almost like we were a cover band. We can probably play the songs tighter than we used to, but I think that’s a mistake. If you listen to bootlegs of us in 1993, it’s just a chaotic noise fest. And now when we play the songs they’re more restrained and done properly. I think the old songs deserve that youthful energy we just don’t have anymore.
Cam Lindsay is a writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter – @yasdnilmac