When Remember Sports recorded Sunchokes in 2014 while Carmen Perry (vocals, guitar), Catherine Dwyer (guitar), Benji Dossetter (drums) and James Karlin (bass) attended Kenyon College in Gambier, OH, they had no intention of pursuing music seriously. It was recorded with the wide-eyed optimism of making a record for the sake of it. To create something they could share with their friends. To make something they could simply look back on.
The band – then called Sports – started in 2012, coming up through the pocket of their folk and DIY punk scene. Quietly released on Bandcamp, Sunchokes gained traction through word of mouth and social media. Now, five years later, following the departure of Dossetter and Karlin and addition of Jack Washburn (guitar) and Connor Perry (drums), Sunchokes has been remastered – by band friend Lucas Knapp – for a special anniversary release, on vinyl and CD for the first time ever. The remastered album also includes eight bonus songs including a few original demos and Addie Pray (Carmen’s solo project) versions of the songs. A twenty page memory book, featuring playlists, photos and more, will also accompany the release.
(Photo Credit: Margaret McCarthy)
We recorded Sunchokes in 2014 at our college radio station, WKCO. Catherine was about to graduate. Jack was going to take her place. We all cared about these songs very much and our biggest wish was to have a record of what we sounded like live, because we were never sure of how much longer we were going to get to play together.
We did it quickly, like we did everything back then, because we were in college and making music was just one of many things we all spent our time doing that felt a little bit temporary. It’s painful listening to these songs again, especially the B Sides. They don’t sound very good! We’re better musicians now and we put so many more hours into writing, arranging, and recording our songs, not to mention touring, promoting, and managing ourselves. Every time I listen to the old stuff I think of a million things I want to change, from the haphazard mixing to the melodramatic lyrics. I feel embarrassed. That’s not what I sound like anymore.
So why are we doing this to ourselves? Because I think embarrassment is an underrated emotion. And there is something very charming to me about these recordings, in that they remind me of the urgency we all felt back then to archive everything. Words came more easily when I was younger, maybe because of too much free time, the newness of everything, a longing to feel understood, or just a curious combination of a higher sense of self importance and lower self esteem. It felt necessary to catch them all before they faded.
In any case, it’s like the first house I lived in when I moved to Philadelphia almost four years ago now; everything about it looked relatively new and up to date, but if you looked close you could still see signs of the faults that the landlords tried to cover up because they were too cheap to actually fix it all before we moved in. Everything was different, but still very much as it had always been. In our case I don’t think the issue is us being cheap. I think Catherine, Jack, Connor, and I just have a shared understanding that it’s best to remember where we came from, lest we forget why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place. One thing I love about my friends is that they seem to understand and encourage my reverence to preambles, for better or worse. SPORTS was never meant to leave our college campus, and yet it did, but it’s not the same as it used to be.
So why does this matter to anyone but us? Anyone but me? I guess it really doesn’t, and yet I keep returning to these words and sounds and images. I keep getting distracted by things from the past, like the handle of the silverware drawer in the aforementioned house on which I always got my belt loop caught: an absolutely aggravating and disruptive occurrence, for sure. But I also have a perverse appreciation for it because it caused me to slow down my darting mind, if only for the moment I had to spend getting myself unstuck. It was always pulling me back to something. To me, this is what our music sounds like: made to embrace the absolute phenomenon of everything — both extraordinary and mundane — that’s happened up until one singular point in time. We don’t just push it aside and forget about it. It all matters too much.
Like the Joan Didion quote that gets stuck in my head just as often as does my favorite song, ever since I first checked Slouching Towards Bethlehem out of my college library:
“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”
But while Joan thinks we are all alone within the pages of our notebooks, I’m a believer in opening up to the world the parts that somehow feel too important to go unremembered once I’m not around to tell my friends the same three stories over and over again. I want you to know that I was here. It’s hard not to feel vain in admitting it, but I’m inclined to think that everyone wants that at least a little bit. She may have gone on to write “your notebook will never help me, nor mine you,” but I take comfort in thinking it’s this shared desire to be memorialized that led me to her words in the first place. Our greatest intimacies are often also our greatest commonalities.
This photo book is made up of a fraction of the reasons why Sunchokes is Sunchokes, why Remember Sports is Remember Sports, and why Carmen Perry is Carmen Perry. It includes the following:
Pictures that are mostly from 2011, when I first started college, to 2014, when it was almost over and we made this album.
Copies of some pages from my notebook, where I tried to keep everything I was feeling suspended in time like a photograph.
A few examples of the countless emails we used to send back and forth to each other like text message and old fashioned letter at once, these ones in particular leading up to our first show ever.
A playlist I have saved on my computer called “Fall ‘12,” which is part of a collection of playlists I made once a season in college because I had just discovered how I could use mediafire to enable my inclination to emotional hoarding.
I have always felt that time is something that has to be aggressively held on to in order to not lose its meaning. This book is like the maximalist “memories” shoebox (of which I have many) full of random objects, faded bits of paper, and crumpled up ticket stubs you keep under your bed and move from new home to new home year after year. I just like to hold them. I’m taking the lid off and making this unsmoothed record and these embarrassing visual reminders of what I cannot change un-private because I’m trying to be less aggressive. I want the tender parts of myself to define, rather than impede me. I’m hoping that’s the solution to most of the problems we face these days. I hope this book can make the world feel a little softer.
Philadelphia, June 2019
Sunchokes: A Photo Book is out now via Father/Daughter Records.
(Photo Credit: Margaret McCarthy)