The roots of Silkworm extend to the town of Missoula, Montana, from whence Tim and Andy come (Missoula is perhaps better known as the hometown of David Lynch and Steve Albini.) It was in Missoula that Tim, Andy and founding member Joel Phelps met and had their first musical experiences with each other. From mid-1985 until June 1987, the three of us made up part of Ein Heit, a group which provided the basic framework for what was later to come. Silkworm itself started in November 1987 when Joel and Andy reconvened with EH's old drummer. In June 1988, Tim left the college he was attending to return to Montana and join the band. This scenario was repeated a little over a year later, when Andy left the school he was attending in order to move to Seattle with Joel and Tim.
Missoula is a fascinating town in some ways. It contains a strange mix of people and continues to provide fodder for our imaginations. As a whole the town wasn't especially receptive to what we were doing but the isolated conditions helped us in the long run. Other than Ein Heit, we had no other good bands similar to ours from which to take our cues, and having to make our own way has made us a stronger and more interesting group than we would have been otherwise. Moving to a larger city, however, was necessary if we wanted to actually play more than once every other month or so. And we did.
Silkworm arrived in Seattle at the very beginning of 1990. It's an understatement to say that it wasn't very easy for us to "break into the scene." We put out our first album and our second single on our own for lack of interest from anyone else, and I am continually amazed when I reflect on the endless number of sparsely attended shows we played over the course of our first four years in this town. How could we do that, week after week? We simply didn't know any better! Our second album, In The West, was released by a local record label which helped somewhat; it became easier for us to book shows at good local clubs, and we could attract crowds that ensured we would be able to play in these places again. To this day, however, we feel more comfortable playing and are better received in Chicago or New York or San Francisco than in Seattle. Why not move, you ask? A good question, for which the only answers are inertia, a lot of nice trees, and pretty good coffee.
Touring became a major part of our lives after In The West was released. We have spent many months of every year (starting with 1994) on the road, playing in places all over the U.S. and elsewhere. The process of leaving the day-to-day life behind for night after night of rock and roll and living out of a van can be very liberating at times and a complete drag at others, but on the whole it made us better musicians and closer friends. The three of us who are still in the band, anyway; Joel Phelps quit just before the release of our third album, Libertine.
Much hay was made of Joel's departure, especially among the little cadre of big fans we had at the time. He was an important part of what made that version of the band good. In most ways we found it easy, however, to continue on without him, and over the course of a year recorded our first record as a trio, Firewater, which was released by Matador in the spring of 1996.
It was with the release of Firewater that we found ourselves touring on occasion with the kinds of bands that you might see mentioned in a typical press bio. We had always enjoyed sharing stages with bands more or less on our level but this was the first chance we had to go out with the likes of Pavement in the U.S. or Guided By Voices (and Spoon) in Europe.
Our fourth album did reasonably well; certainly it sold much better than any of our previous releases. We don't have great expectations as far as sales are concerned; it seems especially ludicrous to waste much time thinking about that kind of stuff when just keeping ourselves going is challenge enough! We've always sort of doubted our chances at making any kind of special headway in those terms anyway. While what we do seems pretty straightforward to us, the reactions our music engenders are too disparate for us to be confident that it is necessarily easy to grasp and possessed of broad appeal. It's a mystery to me as to why this is the case. I think that covers most of what might be considered important. We like the new record, Developer, quite a bit and hope you do too.
April 17, 1997
Silkworm today is:
Andy Cohen (guitar/vocals)
Michael Dalquist (drums)
Tim Midgett (bass/vocals)