In praise of the excellent early '00s Detroit band Slumber Party

Apr 9, 2015 at 8:22 am

Raise your hand if you seriously still miss Slumber Party, a band whose plucked out of time, wonderful sound just did not connect with the millions of listeners it should have when they were around from 1998 - 2008 (or whenever they broke up). The group started out mining a sound that was pretty close to that of several earlier "C-86" acts such as the Shop Assistants and Tallulah Gosh, while bands who came later (notably the Vivian Girls) also mixed and matched the same basic palette: gentle feedback, whispery vocals, a knack for writing poppy garage gems. The Pastels and Galaxie 500 messed around with the same basic building blocks, of course.

Any reader of the NY Times Styles section knows you need at least three of something before it's a trend, and Slumber Party didn't sound like anyone else at the time, and that didn't work out in their favor. The other bands being written about at the time in Detroit sounded pretty different.

I saw Slumber Party three times, I think — two times in the Seattle area, and once in Austin. They slayed.

All Music Guide says this about them, and their four records for Kill Rock Stars: "As core contributors to the new musical renaissance of Detroit, Slumber Party conveys stunningly slow femme doom rock with a late-night vibe. Conceived in 1998, they initially structured melodies in the form of edgy chanteuse songcraft. Two years later they signed with major independent label Kill Rock Stars. Slumber Party has since strayed from overt rock formulas in favor of minimalist atmospherics with a phased guitar sensibility. Beat machines and synthesized tones fill the soundscape of achingly haunted and beautifully ornamented songcraft."

"A powerful sense of restrained intensity characterizes live performances, commanding audiences into a melodramatic séance. Gretchen Gonzales also serves as a major figure in the bands Universal Indians and the Dr. Gretchen Musical Weightlifting Program, playing with the likes of Thurston Moore and highlighting the many recordings on the Detroit experimental label American Tapes. Slumber Party released their self-titled debut in 2000. After 2001's Psychedelicate, the band began experimenting more with their sound, adding bits of country and electronic pop to 2003's 3 and 2006's Musik."

The label site lists the following people as "members": Aliccia Berg, Frances Reade, Raquel Salaysay, Naomi Ruth, Leah Rutherford. And the following as "past members": Gretchen Gonzales, Julie Benjamin. Rachel Kucsulain, Marcie Bolen, Leigh Sabo, Kevin Peyok, Richard Panic, Deanne Ivanova. Carole Peciota, and Lindsay Kreller. That's a couple people; how many of them worked at Book beat back in the day?

This really was a great band. Something tells me they won't be doing any reunion shows anytime soon, though — so enjoy these clips, and pour a bit of your next 40 onto the ground.