Take heart, Superchunk fans: Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan weren't just procrastinating for the last nine years. After all, they had a little outfit to run-Merge Records, which just scored a Billboard 200 No. 1 with Arcade Fire, as well as releasing records by critical darlings like Spoon and She & Him.
But the pair finally decided it was time to get the band back together and make another record. That album, "Majesty Shredding," its first studio project since 2001, is out today (Sept. 14).
Compared with the previous set, "Majesty Shredding" is decidedly more uptempo, brimming with heart-rate boosters like "Crossed Wires" and opener "Digging for Something," which was released as a limited-edition 7-inch in July.
"Doing shows on an irregular basis helped us realize that our strong point is really the more fun, rock-out songs," bassist Ballance says. "Not that [previous album] 'Here's to Shutting Up' didn't have a few rockers on it, but it had some things that are much harder to pull off live."
Singer/guitarist McCaughan adds that "after nine years, we wanted people to hear a record that had a lot of energy."
As for the wait, Ballance says that "even before 'Here's to Shutting Up' came out, it felt like, 'God, I need a break,' because Merge was growing and taking more and more of my and Mac's time. There was a lot of pressure to be here and not be thinking about this whole other business of being in a band."
According to McCaughan, the album was recorded to maximize the band's availability, as he was able to use his home studio for extra tracking. Band sessions were recorded at Durham, N.C.'s Overdub Lane studio, with engineer/producer Scott Solter.
With all of Merge's other current activity, it seems counterintuitive that Superchunk would choose 2010 for this long-awaited release. But as McCaughan says, "There will always be something that's going to make it more complicated." Both he and Ballance agree that Arcade Fire's success could draw more attention to the label in general, but that such blockbusters tend to eclipse other things around them. "In a way it's good that we put our record out this year, because then we're throwing ourselves under the bus instead of so many other bands," Ballance says.
Still, Superchunk will at least have the attention of a loyal, patient fan base. The album follows deluxe remastered versions of the band's classics "On the Mouth" and "No Pocky for Kitty," both released Aug. 17. And the group will get its share of the mainstream spotlight when it plays "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" Sept. 20, the act's first TV appearance since 1994. In addition to a slate of tour dates, Superchunk is also on the bill for Matador Records' 21st-anniversary festival in Las Vegas in October, helping to celebrate the label that released the band's first three full-length albums in the '90s.
McCaughan says that Superchunk will do whatever in-stores and radio shows work out, but that "we don't have anything super crazy planned marketing-wise-we tend to stick with our strength, which is playing shows."