Twenty-five years ago, Baptist Generals’ Chris Flemmons was recording songs on a four-track tape recorder. Oftentimes, he would end up hating the music six months later, because he was in a hurry to find his style. As a result, a lot got left behind.
In the past year, Baptist Generals have been on hiatus, and Flemmons recently came off his label Sub-Pop Records. Now, Flemmons has embarked on an archival project, collecting recordings created years ago that he had almost forgotten about. The project, Schizo Harmonic: Bad Music, Stray Animals and Everything else from The Baptist Generals, can be pre-ordered at generalsmerch.com.
Kevin Russell and his band Shinyribs out of Austin were trying to cover a few old songs Flemmons had written.
"I was like, ‘How the hell did you get that recording because I don’t remember ever releasing that,’” Flemmons says. “He was like, ‘Oh man, you used to send me all kinds of stuff.’”
Russell began sending Flemmons all the old recordings he had been handed over the years. More and more people who had also been given tapes by Flemmons started popping up. Some of those tapes contained songs Flemmons hadn't heard in 20 years.
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What he thought could be a collection of 25 songs has turned into an archive of 40 or more. It is overwhelming, he says. Now 50 years old, he says listening to music he created when he was 25 has brought about a number of existential quandaries.
“It feels like it’s re-centered me,” Flemmons says. “To listen to that old stuff, it gives me a better sense of my identity as artist and a songwriter.”
In his late-adulthood, Flemmons as a writer has curved more toward the center of what he thinks people want to hear. While he loves the last album he put out with Baptist Generals, Jackleg Devotional to the Heart, he says he misses the weirdness in his music. People who get their hands on his newish-old project will get a taste of that weirdness.
When he was younger, Flemmons and his friends ordered records out of the ad sections of music magazines and waited three to six weeks for an album to arrive in the mail that they had paid $14 for. After getting them, sometimes they would hate the albums. At that point, however, they were stuck with it. More often than not, these albums would eventually grow on them.
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“People don’t have that kind of investment in music anymore,” Flemmons says. “It’s just the way the world is now.”
Flemmons wants the release of this project to be a blast from the past in this sense as well. The project will be available only by mail order. Flemmons doesn't want to print a bunch of albums, though. Instead, he will send a package with a flash drive containing all the music and some old video footage, art for the release and a booklet explaining all the songs.
Flemmons wanted this project to be wrapped up by Thanksgiving, but it keeps getting bigger and bigger. He now has plans to release it by the middle of spring, but first he needs to ensure that people do not have any more old tracks of his.
“It’s this evolving thing,” Flemmons says. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”