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The Years of the Mid

The years of the mid-nineties can be somewhat puzzling to our audience, for good reason. It’s especially confusing that I say “we” meaning Antietam and then use “we” to mean “Tim and Tara” when Josh isn’t implicated, but generally he’s just as guilty as we are. The purpose of this section of the site is to explain a number of various activities we engaged in between the releases of Ear and Echo in 1995 and Victory Park in 2004, including Tara and Rick Rizzo’s Dark Edson Tiger in 2000. During this era, we recorded songs for various purposes, did other things such as Tara’s movie role, her tour to Europe with EDD, and wrote and recorded an album we never released.

But the public perception would be that Antietam released its sixth record in 1994 and its seventh in 2004. So to put this into focus, it will be necessary to go into some repetitive detail: In 1994, Antietam released Rope-a-Dope and Tara put out a solo record, Bourbon County, while Matador released our Babylon Dance Band record, Four on One. Tara followed with Ear and Echo in 1995. 

Tara was no seething George Harrison, bursting with songs the band refused to record. It was more of a case of opportunity knocking when Steven Joerg suggested she make a record with her friends, and it was added to the program.

We did a bunch of sessions with a bunch of people and Bourbon County came out just before Rope-a-DopeBourbon County garnered a lot of attention in the press (as did Tara) and Rope-a-Dope, as would be appropriate with its name, stayed relatively hidden.

The record company asked Tara to do another solo record, we returned to Vermont and Ear and Echo emerged in 1995. 

We had released three records in a year (1994), and seven in the years 1990–1995.  

At that moment, we had two albums worth of material from the solo records, plus another from Rope-a-Dope. And three Antietam albums just prior.  

The first half of our 1995 tour bore evidence of the complications. Wolf, who had quit the band a decade earlier (to play both jazz and heavy metal), rejoined us as the fourth member on this tour. This was because he had been recruited to play bass, etc., on Ear and Echo while Tim did other things. (While Josh was one of a crew of drummers on the Bourbon County mixed musician media mélange, he was the only one on Ear and Echo.)

So we were booked across the country, some nights as the band Antietam, when we played as a trio plus one with Wolf on second guitar; and then other nights as this thing we call “Tara Key” with the Tara Key band, I suppose, which consisted of more Wolf on bass and more Tim on guitar and keys, and a little more Tara on acoustic guitar but mainly the difference is we are playing a set of material from the solo records.

Some nights, the booking is correct, such as a hardcore-ish bill in Phoenix where Antietam rocks out. Other nights were not calibrated so well. We played the Jabberjaw in LA at a time when it really peaked in popularity. Since it was a “coffee house,” it was natural to assume that the TK band would be more appropriate, but damn it, we shoulda been Antietam that night because it was kind of a hardcore coffee house with a lot of edgy cool people, gritty rather than grainy.

The first night of the tour in Chicago, the Lounge Ax was packed; when the crowd roared for an encore, Tara resolutely placed her Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar behind her without looking, as if there were a roadie there to take it or a guitar stand, and it just kind of toppled over, breaking the neck. Josh and I looked at each other, with an incredulity that swept aside astonishment -- “Did you see that too?” and we launched into the encore. The next day, the Guitar Emporium in Louisville gave Tara an acoustic loaner, while her repaired J-200 rejoined us on the tour later on the West Coast. Eventually Wolf left after San Francisco and the first couple of weeks of the tour, and the three of us Antietam-ed to the Pacific Northwest and back across the country.

After the flurry of recording activity in the first half of the nineties, we returned to Vortex studios in Vermont where we recorded a single to self-release in 1996 and an album in 1997 which would have been the seventh Antietam release; however, it never came out. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that Victory Park would emerge as Antietam’s next. But this wasn’t a conscious direction on our part. It certainly would make some people think we had broken up since Tara had released two solo records. Certainly, a 1997 Antietam release would have told a different story. But it was not to be. 

For one thing, we didn’t have a label at that point, as our record company ran out of steam, no one to push us at least. But lack of completion of that album was more on us. Our time in Vermont had come to run its course. It started really, well I would use the word “magically” but even more accurately, “effortlessly” with the first Bourbon County sessions, getting pleasing sounds right away.

When we returned for Ear and Echo, we really learned a great deal about recording from Jon Williams at Vortex. In particular, we learned a kind of patience in waiting until sounds were right for recording. Before that, recording had been a little bit more like taking your exams, playing correctly what you had practiced even if, in some sense it was always kind of a party, too.

Ear and Echo was a more difficult experience than Bourbon County, a sort of deeper penetration into the north woods, perhaps too deep at times, as at the end of Tara’s solo on “Burn” where you can hear her throw down her guitar and stomp angrily out of the cabin into the woods in the middle of the night. Jon and I looked at each other at the board, thinking, “OK, that’s the take!”

Act 3 in Vermont was recording the single in 1996 and Act 4 was recording the “Lost” album in 1997. We had learned patience in the woods; patience to receive sounds, but the transmissions weren't coming so readily now. At this time, new recording technology made it possible for us to seize the means of production. Inspired by Jon, we fell in love with certain microphones. We recorded the Naysayer for a Carrot Top record and ourselves for a Dead Moon compilation and ourselves and Sleepyhead for a pinball tribute record.

Tara did a host of home recordings during this time, a project she called Miracoli incorporated into 2008’s Opus Mixtum. Miracoli started after she toured Europe with Eleventh Dream Day in 1997 and TnT traveled to Italy.

Through 1998 and 1999, Tim and Tara worked with Rick Rizzo recording Dark Edson Tiger, released in 2000 on Thrill Jockey. A band for this project played in New York, Chicago, and at All Tomorrow’s Parties in England in 2001.

Through this time, Antietam continued to play in New York, recording some songs for various compilations, and composing the material which we would start tracking in 2002 for Victory Park (2004).

So the ten years of “woodshedding” between Rope-a-Dope (1994) and Victory Park (2004) really did not seem like that to us. We will likely think of some more things to pull out of the shed here, say the music we did for Susan Littenberg’s 8th Street production of Sam Shepard’s Cowboy Mouth. Oh my, where is that tape…

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