Michael Chabon’s 1984 Post-Punk Demo Gets Vinyl Release

Marc Hogan

By Marc Hogan

Lead News Writer
on 09.17.14 in News

Michael Chabon‘s post-punk history has arrived on vinyl. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author already has a well-documented love of music, displayed most directly in his 2012 novel Telegraph Avenue, which centers on the owners of a beleaguered Bay Area used-record store. Now, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (via Largehearted Boy), his own musical past is finally available on wax.

Pittsburgh store Mind Cure Records has quietly released Demo 5:26:84 by the Bats. Rather than the Bats who are revered indie-rock pioneers from New Zealand, though, this particular band, in this particular incarnation, was fronted by Chabon. The post-punk group formed in Pittsburgh in early 1984 and played one show on May 23, Chabon’s 21st birthday, then recorded a handful of songs a few days later in a friend’s studio.

The 12-inch vinyl release contains the songs “Yesterday Does Not Rule” and “Wild West” on side A, backed with “Jet Away” and “What Time Is It?” on side B. A recording of the Chabon-led Bats’ sole show comes as a bonus download. Mind Cure bills the tracks as “a perfect balance of jigsaw guitar, death-dirge bass and snotty vocals.” Joining the novelist on the record are bassist Lee Skirbol, drummer Mark “Magee” Miller and guitarists Ruth Ann Schmidt and Sam Matthews.

The Bats went on to open for the likes of Hüsker Dü, the Meat Puppets and Rain Parade, but no longer with Chabon on vocals. He went to Europe over the summer, then headed to the University of California at Irvine for grad school. Chabon published his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, in 1988.

Chabon told the Post-Gazette this week via email that the “Bats were a fine little band, a unique assemblage of diverse strengths and quirks, anchored by one of the most rock-solid drummers ever to grace the Pittsburgh scene, and hampered only by the weakness of their goofball frontman.”

A Bats track previously emerged online in 2006. “The other Bats all sound pretty good, but I totally ruin the track,” Chabon said at the time in an email to The Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay, named after his Pulitzer-winning 2001 novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. The same year that book was published, he told Rolling Stone he “did weirdly Ballardian lyrics about car accidents and plane crashes.”

“It wasn’t a punk band,” he told RS at the time. “We didn’t have the purity of punk, where we felt like we had to reject everything. It was just a conscious ‘Let’s just play a kind of music we like that’s loud.’”

Visit Mind Cure’s site for more details, and check out the cover art below. UPDATE: Also hear a track, “Jet Away.”

Michael Chabon, the Bats, demo