Unlike many of the band's indie-rock counterparts, Superchunk is not a buch of puffy nerds who wear glasses or scuzzy junkie wannabes with BO. Laura Ballance, the band's modest and shy bassist has become, much to her horror, the Julia Roberts of the underground. New York hate rockers Surgery even wrote a song, "Dear Sweet Laura," immortalizing her as a dreadlocked southern beauty queen. Maybe that's why she recently chopped off all her hair. Superchunk's members are fashion forward, rejecting the flannel and black jeans uniform. They're leaders in the corduroy revolution that is fast sweeping the nation, and lead singer and guitarist Mac McCaughan proudly claims that he and Laura have ten pairs each (including cord' cutoffs) in various earth tones. Superchunk's music is free of calculation; guitarist Jim Wilbur attributes the band's signature "chunky" guitar sound to broken tubes in his amp. Mac describes Superchunk as "melodic punk," the melodic coming from bands such as the Buzzcocks, the punk coming from his days as a hardcore enthusiast. The band hopes the Dinosaur Jr. comparisions will cease with the release of its new Matador record, No Pocky for Kitty, with its pared-down guitar sound, thanks to producer Steve Albini.
Superchunk is good folk. "We're pretty cuddly. They call it Muppet rock," explains Jim. "No matter how loud the guitar is and how much you jump around and sweat and get angst-ridden, eventually you have to go home, be polite, and kiss you mother on the cheek." They are serious about music, with a sense of integrity and genuine interest in the indie scene that has led Mac and Laura to spawn their own small label, Merge. They can talk for hours on the demise of vinyl and the rise and fall of the seven-inch.
Yet the band's members aren't blowhards rigidly standing on principle. Although they're wary of major-label offers (they're happy where they are), that didn't stop them from doing the music for a British Knights commercial. If they didn't do it, the ad agency would've gone and hired studio musicians to ape their sound; Superchunk decided it had nothing to lose. "It helped pay for our new van so I don't feel like we whored ourselves too badly," says the sensible Mac; they got free sneakers, too.
Michael Stipe recently went to one of the band's shows and even bought a T-shirt--yet another admirer of Superchunk's fresh-faced, straightforward punk rock.