JUNE, 1996




Jeff Martin and John Berry released the first Idaho record on Caroline in 1993. At the time, journalistic geniuses branded them “slocore,” based on the band’s bombastic, moody sound – often played at tempos that even the Melvins would choke on. Their full length debut Year After Year brought some early comparisons to Red House Painters, with whom Idaho once toured. Martin recalls, “ We opened for them. We were pretty horrible at that point and it was an interesting tour. We didn’t even get along very well until the end. They complained to our manager that we were stealing all of the girls.”


Eventually Berry’s drug problems would force him out of the band, leaving Martin to perform most of Idaho’s 1994 album, This Way Out, solo. Gone with Berry were many of the jagged depths of the earlier work, replaced with songs that were slightly less bombastic, and more rock-oriented. Martin explains, “ That’s me freaking out and going: ‘Oh my God, John’s gone, and I don’t really play guitar, and I don’t really play drums, and I gotta do it all now. I had a few people come play on it, but that was really a solo record that I hated at the time, but now I fucking love it. It’s just so naked.”


Mark Lewis, who previously drummed on the song “One Sunday” from Year After Year, permanently joined the band, along with guitarist Dan Seta in 1994. The This Way Out tour took the band across the country with several acts, among them were Low. After stints with several clueless bass players (I was nearly one of them), the band was solidified with the addition of Terry Borden, who joined prior to the recording of the Bayonet EP. With a stable lineup, Idaho shifted from being the Jeff Martin Experience to a tight, damn-near  Sonic Youthish unit that leaves the stage amid blinding squalls of feedback. Hardly what one would expect from a slocore studio project.


Idaho’s latest, Three Sheets to the Wind, is easily their best work: higher highs, lower (and slower) lows. Martin’s perspective hints that the future holds even more promise: “The record’s a little mellow and too soft, and now that we’re getting a band identity, the record doesn’t totally represent that. The next one I’m really excited about.”


Martin, currently touring to support Threes Sheets to the Wind is uneasy, and perhaps a little bewildered by the record promotion process. “I just don’t know what’s going to break this album. We didn’t make a video – I fucking hate videos- and I just don’t know if there’s any breakthrough song on it that gonna get on radio.”


The next step, now that the band’s contract with Caroline is up, is to find a new home. Talk of major labels comes up with a snicker, but the uncertainty of who will be putting out their next release hasn’t hurt their creative process. Martin explains, “ We’ve recorded an EP that hasn’t been mixed yet. We did that live, and we’ve already got about three hours of jams on tape. There are probably 30 songs in there. We’re going to pick out our favorite 10 and work them out, so we’ve got a lot of work to do, but it has a different feel now.”