Since the very beginning of the band, we created a lot of print media, promotion, and vanity projects, but in the last months of the journey, we started sending out a newsletter to our mailing list under the title HYPERBOLE. It was primarily a way of letting people know when and where to catch a SWOON show.
The first issue is dated December, 1990. HYPERBOLE was just a handbill with a little bit of news, a list of shows, and occasional lyric. The idea was to hype the shows, hence the name. The newsletter had a short print run of just two issues.
The cover art featured images from a book of music-themed clipart that I bought for the purpose. Issue 1 depicted an old-fashioned ragtime band which suggested American folk music roots–a musical direction I intended to explore with THE SWOON. The other guys in the band were not enthusiastic about the artwork. Even by the standards of 1990, the picture looks pretty sketchy as promotional art for a white band, as if it might suggest blackface humor or some other inappropriate attempt at racial irony. In reality, it was just the best piece of clip art in the damn book.
Here’s some clippings from inside the fold of HYPERBOLE.
Issue 1 reviews the three big changes of 1990: the release of THE SWOON album, Jeana’s departure, and the introduction of James Schreyer as band manager.
I included the lyrics to WHOSE HANDS ARE THESE just to set the record straight on that one. The studio version of the lyrics troubled me because, in the interest of keeping the song shorter for potential radio play, the producer cut out the punchline of the entire song:
I am shocked to see mortality in a shape I call my own. Something passes through the window’s glass not made of flesh or blood or bone.
The line up of gigs for December 1990 looks like the regular MPLS bar and club scene we typically frequented except for one out of the way show at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Mark Derby and my fiancé Maria Z managed to book that one for the band by representing us at a southeast college showcase event. That was a heck of a drive, but the college shows paid big money. A college gig garnered thousands of dollars instead of the tens of dollars to which we were accustomed. A gig at a local club in Minneapolis, for example, might make $25 to $50 for a long night. If a school wanted to pay us two or three thousand dollars for a one hour show, we were willing to drive half way across the continent for them.
For a little bonus, I offered to teach a creative writing class on the art of songwriting while we were playing the college circuit. The English Lit department at Western Carolina took me up on the offer. It was an outdoor show, and that afternoon, before the music got underway, I had about two dozen writing students sitting on the lawn in front of the stage while I talked with them about songwriting. I remember feeling badly that I hadn’t actually prepared a lecture at all, and I was just filling their heads with BS as fast as I could make it up. After about ten minutes, I ran out of things to say, so Austin and I played them some songs.
That was also the night we got in trouble with local law enforcement who accused us of trying to break into parked cars.
Issue 2 of HYPERBOLE gives a little rundown on the trip to Western Carolina University and mentions that we managed to book of few more shows in the area while we were out east. For some reason, those gigs never actually panned out. I think we were too expensive for them.
Two other predictions that never came to pass include “the addition of a new keyboard player” and the recording of “a new three song demo” in March of 91. Promises, promises.
Issue 2 also gives us a little bit of the story of our encounter with North Carolina law enforcement. It wasn’t as serious as you might think, but the officer did wax on hyperbolically, threatening us with “seven months in the electric chair.”