Post the grunge era, music out of the PNW pivoted to raw, gritty indie rock. Bands like Modest Mouse and Built to Spill were making waves, if only locally or regionally–it would be a while before both would jump to major labels, or at least expand their reach on them. Enter 764-HERO and their third LP, Weekends of Sound, released in 2000.
If you grew up in the greater Seattle area in the 90s or early 2000s, 764-HERO is probably as familiar a namesake as Sleater-Kinney. But where the latter was named after an exit in Olympia, 764-HERO takes their name from the reporting hotline for HOV violators.
And, like their name, their music is steeped in the sound of the day and the geography. Back then, Pitchfork wrote the following about Weekends of Sound: “This music is Washington as dark sets in: the fog dampening all sound, and melancholia seeping into our every pore.”
Let’s take a look at the record:
Discovering Music in the Time of Napster
When I first entered college in 1999, I was already well on my way to obsessing over the latest music. Vancouver, Washington in the late 90s was anything but cool. There were no record shops, and to even buy a CD you had two options: Sam Goody in the mall or the nearby Fred Meyer.
College opened a new door, though, thanks to the introduction of Napster. Upon getting my first computer, I began seeking out new artists, piggybacking off other users’ shared likes of obscure bands to explore new music.
It was a dive further into the fringes of indie rock.
For all the record industry’s guffaw about the file sharing platform, for me it was all about discovery. The artists I found and loved would eventually make their way into my physical collection. 764-HERO was one such artist.
Weekends of Sound on Vinyl
The Phoenix New Times stated the following in their review of Weekends of Sound:
The band has never been known for its optimism; from the angstful washes of guitar rock to Atkins’ plaintive, despairing lyrics, 764-HERO has always been like a Valium-hazed depression — sunken and defeated, but bitter beneath the fog.“764-HERO” by Brendan Joel Kelley [Phoenix New Times, August 10, 2000]
Dig into any review from back then, and you’ll see thematic patterns: off-hand mentions of Modest Mouse and Built to Spill, the aligned dreariness and/or depressing state of both Seattle and 764-HERO, and the production quality of Phil Ek.
All of them ring true 22 years later. Weekends of Sound surpassed other 764-HERO records by a long shot, not just in the production but in the songwriting as well. “Terrified of Flight” is the song that initially drew me in, and it remains my quintessential favorite all these years later.
There’s something about these older indie albums that makes the vinyl all the sweeter. 764-HERO isn’t necessarily a band I’d go out of my way to listen to digitally, but I absolutely love pulling out the record for a spin!
Hearing the angst and exasperation in John Atkins’ voice in “Weekends of Sound” paired with the downtempo instrumentation draw me back to those early days of musical exploration. Paired with the experiential nature of vinyl, and the nostalgia hits me every time.