764-HERO was a band out of Seattle between 1995 and 2002. In this mini feature, I’ll be sharing a history of the band and taking a look at the three 7-inch singles released during their career, High School Poetry, Now You’re Swimming, and Garrison.
In addition to these three singles, the band released two EPs–one a joint recording with tour and Up Records label mates Modest Mouse–and four studio albums. I’ve covered one of the albums previous, Weekends of Sound from 2000, which remains my favorite from the band.
764-HERO’s Namesake & Music
The band had no name until their first show, when a friend recommended they use the WADOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) phone number for reporting HOV carpool lane violators. That number was (or is) 764-HERO.
I don’t recall whether the number displayed along 405, which ran parallel to Interstate 5, but bypassed it to the east, running instead through Redmond, Bellevue, and Renton. My guess is no, as the area code (425) differs from that of Seattle (206).
As alluded to briefly, I’m unsure if the signs along I-5 still exist, but I assume they do. If you’re in the Seattle area and can confirm this, please leave a comment as I’m curious!
764-HERO’s music was quintessential mid-late 90s Pacific Northwest indie rock, and their sound fit well alongside other PNW natives like early Modest Mouse and Built to Spill (I’m considering the Boise band PNW, because it fits). Fans of angsty, non-grunge PNW indie rock from the mid to late 90s are likely to love this!
Most of their records were released on Seattle’s Up Records, which they shared with several other bands of the same vein, though as I’ll note soon and alluded to earlier, they did release one of their singles on Suicide Squeeze as that labels debut release, and a few others were co-released by Up and Suicide Squeeze. Their last LP saw them on Tiger Style as opposed to Up.
764-HERO formed in 1995 by John Atkins (Guitar) & Polly Johnson (Drums), who met through Johnson’s partner David Dickenson who would ultimately go on to form Suicide Squeeze (with Now You’re Swimming being the label’s first release.
In 1998 James Bertram of Red Stars Theory was asked to play bass for a radio live performance. Bertram fronted Red Stars Theory along with Tonie Palmasani and featured Jeremiah Green of Modest Mouse on drums. The session went so well they made Bertram’s addition permanent.
On a tour in the US Robin Perringer started as a temporary replacement for Bertram so the band could tour but quickly turned into a permanent member of the band. Perringer played drums on the first Carissa’s Wierd LP before being replaced by Sera Cahoone.
Music in Seattle in the 90s was a bit incestuous with members joining each others’ bands, forming new ones, etc. I’m sure it’s like this everywhere but it has always seemed particularly pervasive in Seattle. In a future post, I’d love to break down Carissa’s Wierd and the extent its members have found themselves infiltrating some pretty excellent Seattle bands in the years and decades since its demise.
Back to 764-HERO. Let’s take a look at the band’s three 7-inch singles.
High School Poetry Reviewed & Unboxed
High School Poetry was the first 7-inch by 764-HERO. Released in March 25, 1996 on Up Records with the catalog number UP028, it featured the title track on the A-Side and “Only Things with Arms” on the B.
Both tracks on this single are exclusive to it, meaning they didn’t find home on the records they released around the same time–this actually holds true to all three of the band’s 7-inch singles!
The single included a small green insert with credits, thought the insert in my copy disappeared prior to me picking it up. One thing to note is that while the labels call out 45 RPM, this is a misprint and it actually plays at 33.3 RPM, something the insert called out.
Here’s my unboxing video:
I love the title track. It has that solid Seattle and Pacific Northwest indie rock sound. You can almost hear raindrops and see the overcast skies dripping off the single. Here’s the full single:
As of right now, you can still find a handful of copies for between $5 and $10 on Discogs.
Now You’re Swimming 7-Inch Single
Now You’re Swimming was the second 7-inch single by 764-HERO, released August 25, 1996, following five months to the day after High School Poetry. As mentioned before, while Up Records released majority of 764-HERO albums and singles, the newly formed Suicide Squeeze stepped in to release this one. It was that label’s first release, thus the cat number S001, which gives Now You’re Swimming and 764-HERO a cool place in the labels’ history.
This shouldn’t be a surprise given label head Dickerson introduced Atkins and Johnson, as I noted previously.
First edition copies had screen-printed sleeves, which I’ll be unboxing below. The textured paper fold-over sleeve, was printed with multiple colored inks (yellow, navy blue, goldenrod), so there were variations between some copies. The labels themselves are light blue with a dark red ink.
The single included three songs;
- Now You’re Swimming
- Obviously Awful
- The Future As Seen With Swollen Eyes
In 1999, Suicide Squeeze reissued Now You’re Swimming with new artwork featuring a black and white photo of the band, their name above the photo and the track list horizontally below it.
Like with the first single, here the title track and A-side is the standout, though all are worthy and quite signature to the sound 764-HERO created throughout their brief stint as a band. Take a listen to the full single below:
Garrison Reviewed & Unboxed
The third and final 7-inch by 764-HERO, Garrison, came out June 20, 2000. Like most of the band’s releases, it came out on Up Records. And like the other two singles, both A-side “Garrison” and B-side “On a Set” are exclusive to this 7-inch.
One interesting observation is that this single displayed a name variation. As opposed to the previous telephone-number depiction, they spelled it out as Seven Six Four Hero.
At first, I was going to say this is probably my least favorite of the three despite it’s release being the same year as my favorite LP by the band, Weekends of Sound. But giving it a few extra listens, I have to recant that thought.
“Garrison” starts out more minimal but picks up just after the midpoint. That’s the redeeming part of the song, as the first half steers it away from sounding like an A-side track.
In fact, it almost seems backward. “On A Set” has more of an A-side sound to it, in my opinion. It also has a lot more dissonance in the guitar than a lot of other tracks by 764-Hero, and the raw drums and the vocals just make it all around great!
Here’s my unboxing of Garrison:
A Continued History Coming Soon
I’m in the process of putting together a more comprehensive rundown on the band, which I’ll drop on YouTube here in the next few weeks. When done, I’ll add it below, but you should hop over to my Channel and subscribe for much more regular content as I unbox and/or review my entire record collection.
With over 2,700 pieces in my collection, this will literally take years!