CL Feature: Legendary DIY indie group Superchunk, which plays SPOT's Tampa Am 18-Year Anniversary Party at Czar on Saturday

Rather than returning to the lengthy and collaborative songwriting process that defined their methodology for the second half of the '90s, however, the band found logistics and a diversity of responsibility forcing them back to their roots, and the early days when McCaughan did most of the composing before sharing the new songs with the group. This time around, the bandleader penned the tunes that would become this September's Majesty Shredding in large part alone, sending demos to the other members of the group, who would convene for quick run-throughs and recording sessions when their schedules allowed.


It was a process Wurster found familiar not just from Superchunk's early days, but also from the projects he'd been undertaking in recent years.


"I had kind of gotten into this role as a supporting player for a bunch of different artists, and that's kind of how I was operating for the last few years," he says. "If I'm playing with Bob Mould or someone, he would show me how the song would go that day, and we'd record it. I was in that mode. I'm not quite sure what it was like for the others, but I really liked doing it that way."


Wurster also credits the catch-as-catch-can sessions with contributing to the raw, jubilant and energetic sound of Majesty Shredding: "There's less time to really overthink it, I think that's the main thing. When I listen to a record like Here's To Shutting Up or Come Pick Me Up, I can remember being in the basement and laboring over what to do. If you've only got a day or two to really figure it out, then you go with your initial idea, which is usually the best idea, I think. That might account for [Majesty] having this kind of cool, youthful bam-bam-bam quality to it."


Now that a new record is out, one might think that Wurster, McCaughan, Ballance and Wilbur are ready to step back into a grueling tour schedule to bring Majesty Shredding to the masses, a triumphant globetrotting return to glory with confirmed dates that stretch far beyond the quickly approaching bottom of the 2010 calendar.


One would be mistaken.


"No, and we're not," says the drummer with a laugh. "I don't think we ever planned on going back to anything like we had been doing for that 11-year stretch, or whatever it was, '91 to 2001. We would tour so much and record so much, it was a full-time job, and everyone has kind of moved on in their lives to different things. It's so much fun to come back to it in this way now, where you don't have to think about it like, 'I'm kind of saddled to this for most of this year.' We have blocks of things we'll do, and one-off stuff, and we'll plan our lives around that."


Superchunk have found themselves in an enviable position, one more than two decades in the making. They can play when they want, record when they want, and still enjoy lives and time away from the indie band grind, in part because since they helped write the rules of that existence, they're now free to break them.


"I don't know if it was always the plan, but definitely, putting your own records out, that part eliminates so much of the worry," Wurster says. "We're so lucky that Mac and Laura are the label, that's such a concern for every other band ... that's a huge headache that has always been out of the equation for us. We could do it indefinitely, and who knows?"


Superchunk headlines Skatepark of Tampa's Tampa Am 18-Year Anniversary Party with support by Titus Andronicus and New Bruises, Sat., Dec. 4, 8 p.m. doors, Czar, Ybor City, $10 (all ages).

When Chapel Hill, N.C. legends Superchunk disappeared into a semi-hiatus not too long after the promotional cycle for their 2001 album, Here's to Shutting Up, few could argue that they'd earned it; over the course of more than a decade and eight-odd full-lengths, the group had traveled the world countless times, built their own label Merge into an underground powerhouse, and basically became the embodiment of the indie-rock ideal on the strength of an incredible, and possibly insane, work ethic.

"Like anything else you're doing full-time, you hit a wall at some point," says drummer Jon Wurster. "Speaking for myself, I hit that wall. It was time to step away from it for a while."

Like his bandmates, Wurster felt a pressing need to break away from what must've seemed like an endless cycle of recording and touring, to concentrate on other things, such as writing for his comedy project with radio host Tom Scharpling and other outfits. Unlike his bandmates, however, Wurster's sabbatical from the indie rock world was surprisingly short-lived. It wasn't long before offers to collaborate with other artists, friends and even heroes started coming in, and Wurster eventually found himself recording with and backing the likes of Alejandro Escovedo, former Guided by Voices member Doug Gillard, iconic ex-Husker Du and Sugar frontman Bob Mould, and hip lo-fi collective The Mountain Goats. It's probably safe to say that Wurster did more playing in his "time off" from Superchunk than any other member of the band.

But that doesn't mean he wasn't refreshed and excited to reconvene with Mac McCaughan, Laura Ballance and guitarist Jim Wilbur when McCaughan began cranking out Superchunk tunes again earlier this year.

"It was just like going to another project for me, though it was like going home, too, like going back to the mothership," he says with a laugh. "That was good, because I came back in super shape from touring all the time and especially after playing with people like Bob Mould, where you're on 11 every night. I was in the best shape I'd ever been in."

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