The Minus World will release a new EP this week, and it features a compelling cover version of one of the final songs released by the troubled and critically acclaimed David Berman. Eric Schlittler, the man behind The Minus World, says he “gravitated toward that one.”
“It’s quirky and it’s funny,” Schlittler says of the song, “Margaritas at the Mall.” “There are some really dark moments on that Purple Mountains album. It’s on a level like Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ — you know this was probably conceived as a final statement. We might not have known that when it first came out, but there were some heavy clues. I just see it as a gift that we got this brilliant album.
“I think that album was really connecting. When I was a kid, that era of indie rock, that wave — Guided By Voices, Pavement, Sebadoh — when I was a teenager and in college, that was all the stuff that I loved. I kind of got to be a little part of it because I was in college radio and met some of them doing interviews. David Berman, I almost took him for granted. ‘Yeah, sure, here’s another brilliant album by this guy,’ and it would go on the pile with your Sebadoh albums or whatever.”
You can exclusively hear The Minus World’s take on Berman’s “Margaritas at the Mall” here.
Schlitter, who fronts the Scranton indie rock group Kid Icarus, recorded the six tracks on “Welcome to Minus World,” his second release for the project, at home during the pandemic.
“I had more time. I had bought a baritone ukulele to learn some songs to play with my son, when I was home with the kids I could plunk on it,” he says. “I kind of used that as a jumping-off point. It’s basically a guitar with the two low strings off the top, so all the chord shapes are the same. I started writing with those four higher strings.”
When songs arrived, he would send them to Nathaniel Kane (Das Black Milk, Cold Coffee, Pacific Electric Lazaretto), who added synthesizers and drum patterns. Kane also mixed and mastered the release.
“He was almost engineering the project as he was producing it for me,” Schlittler explains. “It’s all my ideas, it’s all my thrust, but he helped make it the end product.”
“Welcome to Minus World” is quite a departure from the project’s first release, 2017’s “In the Rainbow Eye EP.” A collaboration with Chicago noise artist PBK, who has worked with people like Jim O’Rourke and Wolf Eyes, it is a dark, haunting and atmospheric journey.
“PBK had gotten a hold of me through some releases I did on Summersteps. I kind of wanted to jettison melody, and he was talking to me when I already had the idea percolating,” Schlitter says of the first Minus World EP. “On (‘Welcome to the Minus World), the songs were kind of creeping back in. Maybe I just have too much Beatles in my DNA for there not to be a tune forever.”
“Welcome to the Minus World” will be released in a very small quantity of lathe-cut, 10-inch records, as well as digitally via the Summersteps Records’ Bandcamp page.