SLINT began in 1986. Before that, drummer Britt Walford, guitarist David Pajo, guitarist/vocalist Brian McMahan, and original bassist Ethan Buckler had played together in various bands within the tight-knit Louisville Punk scene. Brian and Britt formed their first band – Languid and Flaccid – in middle school, when Britt was just eleven. The older punks collapsed in fits of laughter when Britt and Brian’s dads carried in their amps and set them up on stage. Languid and Flaccid also featured Ned Oldham, later of the Anomoanon and older brother to Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. Everyone in the band traded instruments from song to song. Brian and Britt also played in the beloved melodic hardcore band Squirrel Bait.
SLINT’s first show was during a service at the Unitarian Universalist church that Ethan’s parents attended. Even the people who held their ears told the band afterward how much they enjoyed it. In 1987, SLINT recorded their first album, Tweez, in Chicago with Steve Albini, who also produced albums for the Pixies, PJ Harvey, and Nirvana. Tweez was released on the minuscule Jennifer Hartman Records and Tapes label in 1989 and later reissued by Touch and Go Records in 1993. Ethan Buckler left the band after Tweez to pursue his own vision with his band King Kong and was replaced by Todd Brashear. In the fall of 1989, the members of SLINT scattered to various colleges throughout the Midwest. Britt and Brian wound up at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Before the school year was out, both were invited not to return. Then, over four days in August of 1990, SLINT recorded their second album, Spiderland, and the world would never again sound the same.
Produced by Brian Paulson at River North Recorders in Chicago and released by Touch and Go Records in April of 1991, the six songs on Spiderland methodically map a shadowy new continent of sound. The music is taut, menacing, and haunting – its structure built largely on absence and restraint, on the echoing space between the notes, but punctuated by sudden thrilling blasts of unfettered fury. It is a sound that no one had heard before and that no one will ever forget. The eerie, now-iconic black and white cover photo of the four band member’s heads breaking the surface of the water was taken by their friend Will Oldham. PJ Harvey was among the respondents to the band’s call for interested female vocalists on the back cover.
Spiderland spawned a whole new genre, frequently called Post-Rock, and came to be regarded as one of the most important and influential records of the past thirty years. The album was introduced to a wider audience when the song “Good Morning, Captain” appeared on the soundtrack for Larry Clark’s controversial 1995 film Kids. In 2010, Spiderland was enthroned in the popular and acclaimed 33 ⅓ series of books about seminal record albums. SLINT broke up shortly before Spiderland was released. Band members went on to play in Tortoise, the Breeders, Palace, The For Carnation, Papa M, Evergreen, Interpol, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. In 2005, SLINT reunited to headline the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Camber Sands, England, followed by a subsequent eighteen date tour. In 2007, the band performed Spiderland in its entirety for a series of European shows and at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. In late 2013, they co-headlined the final All Tomorrow’s Parties weekend at Camber Sands.