Superdrag was an American alternative rock band from Knoxville, Tennessee, United States. The band had a hit with its 1996 single "Sucked Out" off their album Regretfully Yours, for which a video clip was broadcast regularly on MTV. The original lineup reunited in 2007, releasing their last album in 2009.
Early years (1992-1995)
Superdrag formed in the early 1990s when Knoxville guitar player Brandon Fisher began dating the cousin of John Davis. Davis, a bit younger than Fisher, began playing the drums in Brandon's band, The Used (posthumously renamed The Used to Be for a 2003 rerelease, and not to be confused with the Utah-based emo band), along with Tom Pappas, additionally Davis's senior by a couple of years.
After a relatively unsuccessful stint under that arrangement, a friend of the band named Don Coffey Jr. overheard Davis play a few songs he had written on the guitar and began playing drums with them. Soon after, Pappas switched from his guitarist role to become the band's bass player, Fisher resumed on the lead guitar, and Superdrag was born.
Elektra years (1996-1999)
The band released three vinyl singles and their first CD EP, The Fabulous 8-Track Sound of Superdrag in 1995, and after having one of their A-sides ("Señorita") on a CMJ comp, soon released their first proper full-length, Regretfully Yours in 1996 after attracting the attention of Elektra Records. Their first single, "Sucked Out," was played frequently on MTV and the radio, but it would be their only mainstream hit; as a result, they were soon classified as a one-hit wonder. The video clip to the single "Destination Ursa Major" on the same album was Superdrag's second and last video to make it to television.
They were, however, given more financial support from Elektra to record their next album—on the condition that they write more radio hits a la "Sucked Out". The product was 1998's Head Trip in Every Key, to date their most radio-unfriendly album, chock full of orchestras, pianos, sitars, organs, and additional out-of-the-ordinary instrumentation. It was co-produced (along with the band) by Jerry Finn, who would later be successful producing albums for Blink-182, Alkaline Trio, and additional radio-friendly artists.
It is believed by a large number of that the intent of the band was to go purposely against Elektra's will with the overall sound of the album. Davis himself has admitted that they were taking advantage of the money Elektra provided to them in order to create the best studio album they could regardless of the label's demands for radio hits, knowing that Superdrag would probably never have that kind of funding again. Only one song, "Do the Vampire", received even minimal radio play and, as expected, Elektra Records subsequently cut most of the band's funding. Almost no touring was done in support of the album, and it remains unheard by many.
After hearing what Superdrag had in store for their next release (and at the band's request, as well), Elektra dropped the band from their label before they were even finished recording their third full-length album. Pappas left the band to pursue his own career (notably with his three-piece Flesh Vehicle and as a sideman in live performance with Bloodshot's Bobby Bare, Jr.), and the band moved back east to sign with Arena Rock Recording Co., the New York-based label that put out their "N.A. Kicker" 7" single before Elektra came into the picture (they had additionally earlier dealt with another indie label, Darla).
Arena Rock Recordings Company years (2000-2003)
By 2000 they had taken on a new bassist, Sam Powers, and released their third full-length album, In the Valley of Dying Stars, as produced by long-time friend Nick Raskulinecz with help from Don Coffey Jr, who was beginning to show a keen interest in life on the additional side of the glass. In the Valley of Dying Stars is by far the most emotional and raw of all of their albums; and, musically, in stark contrast to Head Trip's diverse instrumentation, Dying Stars kept to the standard rock format: guitar, drums, bass. The emotional core of Dying Stars emanates from the death of Davis's grandfather (his namesake), to whom John had been quite close and had admired dearly. Davis' feelings on the record industry additionally emerged in songs such as "Keep it Close to Me:" "I want rock and roll, but I don't want to deal with the hassle. I know what I know, but I don't want to feel like an asshole."
With the absence of a major label or producer to influence their sound—although Raskulinecz was originally committed to the project, he had just signed on to produce an album for Foo Fighters in Los Angeles—Superdrag continued to evolve at their own pace, and in 2002 Last Call for Vitriol once again redefined the band's sound. Some of the songs moved toward a heavier, more alternative sound, while others were of pure Americana influence. Brandon Fisher had left the band prior to the release of In the Valley of Dying Stars, and Mic Harrison had eventually taken his place, adding a much more Americana feel to the guitar style. Prior to Harrison's arrival, guitarist William Tyler, now an acclaimed solo artist, toured with the band.
Davis had turned heavily to alcohol in prior years and a large number of of his songs were about that quite topic. One night, before the release of their last album, while driving to his parents' house, Davis pulled his lorry over to pray, feeling that he had finally hit rock-bottom. He described the experience as life-changing, as he stated he felt a definite answer to his prayer. He was able to get away from alcohol, but felt that Superdrag was a mouth-piece for the life he had left behind, and simply didn't feel his heart behind it anymore. Upon completion of touring for Last Call, the band disbanded, playing one last show for Boston's NEMO music industry conference at The Paradise Rock Club on September 5, 2003; the show was documented with a Clear Channel-produced 2-CD release titled "Instant Live: The Paradise."
Coffey is presently pursuing a career in recording and producing, operating Independent Recorders in Knoxville, TN and organising an annual multi-day rock festival titled Hottfest, "Donnie Hott" being an inner-circle nickname for the drummer. Powers joined Guided By Voices as a fill-in bassist for their final European tour, returning to his pre-Superdrag job at Sony Music Publishing in Nashville and starting a family; a solo album is in the works from Powers. Harrison remains in Knoxville as a solo artist, often playing live shows with Knoxville rockers The High Score and former bandmate Coffey in his backing band. Pappas plays bass and shares lead vocal duties in the Nashville rock group WHIP!.
Davis, too, is continuing as a performer. Davis released a gospel-influenced, spiritually-centered album—titled John Davis—in 2005, then switched gears with an aggressive rock album, 2007's Arigato!. He has additionally become a session musician, most notably with Allison Moorer, which led to European touring and an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He additionally plays guitar for The Astronaut Pushers, who released their debut album in 2005.
In July 2007, 6 reunion shows were announced, scheduled for October and November 2007. These shows featured the "original" lineup of Davis, Coffey, Fisher, and Pappas playing mostly from the first two Superdrag LPs, as well as one track from Davis' latest solo album.
In December 2007, two new demo tracks were posted on Superdrag's MySpace page, hinting at a new album in the future.
On January 8, 2008, John Davis announced on the Superdrag news section that the band is reunited indefinitely, stating that "Superdrag's original line-up will reconvene in the recording studio in February to start work on our first new recording project together after 1998's Head Trip in Every Key." Also revealed was the fact that Superdrag will be co-headlining with Nada Surf on April 11, 2008, at Terminal 5 in NYC.
On March 8, 2008, Superdrag visited Lake Fever Productions in Nashville and recorded 4 songs for the upcoming album with Jason Bullock and Joe Colvert. Two of these new songs are entitled "Filthy & Afraid" and the Tom Pappas sung track "Cheap Poltergeist".
On October 15, 2008, Davis announced a new album, Industry Giants, which was released on March 17, 2009. After a U.S. tour in the spring of 2009 and additional dates following, Superdrag again became inactive after a May 22, 2010 performance in tribute to the recently deceased Big Star frontman Alex Chilton. Earlier in the month, Davis joined the surviving members of Big Star throughout a show at the Levitt Shell in Memphis; two of the songs performed, "In The Street" and "Don't Lie To Me", were later released as a 7-inch single. Pappas continues with Flesh Vehicle, Rock City Birdhouse, and Senator Pappas & The Assassins; Davis, Pappas, and Sam Powers played in Warthog, a Ramones tribute band; and Davis has been most prolific as a member of the punk band Epic Ditch.
In late 2012, bass player Tom Pappas released his first solo record entitled 20 years of the Senator. He has been performing live as The Tom Pappas Collection with Andy Herrin of the band Cavo and *repeat repeat on drums.
In 2013, Davis, Fisher and Epic Ditch drummer Nick Slack formed a shoegaze act, The Lees of Memory, who released their debut single on the Pittsburgh label Velocity of Sound. Superdrag's debut album, Regretfully Yours, was given its first ever vinyl issue by SideOneDummy Records that February. In a fall 2013 interview with the blog BrightestYoungThings to promote The Lees of Memory's first single, Davis said that a vinyl issue of Head Trip in Every Key was planned. In the same interview, Davis confirmed that Superdrag had disbanded permanently.
In July 2014, SideOneDummy announced the vinyl release of Head Trip in Every Key along with Jokers W/ Tracers, a set of demos and rarities, which were released in August 2014. The label additionally signed The Lees of Memory for their debut album, Sisyphus Says, which was released in September 2014. The Lees have after formed a live lineup including Powers on bass, and will play the 2015 South by Southwest festival.
Starting in August 2014, Davis has posted several albums of demos on a Bandcamp account called "High Bias!!! A Cassette-Based Operation ™." These include the demos Davis made for Head Trip in Every Key through Industry Giants, as well as those for his solo albums and The Lees of Memory.
- John Davis - vocals, guitar (1992–2003, 2007–2010)
- Don Coffey Jr. - drums (1992–2003, 2007–2010)
- Brandon Fisher - guitar (1992–2000, 2007–2010)
- Tom Pappas - bass (1992–1999, 2007–2010)
- Sam Powers - bass (1999–2003)
- Mic Harrison - guitar (2001–2003)
- William "Willie T." Tyler - guitar (2000)
|1995||Senorita EP b/w My Prayer, Cuts and Scars||Darla Records|
|1995||The Fabulous 8-Track Sound of Superdrag||Darla Records|
|1996||Regretfully Yours||Elektra Records|
|1998||Head Trip in Every Key||Elektra Records|
|1998||Stereo "360 Sound" + Seven Inches & Unreleased||Superdrag Sound Laboratories|
|1999||Señorita EP||Darla Records|
|2000||In the Valley of Dying Stars||Arena Rock Recording Co.|
|2000||The Rock Soldier CD||Arena Rock Recording Co.|
|2001||Greetings from Tennessee||Two Children Records / Arena Rock Recording Co.|
|2001||The Anniversary/Superdrag Split EP||Vagrant Records / Heroes & Villains|
|2002||Last Call For Vitriol||Arena Rock Recording Co.|
|2007||Changin' Tires on the Road to Ruin|
|Arena Rock Recording Co.|
|2007||4-Track Rock!!! 1992-1995 + Complete "Bender" Sessions|
(2-disc demos compilation)
|Superdrag Sound Laboratories|
|2009||Industry Giants||Superdrag Sound Laboratories / Thirty Tigers|
|2014||Jokers W/ Tracers|
(double-LP demos compilation)
- A Tribute To Superdrag (2006 - Double D Records)