It’s been nearly 30 years since the band Sludgeworth split, and almost as long since the album The Losers of the Year was released, but what was missing off that original CD release was two tracks: “To Be The Same” and “Here For A While.”
Now, for the first time ever, you can see the lyric video for “To Be The Same” exclusively on RiotFest.org.
We also had a chance to sit down with Dan, Brian, and Adam to talk about the Losers of the Year reissue on Redscare that you can also hear for the first time ever on streaming services.
After nearly three decades, Chicago punk veterans Sludgeworth are seeing a reissue of their posthumous compilation, Losers of the Year, thanks to the efforts of Red Scare Industries. Composed of members of Screeching Weasel and Ethyline, the band was only active for a few years before calling it quits, but their songs left a lasting legacy on the city’s punk community — and on listeners far beyond the city limits.
Losers of the Year sold tens of thousands of copies in its heyday, but this will be the first time the songs are pressed on vinyl and made available on streaming services, exposing a new generation of listeners to Sludgeworth’s melodic Midwest punk. The Red Scare reissue includes two unreleased tracks (available on CD/digital versions only), never-before-seen photos, and liner note from Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati, Rise Against’s Joe Principe, Mikey Erg, Dillinger Four’s Patrick Costello, and more. Preorder the reissue here, or stream Losers of the Year on December 9. Before the comp is made widely available next week, Riot Fest talked to Sludgeworth vocalist Dan Schafer, drummer Brian Vermin, and guitarist Adam White about the Losers of the Year reissue, who they’ve been listening to lately, and their thoughts on a possible Sludgeworth reunion.
Losers Of The Year
- Waste It Away
- Only One
- Another Day
- I Analyze
- Never Say Never
- Over And Over
- She’s Not Disposable
- Cry Baby
- Nearest One To Stand Behind
- Angry Man
- Two Feet On The Ground
- You And I
- To Be The Same*
- Here For A While*
*CD Only Bonus Tracks
How did the Chicago music scene of the ‘80’s to ‘90’s influence you?
Brian Vermin: Outside of Naked Raygun, I didn’t pay much attention to where a band was from. My brother was my metal influence, Martin from Los Crudos turned me on to Crass and Conflict, Dave Simon had me listening to Bad Brains and Fishbone, Ben Weasel turned me on to the Angry Samoans and the Meatmen… so there were a lot of influences from a lot of different people.
Dan Schafer: My answer is similar to Brian’s. Naked Raygun were huge for me. Local bands like the Bhopal Stiffs and Screeching Weasel likely played a role, but mostly our musical influences came from growing up in the ‘80’s listening to music from everywhere.
Adam White: Naked Raygun, Big Black, Out of Order, Fugazi, Dead Kennedys, Samiam, Slayer, and Public Enemy were all huge influences for me, so a little of everything. The “scene” at the Metro in the 80’s was awesome and WNUR Northwestern college radio had a Friday night punk show that Dan and I listened to all the time as kids which turned us onto tons of punk music from Articles of Faith to Descendents, etc.
Sludgeworth’s career was very short lived. Why do you think it was so impactful, specifically in Chicago?
Brian: I don’t think we realized we had an impact. We were 5 friends that played music we enjoyed and were lucky that other people were liking it. We were hella young and just excited to play and not sound like shit.
Dan: I believe it was timing. We started off experimenting with Naked Raygun, Fugazi, Jawbreaker, and people were receptive to it. We rehearsed a lot as a band and often had fun experimenting even though the results are mixed for me. However, I believe the tracks on Losers of the Year were the best and I’m glad to see its re-release.
Adam: I feel like Sludgeworth was just some catchy music we made at the right time and place. I never understood why it has turned out to be so impactful. Like Brian said, we were just 5 friends with similar music interests and influences having fun making music together.
As a Chicago-based band, how did you end up releasing Losers of the Year on Lookout! in California?
Dan: Ben Weasel was the liaison. He said something to them when I was too sheepish to ask, and Lookout! responded warmly.
Fast forwarding to present-day, how did this reissue with Red Scare come about?
Brian: Dan mentioned it to me a couple years ago. I guess they had a bad email address because about a week ago my brother just said to me ‘Hey, did you know someone is re-releasing Losers of the Year?’
Dan: People have been asking for a re-release for years, just nobody offered to put it out. Red Scare stepped up to the plate and now this record is seeing the light of day once again.
What does it mean to be reissuing this comp with a Chicago label like Red Scare?
Brian: I’m really grateful. I had spoke to Tony at Victory Records about doing something years ago…he in the most polite and professional way told me to fuck off. I’m glad that Red Scare saw the value in that body of work and had the balls to green light it.
Dan: I’m grateful as well. It’s a good feeling to see people excited about these songs after 30 years and see them celebrate its re-release.
With Losers of the Year on streaming services for the first time, a new generation of punks will be exposed to Sludgeworth. For a new fan listening to the compilation for the first time, what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Brian: You’re talking about music from 30 years ago made by a bunch of shitheads, that to this day gives me chills to hear. So for a younger generation to experience it, and for that music to stand the test of time, the take away for a new generation is to hear the honesty and passion in those songs.
Dan: Hopefully the younger generation takes from it what ours did back then. We’ll see. I sincerely would love to see them hop on board.
Adam: I am really happy to have this stuff available on streaming now. I know I only find out about music through streaming them now, so I hope to reach some new people. I hope they just feel the same way I do about it at least, which is that it is fun and catchy music.
What can you tell me about the two new tracks on this re-release? Why were they not previously released?
Brian: I can tell you they’re really fuckin’ good songs! They were recorded by Phil Bonnet (rest his soul) and that guy was like the scout leader and we were trying to earn our punk badges. In the song “To Be The Same,” there is a pain in Dan’s voice in the chorus that tells the story of Sludgeworth disbanding. It was in that moment, in that session, that things would never be the same again.
Dan: We broke up while in the process of recording a record. “To Be The Same” was unfinished in my mind, but hearing the track again, I enjoyed it just the same.
Adam: They were never released because the album never happened, and I don’t think Dan was sure he wanted to release them back when the Lookout thing happened? I have been trying to share these with people since we finished recording them. I do not like creating songs that never end up getting heard. That is what I am in it for, really. Not for money, or playing shows — just sharing some music and seeing how people react to them. I feel like the two unreleased songs show more of our “groove,” or Fugazi influenced stuff.
In the past, Sludgeworth has reunited for a couple of festival performances. Any plans to perform at any fests or other shows to promote the reissue?
Brian: Plans… no. But I will say this: I would do a show in a heartbeat. I’ve been lobbying for that since I heard about the re-release. And if it happens, god willing, it would be a show you would not wanna miss… but it might be a show that never happens. Which would be stupid. If there’s people from the original line up that want to, and people from the original line up that don’t… well, I say ya make do with what ya got! Shit, who from Black Flag is in Black Flag now?
Dan: Difficult, but perhaps not impossible. I would be open to it but there’s a lot to discuss first.
Adam: I am up for it, for sure. Dave is usually the hold out as he does not see the point in doing any more Sludgeworth shows for whatever reason.
Which newer bands are you listening to today? Bonus points if they’re from Chicago!
Brian: I’m into a lot of metalcore and hardcore bands these day. I can’t explain why. There’s a band called Canal Irreal, which is Martin from Los Crudos new band, and I’m digging them. I saw Rise Against for the first time in the summer and Joe is hella cool. There’s a band from Palatine called Born of Osiris that’s cool.
Dan: What constitutes as new? [Laughs] Rhett Miller’s The Misfit has been on repeat. Death Cab for Cutie’s Asphalt Meadows, The Beths Future Me, Hates Me, is all new. Love the word smiths like Bob Dylan, John Samson, Blake Schwarzenbach. I went into a phase where I listened to nothing but metal for like a year. I grew up on metal and it was the gateway to punk. Many of us can thank Metallica for that.
The last question I always ask: Is there anything you’d like to add, or a question that I should have asked you?
Brian: A lot of people say Sludgeworth broke up because of “musical differences”. I had 30 years to mull that shit over and in my opinion we had “communication issues”. We were young. Our tastes were changing. I [wish] someone would have said “there’s music you like, and there’s music you play, and it’s cool to be influenced and bring in elements if and when they work, but you need to be open to understanding sometimes, that shit won’t work”. Everything works how it’s supposed to. Dan had great success with Weasel, The Methadones, Dan Vapid and the Cheats… the rest of us had fun in Ethyline, we’re all still alive and luckily able to tell the stories of Sludgeworth… The Losers of the Year.
Dan: In my case, I felt like I was drifting away from these guys. We change a lot when growing up and I was no exception. However, I do believe musical differences were a factor. Brian is right about communication. It was a problem. It isn’t pleasant stuff to talk about this, but, there it is. That said, I look back fondly even though we have differences. Some of the best times I ever had were in Sludgeworth. I don’t think I ever laughed as hard as I did when with these guys. We made music I’m proud of, to this day, and I’m happy to see this record materialize.
Adam: This band was lots of fun at an important time in my life. Always laughing and hanging out with each other was great and collaborating on writing songs together always felt great. Some of the band became shitty toward Dan for the last year or so of our existence, just based on young and dumb opinions and the fact that Dan wanted to get away from the “experimental” side of our song writing. Like Brian mentioned, we all happily parted ways really because Dan went on to do great things and the rest of us formed Ethyline and kept doing our thing. I do wish the band had stayed together and see where we would’ve gone with it, but we all kept making music so there is no need to dwell on that.
You can listen to Losers of the Year for the first time on vinyl and streaming services from the reissue release from Redscare featuring “To Be The Same” and the additional unreleased track: “Here For A While.”