Return to Aberdeen (thing)

Aberdeen was an American [twee] pop band from [Palm Desert, California], which existed from 1993 to 1995 and again from 2001 to 2005. Initially, the band consisted of [Beth Arzy] on vocals, guitar and bass, and [John Girgus] on guitar and the occasional lead vocal, along with a [drum machine]. Together with [East River Pipe], they were the only American bands signed to the seminal British record label [Sarah Records], through which they recorded and released two [7"]/[CD5] singles before the label's predetermined end in mid-1995, after which the band went on an extended [hiatus]. Afterwards, Beth formed the short-lived [Casino Ashtrays].

As far as I know, the name of the band doesn't have anything to do with the cities in [Scotland] (nor its [Aberdeen Football Club|football club]), [Aberdeen, Washington|Washington state] or [Aberdeen, Maryland|Maryland] that go by the same name (or any other place called "Aberdeen"), or the [University of Aberdeen|university].

They reformed in 2001, now bolstered by a cadre of dedicated backing musicians (including a live drummer), and then released their first full-length album, [Homesick and Happy to be Here], in 2002, on the American indie label [Tremolo Arm Users Club], with distribution by [Better Looking Records]. The album was preceeded slightly by a single, the 7" "[Sink or Float]," about a month prior to the album's release. For an indie release, it did pretty well; the single's title track went on to appear on the TV show [Buffy the Vampire Slayer], and although it didn't end up appearing on the American edition of the show's soundtrack ([Radio Sunnydale]), it appeared, perhaps appropriately, on the UK edition (given how much more successful [indie pop] is there, this isn't too surprising). New singles followed in 2003 ("[The Boy Has Gone Away]") and 2005 ("[Florida]"), this time coming only in [compact disc|CD] format, breaking away from their indie 7" roots.

After the release of the last single, Aberdeen parted ways again. They put together a career retrospective CD entitled [What Do I Wish For Now? (Singles & Extras 1994-2004)], and released it on [LTM Recordings] in 2006. The band members drifted to other projects: Beth moved to the UK and concentrated on her role in [Trembling Blue Stars] (with whom she was a collaborator from 2000 until the band broke up in 2010), and John ended up in [Languis].

The music of Aberdeen is a bit difficult to describe succinctly; while their earlier output on Sarah Records was fairly typical of the twee/indie scene of that era (late 80s to mid 90s), their latter-day output is [whimsy|whimsical], at times upbeat and at others eloquently [morose]. The music recalls the best-sounding bits of bands like [The Field Mice|the Field Mice] (whose 1988 single "[Emma's House]" they expertly [cover song|cover]ed), [Heavenly], and maybe a hint of [Secret Shine] (all label-mates on Sarah Records), though I'd say their most even comparison would be kind of a more playful, [feminine side|feminine] analogue to Beth's other band, the male-fronted Trembling Blue Stars. I once read somewhere that those who enjoy [Ocean Blue] or [The Sundays] will immediately [crush] on this band upon hearing them, and I think that's pretty apt. And if you can't fathom developing a crush on certain music, well, then, there's no hope for you.

In 2015, [https://www.facebook.com/thestateofaberdeen/posts/10152948154992123|it became public knowledge] that the end of Aberdeen as a band was in fact acrimonious, and that in the run-up to the Sarah Records documentary film, "My Secret World", Aberdeen will not be participating but will instead have another band, [The Legendary House Cats], play a cover set of Aberdeen material. Beth's new band, [The Luxembourg Signal], has yet to release anything at the time of writing (May 2015).

I've become Facebook friends with John Girgus and have learned quite a bit about the early days of Aberdeen. He's a good guy, really into what he was doing musically, and never fails to answer questions or provide specifics about Aberdeen. In fact, he's just (late 2015) digitally released a compilation of the early music, entitled It Was The Rain: Lost Recordings 1993-1995. He's still friends with all the Sarah Records people he got to know, including [Claire Wadd|Claire] and [Matt Haynes|Matt], the founders of [Sarah Records]. While I'm not quite sure what went on between them, John and Beth Arzy are no longer friends. In fact, she's been dating [The Field Mice|Bobby Wratten] for several years!

Recently, John was musing about Aberdeen having opened for [Heavenly] when they toured America. Apparently [Heavenly|Amelia Fletcher] is a fan, but she was non-plussed when Aberdeen included a cover of [Brighter]'s "Half-hearted". [Heavenly|Cathy Rogers] expressed similar sentiment about Brighter, their label mate on Sarah Records. I don't know how or why they came to dislike Brighter, and I probably never will, but this is a fun half-story from John.

Discography:

  • [Toy Tambourine] — 7"/CD5, October 1994 — [Sarah Records] (SARAH 093)
  • [Fireworks] — 7"/CD5, March 1995 — [Sarah Records] (SARAH 097)
  • [Snapdragon] — 7", August 1995 — [Sunday Records] (SUNDAY 035)

On hiatus, 1995-2001

  • [Sink or Float] — 7", May 2002 — [Tremolo Arm Users Club] (TRM 001)
  • [Homesick and Happy to Be Here] — CD, June 2002 — [Tremolo Arm Users Club] (TRM 002), [Better Looking Records] (BL 002)
  • [The Boy Has Gone Away] — CD5, September 2003 — [Tremolo Arm Users Club] (TRM 003), [Better Looking Records] (BL 003)
  • [Florida] — CD5, January 2005 — [Tremolo Arm Users Club] (TRM 004), [Better Looking Records] (BL 004)
  • [What Do I Wish For Now? (Singles & Extras 1994-2004)] — compilation CD, September 2006 — [LTM Recordings] (LTM 2466)
  • [It Was The Rain: Lost Recordings 1993-1995] — compilation [why?|cassette]/digital download, May 2015, UsedBinPop Recordings (no catalog number)

Sources:

[https://www.facebook.com/thestateofaberdeen|Aberdeen on Facebook]
[http://www.twee.net/bands/aberdeen.html|Aberdeen on TweeNet]
[http://www.betterlookingrecords.com/banddetails.php?bandid=17|Better Looking Records - Aberdeen]
[http://www.undertheradarmag.com/webonly/aberdeen/aberdeen.html|UTR - Aberdeen]

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