THE SHADOW CAST from the murder of lead singer Mia Zapata has followed the surviving members of the Gits both musically and personally for the past seven years. The press had overlooked Enter: The Conquering Chicken, their last record as a band, due to an infatuation with the tragedy. Drummer Steve Moriarty, bassist Matt Dresdner, and guitarist Joe Spleen view the band's recent release, Seafish Louisville, as a celebration of the Gits' short but potent career. For music fans, it is the quintessential Gits record, providing a solid collection of their contribution to Seattle's influential rock era.
Local legend Jack Endino engineered and co-produced the album, expertly fitting together tracks from live tour recordings, gig clips from the movie Hype!, and studio takes that never made it onto a record. "The only way to find some of the tracks was on bootleg tapes. The only way to get them was on places like eBay," explains Mike Millet, longtime friend and owner of Broken Rekids, the label on which Seafish Louisville was released.
Fans will be pleased with the results; the compilation is an astonishing testimony from a band whose stage delivery engendered incredible power and passionate ferocity. The attempt to bottle this could have resulted in a caged feel. On the contrary, the live tracks, like fan-anthem "Absynthe," solidify the Gits' reputation as a seminal punk band that expanded pre-established boundaries. Spleen's distortion-fueled rock riffs, anchored by Moriarty's fierce drumming and Dresdner's rigorous bass harmonies, implode and explode around Zapata's melodic spiels. The remastered version of "Seaweed" clearly reveals the Gits' influences, ranging from the Pogues, the Clash, and even Otis Redding. Rather than follow the status quo as a punk vocalist, Zapata's influences are tethered to soul, and she serenades with an intoxicating, scratchy croon rather than a scream, allowing the songs to find shape. The sonic epiphany resulting from the collective effort moves one to remember why the Gits' contributions to the genre are irreplaceable.
Endino's engineering is seamless, despite the obstacles of weathered tapes and tracks recorded onto various formats. The vinyl version is a fatter listen, jacketed in a cover full of black-and-white live-show photos. For a more in-depth perspective, the CD-ROM version offers browsing content in the form of video, pictures, and Zapata's handwritten lyrics. Extracted from her journal writings, the lyrics are mantras of hopeful transcendence from a world consumed with appearances. "Whirlwind," a previously unreleased cut, finds Zapata reveal- ing a strength she had not yet detected, a common theme in her poetic journeys.
Moriarty created the momentum behind Seafish Louisville after perusing reels of recorded material while recovering from leg surgery. He had been fielding e-mail messages and letters from experienced fans and new converts while doling out copies of the Gits' discography from his own collection. The finished product has proven to be a positive expedition into the Gits' history.
"I feel good about having a legacy to leave," says Moriarty. "People that are into music will now have a comprehensive retrospective."
"It is a catharsis," Dresdner adds. "It feels like we are finishing something." This personal evaluation is not lost on fans or friends of the Gits. The between-set play of Seafish Louisville at the recent release party produced strong reactions. "There is a lot involved emotionally in something like tonight," offers Maria Mabra, a longtime friend. "This little community we've built here has been tangled, mangled, put through the test, and put back together."
"This is about celebrating balance," adds Cristien Storm, co-founder of Home Alive, the Seattle-based nonprofit organization formed in response to Zapata's abduction. "It's about learning the balance between where you came from, where you are, and where you are going."
Clearly Seafish Louisville is not only a good rock record; it is also an archive of a band fueled on passion, community, and old-school ethics. "I ended up feeling," Spleen says, "that this was a strange yet necessary final step."