For the 35th anniversary of Beat Happening’s second album, JAMBOREE, we take a detailed look at how it was made. After meeting at the Evergreen State College in Olympia Washington, Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis and Bret Lunsford formed Beat Happening and began releasing music under Calvin’s K label. In 1985, they released their self-titled debut album, which was later was picked up for UK distribution by Rough Trade Records. As the band was gaining interest beyond the Pacific Northwest, expectations were higher for their second album. Right before recording JAMBOREE, they linked up with their tourmates, Screaming Trees, in Ellensburg, Washington and recorded a joint EP in one night. They worked so well together that Beat Happening asked Screaming Trees’ Mark Lanegan and Gary Lee Conner to co-produce their next record, along with their friend, Steve Fisk.
In this episode, Calvin, Heather and Bret describe where the band was at when they were playing live more than ever before and developing relationships with other bands in the punk scene. Despite their limited technical abilities and lack of equipment, they describe the enthusiasm and optimism they felt about being in a band together at the time they made JAMBOREE. Producer Steve Fisk offers his unique perspective on first meeting a teenage Calvin and going on to record multiple Beat Happening albums. Co-producer Gary Lee Conner describes the unlikely musical pairing of Screaming Trees and Beat Happening but how they were kindred spirits, being outsiders with a shared DIY philosophy. From one borrowed distortion pedal to Screaming Trees as a cheering section to not understanding the concept of singing on key to the bravery of a cappella performances to the difficulty of having only one clave, we’ll hear the stories of how the record came together.