Underground-rock pioneers Death of Samantha will release their first new studio album in 24 years on February 11, 2014 via their revived St. Valentine Records label. If Memory Serves Us Well is a18-song double-album of repertoire spanning their career from their first 45RPM release onwards. The album was recorded live in the studio, the night before the reformed band played Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, on December 23, 2011 with all the members of their original line-up on deck: Doug Gillard, guitar-vocals; David James, bass-vocals; John Petkovic, vocals-guitar-clarinet; Steve-o, drums.
People will hear the title — “If Memory Serves Us Well” — and will understandably think that it refers to how Death of Samantha will be remembered, if at all. But more than that, it refers to the Cleveland quartet’s approach to making it. Rather than re-issue back catalog, the band marked its return with an album of material that was recorded two days before it got back together to play a reunion show.
“Our songs always evolved and changed from show to show,” says singer-guitarist John Petkovic. “The recorded versions might have been set them in stone in the minds of the listener, but they were only one of many versions to us. The idea of having to go back and listen and then replicate the recorded version seemed odd to us. It would be like reading off some script that was written for someone else, like being a tribute band. We never wanted that; that’s not why we got back together.”
So rather than re-issue the back catalog — which DOS owns the rights to — the band spontaneously decided to turn on the tape recorder.
“Two days before our reunion show, we found ourselves without a place to practice for the next day,” says bassist-singer David James. “A few phone calls later, John found a space for us to rehearse in, that just happened to be a recording studio.”
The idea of recording just happened on the spot.
“DOS always had a live approach to playing and our songs always took on a life of their own, always changing,” says Petkovic. “That’s something that is very different than replication. It involves the physical response, as well as the memory. We remembered loosely what the songs were originally. For instance, I never even listened to old recordings. The idea truly was, ‘if memory serves us well.”