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Screaming Trees

Where many of their Seattle-based contemporaries dealt in reconstructed Black Sabbath and Stooges riffs, Screaming Trees fused '60s psychedelia and garage rock with '70s hard rock and '80s punk. Over the course of their career, their more abrasive punk roots eventually gave way to a hard-edged, rootsy psychedelia that drew from rock and folk equally. After releasing several albums on indie labels like SST and Sub Pop, Screaming Trees moved to Epic Records in 1989. Though they were one of the first Seattle bands to sign with a major label, the group never attained the popularity of fellow Northwestern bands (and friends) like Nirvana and Soundgarden, largely due to their erratic work schedule. Throughout their career, the Trees were notorious for drinking and fighting, which caused them to break up briefly at several points in their career. Nevertheless, the band managed to cultivate a dedicated following, which included not only fans, but also fellow musicians. Brothers Van Conner (bass) and Gary Lee Conner (guitar) formed Screaming Trees with Mark Lanegan (vocals) in the mid-'80s. Lanegan and the Conners grew up in Ellensburg, WA, a small college-town some 90 miles from Seattle. The trio were the only people in their high school who listened to punk, garage rock, and independent music, so they eventually gravitated toward each other. After falling out with the Conners before either completed school, Lanegan contacted Van Conner several years later. By that point, Van had a band with a singer named Mark Pickerel; the pair had recently kicked Lee Conner out of the band, so they invited Lanegan to sit in on drums. Eventually, Lee re-joined the group and they settled on a lineup that featured Lee on guitar, Van on bass, Lanegan on vocals, and Pickerel on drums.

Taking their name from a guitar distortion pedal, Screaming Trees recorded their first demo tape in 1985, just a few months after their formation. Their producer, Steve Fisk, was able to convince the head of Velvetone Studios to release an album by the band, The result, Clairvoyance, appeared on Velvetone Records in 1986. With Clairvoyance in hand, Fisk was able to secure Screaming Trees a contract with Greg Ginn's SST Records, who had already been releasing albums by Fisk. The band's first SST album, Even If and Especially When, was released in 1987 and the Trees began working the dying American indie circuit, playing shows across the country. The following year, SST reissued the band's demo tape under the title Other Worlds as well as their third album, Invisible Lantern.

Following the release of Buzz Factory in 1989, the group's contract with SST expired and they made the Change Has Come EP for Sub Pop early the following year. By that time, tensions in the band had grown somewhat, and the group spent most of 1990 working on side projects. Mark Lanegan recorded a solo album, The Winding Sheet, which featured support from Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic; the album appeared on Sub Pop. Both of the Conners formed new bands and released albums on the SST subsidiary New Alliance. Van's band was called Solomon Grundy; Lee's was Purple Outside. By the end of 1990, the band had signed a major-label contract with Epic Records.

Screaming Trees reconvened to record their Epic debut, Uncle Anesthesia, with Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Terry Date as producers. Uncle Anesthesia appeared in early 1991 and, although it sold better than their previous efforts, the band remained a cult act. For much of the year, in fact, Van Conner was on hiatus from the band, choosing to tour as bassist with Dinosaur Jr. instead. Late in 1991, Nirvana's Nevermind became an unexpected commercial success, opening the gates for the rest of the Seattle scene. Where many of their peers were able to capitalize on that success, Screaming Trees suffered more setbacks than the rest. Before they began work on their follow-up to Uncle Anesthesia, Pickerel left the group and was replaced by Barrett Martin.

Once Martin joined, the band finished "Nearly Lost You," their contribution to the Singles soundtrack, and their 1992 album Sweet Oblivion. "Nearly Lost You" became a MTV and alternative radio hit in the fall of 1992, thanks to the momentum of the Singles soundtrack. The single carried Sweet Oblivion -- which had received more press attention than any previous Screaming Trees album -- to the group's strongest sales, peaking at over 300,000 copies. The band supported Sweet Oblivion with a year-long tour, during which they fought frequently. After the tour was finished, the group decided to take an extended hiatus. During that time, Lanegan recorded his second solo album, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, which was released in 1994. That same year, Martin drummed in the Layne Staley (Alice in Chains) and Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) side project Mad Season, which released its only album in the spring of 1995.

In early 1995, Screaming Trees regrouped to begin work on their follow-up to Sweet Oblivion. Following one still-born attempt at the album, the band hired George Drakoulias, who had previously worked with the Black Crowes and the Jayhawks, as producer. The resulting album, Dust, was released in the summer of 1996, nearly four years after its predecessor. Dust was greeted with positive reviews, and its first single, "All I Know," became a moderate hit on modern rock radio. Still, the album didn't sell particularly well, even though the band supported the record by touring with 1996's Lollapalooza. Following the Dust tour, Screaming Trees took another hiatus, with Lanegan beginning work on his third solo album, Scraps at Midnight, which was released in 1998. When Lanegan completed another solo project the following year (I'll Take Care of You), it seemed to confirm that the Trees' strained relationships would make it impossible for the band to continue. Following a June 25, 2000, concert to celebrate the opening Seattle's Experience Music Project, the group unsurprisingly announced their official breakup. 2005's Ocean of Confusion: Songs of Screaming Trees 1989-1996 gathered highlights from the band's Epic years, and included two previously unreleased tracks. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
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Comments

they need to add Uncle Anesthesia as an album cos that was their best one.
mydogismuklu k s
Pretty groovy band. First saw them in 1984 at the Bellingham Odd Fellows Hall with Girl Trouble, another super awesome rad band that still rocks. Seattle was so much bigger than just Seattle back in the day.
420
I never realized Barett Martin was also in Mad Season! I've been getting into them since they re-issued Above. Favorite track right now is Locomotive.. . http://smart u r l . i t / L o c o m o t i v e
Seattle music sucks. Totally over rated.
shurd2406
Love Love Love them. Van Connor has a new band VALIS that is rad. I had the honor or meeting and hanging out with him, awesome guy.
Surprised to see so few likes on such a great band!
www.dusterua . c o m
A very underrated group with a lot to offer. To bad they are no more.
kvons1
I nearly, I nearly lost you there. Decent group of the times but got minimal air play for some reason.
pandora is missing at least 4 of their albums!
I agree mmcdan131. Lanegan is as awesome solo as he was with the Trees. An underrated band of that time period. Got to see them live at a festival show back in the day - great band!
mmcdan131
Anything with Mark Lanegan is a hit with me. 'Dust' is still one of my favorite albums from that time. If you like the Trees, you must check out Lanegan's solo work.
Wow, really surprised to have Screaming Trees/Mark Lanegan show up on my Pandora feed...haven ' t heard these guys in quite a while. Nice to hear them again.
I picked up Sweet Oblivion CD off the discount rack around 1994 (like a lot of great bands I discovered around that time) and loved it. Never heard of them prior to that. What a discovery! Lanegans voice is so earthy and well suited to their music. Never got a chance to see them live. D*mn shame.
jonswan2001
Loved the early SST stuff and was fortunate to see them live at the Marquee Club in London circa 1992-93. A very underrated band.
markdyoung1
Def did not sound like any 80s punk I listened to in my youth. But their Change Has Come is one of my all time favorite Eps.
djgforce11
The Trees never sounded like an 80s punk band!
awgrimm3
One of my favorite bands of all time. Too bad they couldn't get along.
I saw them in concert in, like, '93, when they opened (along with Soul Asylum!) for the Spin Doctors...do e s anyone see anything wrong with the order of the concert? first: Screaming Trees; second: Soul Asylum, headliner: Spin Doctors...I' m almost ashamed for the concert people. Anyone with any knowledge of talent knows the order of appearance should be 1-3-2, supposing the order they appeared was 2-1-3, based upon their respective talents and level of cultural saturation their music had.

Wow! T
Screaming Trees had a number of songs (including this one 'Strange Out Here') that was quite comparable to the Doors.
suck it cult rocks
whew! for a second i thought that was the cult. god i hate the cult.
Ahhh, I love the trees. Mark Lanegan's work with QotSA is also stellar.
sounds good, had only slightly heard about them cause of Lanegan doing vocals for Mad Season
Even though I'm quite familiar with the Trees and Lanegan's solo work, I still can't get over how similar his and Jim Morrison's voices are. Not always, but sometimes its very uncanny.
God I love the Trees. I love Lanegan's voice, whether his punk-influen c e d faster singing or the bluesy burr, and I love the dirty guitars that beg for more Small Faces comparisons, s**t, I even love how Gary Lee Conner abused the Windmill!

Grunge/neo-p s y c h e d e l i a / p u n k / f o l k s and roots/etc. Really whatever your poison is, the Trees played it, and played it WELL.
bromide01
Plese only complaine about things you know how to spell. Thank you.
more trees please
omg...They dont have Uncle Anesthesia (Spelling??) ? ? ? How can you have any Screaming Trees and not have that album listed on their discography? one of the greatest albums ever.
Sometimes great rocking bands look like fat donut eating computer geeks. Please see above.
The Trees really need to come back, music today is too dull and drudged.
Bring back the Pixies and The Records also!!!
where is uncle anesthesia? I love this band, they need to get back together.
Atmospheric. Evocative. Sweet Oblivion is one of my desert island discs. Mark Lanegan was probably the greatest singer in grunge, and continues to turn out darkly beautiful albums. Mark Pickerel has also been doing some great work lately, most obviously in Mark Pickerel And His Praying Hands, but also with the neo-pub-rock Tripwires.
A hell of band that everyone seemed to miss in the 90's. Same goes for Mark Lanegan's solo career (truly spectacular) . You have one more chance to make this man a worthy star with the Gutter Twins (featuring the other can't miss, but did, star of the 90's, Greg Dulli).

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