Suggesting a fractious meeting point between freak folk, noise rock, experimental music, and psychedelia, indie rock band the Supreme Dicks drifted under the radar of public recognition through the 1980s and '90s, releasing a challenging and eccentric body of work that earned them some high-profile admirers and enthusiastic reviews but few sales. The first lineup of the Supreme Dicks was formed in 1982 in Amherst, Massachusetts by a handful of Hampshire College students; while a sizable number of musicians drifted in and out of the lineup over the group's lifetime, the core ensemble featured Daniel Oxenberg on guitar and vocals; Jon Shere on guitar and vocals; Steve Shavel on vocals, guitars, and theremin; Mark Hanson on drums and vocals; and Jim Spring on guitar and turntables. The Supreme Dicks played and recorded periodically through their first six years, with fan and friend Lou Barlow sometimes sitting in, and in 1988 they made their New York City debut in an unusual fashion. Dinosaur Jr. has been booked to play CBGB but J Mascis didn't feel like playing the show; the Supreme Dicks were sent in their place and instructed to tell the club's managers that they were in fact Dinosaur Jr. Despite this rocky start, the Supreme Dicks started to develop a following for their freewheeling music and their willingness to allow strangers to join them on-stage and improvise (Beck, Cat Power, and members of Neutral Milk Hotel are all said to have sat in with the group over the years).
It wasn't until 1992 that the Supreme Dicks released their first record, a 7" single on Funky Mushroom Records that the group described as a "double B-side." The adventurous Homestead Records label released the Supreme Dicks' first full-length album, The Unexamined Life, in 1993, and a collection of early and unreleased material, Working Man's Dick, appeared in 1994. While the group still occasionally shared stages with Dinosaur Jr. and Thurston Moore name-checked the Supreme Dicks in print, they failed to win more than a cult following, and after the 1996 album The Emotional Plague, the band began to splinter. Late in the 1990s, Jon Shere and Daniel Oxenberg opted to relocate to California, while Steve Shavel and Mark Hanson stayed in Massachusetts. Rather than split up the Supreme Dicks, the two pairs agreed to share the name and both played occasional shows, though the band stopped releasing new recordings after the 1996 EP This Is Not a Dick. In 2005, when the original lineup of Dinosaur Jr. staged a reunion tour, the Supreme Dicks were invited to open their first show, and in 2011 Jagjaguwar Records issued Breathing and Not Breathing, a four-disc box set that collected the group's complete catalog along with unreleased live and studio material. ~ Mark Deming