Archers of Loaf’s Matt Gentling on their 10 Best Songs

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Archers of Loaf

As one of North America’s best and rowdiest indie rock bands in the ’90s, Archers of Loaf had a great if short first run. Releasing four albums between 1993 and 1998, the North Carolina band delivered anthems that merged sing-along hooks and abrasive guitar tones into a hybrid that maybe fell just short of the heaviness of post-hardcore or the dissonance of noise rock, but packed a lot more power than many of their lo-fi peers.

Though the Archers broke up in the late ’90s, they reformed in 2011, touring for two years and eventually returning to the stage over the next decade, which ultimately resulted in a handful of new singles in 2020, one of the few bright spots in that cursed early pandemic year. It turned out they had a lot more music in the works, and two years later, they arrive with their long awaited fifth album, Reason in Decline.

With their first new album in over 20 years hitting shelves and digital providers via Merge, we spoke to Archers of Loaf bassist Matt Gentling about his 10 favorite songs in their catalog, which lean deeper into the deep cuts and some of the live favorites from the early ’90s up to the present.


from Icky Mettle (1993; Alias)

Matt Gentling: I was gonna give you the caveat that this list of favorites would change radically from hour to hour, but it’s about as reliable as anything I’d come up with on any other day, and “Wrong” is always gonna be on there. It’s the first song I really went nuts for and loving what I do and being in this band. A lot of it has to do with (Eric) Bachmann’s guitar part on that. That was my first introduction to him playing his weirdly strung guitar where the song got its hooks in me. And I hadn’t really played in bands like that before. A lot of the bands I liked had that kind of vibe, I just hadn’t be fortunate to play in one of them until then.

Treble: It’s kind of a live staple.

MG: Yeah, and I still love playing it every time. There are some songs where you’ll feel like “god, I’ve played this song hundreds of times.” But that’s one I never get tired of.

“What Did You Expect”

Single (1994; Alias)

MG: I love the high energy of it. And I love my bass part on it, so it’s fun for me to play. But I like how it just feels like a ripper. I like playing that really goofy high bassline and doing the backing vocals at the same time, and Mark’s drumming is amazing in that song. As a bass player it’s fun when you’ve got a really good drum part to play along with.


from Vs. the Greatest of All Time (1994; Alias)

MG: It’s got such a creepy vibe, and it’s just so explosive. It’s a bit of a rager and has a dark feeling to it that I like. It’s a live staple. One of our favorites to open with. I think, broken down, album to album, this EP is the band’s favorite. It’s the one thing we play every song off of frequently. Sometimes in one set we’ll play all five songs. So that’s bound to show up on my favorites list.


from Vs. the Greatest of All Time (1994; Alias)

MG: The intro has a lot to do with [choosing this song]. I love that really long, absurd intro. It’s really fun—the surfiness. We were listening to a lot of surf rock at the time. We did two versions of it and I love both versions. The first one was more surfy, but the second one has that ending riff that I enjoy playing. So I like that one. That’s my favorite of the two that we did.

“Freezing Point”

from Vs. the Greatest of All Time (1994; Alias)

MG: The Peel Session version was maybe what was in my mind, but I love both versions. The Speed of Cattle one I might like more than the EP, but I love them both. That’s one we wrote on the road. Bachmann had the skeletal chords pretty much laid out, but it all came together when we were traveling in England. I wrote my part in a hotel room. That was just a fun one tow rite and the middle part, the bridge, Eric just introduces it by yelling “guitar!”, which is kind of silly. We had just seen Jonathan Richman before we wrote that, and it was just him solo, with a guitar. And when he got to the solo sections, he’d yell “Guitar!” And we were just laughing at that, so I think that’s why he added that. 

“Dead Red Eyes”

from White Trash Heroes (1998; Alias)

MG: I love that whole album. It’s weird. I was really happy with that one. It’s a weird one because stylistically we‘re all over the place and we don’t play that many songs off it, but I was super happy with how it came out and how diverse it was. But “Dead Red Eyes,” that bassline is super fun to play, so it’s kind of a vanity choice on my part. And honestly, I love that weird keyboard part. There’s just nothing I don’t love about that one. And whenever we play it live, watching Bachmann with that tiny keyboard on his lap, that just makes me smile.

Treble: Why don’t these songs make it into the live sets as often?

MG: I honestly couldn’t tell you. I have zero idea because we used to play a lot of ‘em. We played all of them at some point live. I think part of it is, since we’ve gotten back together, Bachmann’s been of the mind of “let’s crank out the hits.” And that album didn’t have that many super crowd pleasers, so they’ve kind of fallen by the wayside for that reason. We’ve just been focusing on the more popular songs I guess? It’s got some of my favorites on there though. That album has the one song I completely wrote for the band (“I.N.S.”), which I was proud of. 

“Scenic Pastures”

from All the Nation’s Airports (1996; Alias/Sire)

MG: That video was kind of funny because we hated doing videos. It was always an unpleasant process for us. We had a friend who agreed to direct it. But we’re prickly when it comes to doing videos. We had a list of about five things that we didn’t want to do. We wanted a video without having to do these things. And he got back to us and said OK sounds good let’s do this. We had done a festival in San Francisco and went down to the L.A. area to film it, and it was our biggest budget video that we had ever tried. And right out of the gates, he’s like “here’s the shots I got lined up” and it was everything on our list we didn’t want to do. And it was getting late in our contiguous career, that early phase of our career. And usually when that sort of thing happened, we knuckled under every time and said “OK, I guess we’ll do it.” But this time, we just decided it was time to hold our ground. And we said “these were the things we didn’t want to do that you agreed to!” And he got real mad and quit on the spot. So there we are with about an hour and a half of daylight left, this huge crew a bunch of rented equipment, and no ideas. 

Being on a crew, working in film and stuff, you have a lot of ideas and you don’t dream of being a wage slave, so they were all forthcoming with ideas. We were on that Paramount Ranch land, and I wandered off to pee and I see that some maintenance worker had left a pickaxe and shovel and I started thinking what if we had those tools and all this walking around in the woods footage, so we make it into this story where the rhythm section murders the guitarist. So we fleshed it out with the crew people and turned it into the video it became. If you watch it it looks a little bit thrown together, but I really like the way it turned out. The process was tough, but I like the way it came out. And the song is just a fun weird song. It’s one of the ones Bachmann wrote on his Teisco before it fell apart. The guitar just kind of disintegrated.

“Worst Defense”

from All the Nation’s Airports (1996; Alias/Sire)

MG: That one, every time I listen to it i get excited because I like the way it sounds, the recording of it. Airports was an interesting album because I think it might have been the first one where Bachmann recorded demos for us to write our parts for. We had more time to work on structures and arrangements, and Mark and I had a lot of time to work on our parts together. The rhythm section clicked on that album more than the others. And we weren’t afraid to try weird ideas, and I like that record for that reason. That song just scratches an itch. That drum sound is amazing. 

Treble: It was also the only Archers album on a major label, right?

MG: Sire distributed it. It was some deal that Alias had with Sire. It was still part of our commitment to Alias. But they must have worked out a distribution deal or something. But we never dealt with them. Being connected with them was a little sentimentally cool because they put out some Replacements stuff and we were really big Replacements fans.

“Saturation and Light”

from Reason in Decline (2022; Merge)

MG: I didn’t expect to like this album as much as I liked it. It’s trying to be my favorite album we’ve done at this point. It’s hard to say, it’s so new. But I’m so happy with it. Part of being a little bit older is I’m finally where I wish I was back then in terms of getting thing to sound the way I want them to. I’m better at writing bass parts. I was a little all over the place back then. I finally kind of got better at picking and choosing what to do and when and where. I really like the lyrics a lot, and that’s probably the main reason I like that song so much. 


from Reason in Decline (2022; Merge)

MG: I like how it’s weird and kind of goes from A to B. It’s not like a verse-chorus-verse type action. Bachmann based the lyrics on a voice mail he got that was a wrong number. It was someone trying to make a drug deal or something like that. And the song doesn’t have anything to do with that. But he uses the words in such a way that he changes around the words in the message. The person was talking about some Humboldt weed or something, and so that’s where “keep it humble” came from. So he just did this weird abstract-ification of the words in the voice mail and then converted them into lyrics that had nothing to do with it. So I kind of liked that idea. I don’t know if he was just messing with me or what, but that was compelling. 

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