Northern Virginia wasn’t ready for Skywave.
At least not from 1995 to 2003, when the noisy shoegaze trio was active in and around the college town of Fredericksburg.
Made up of Oliver Ackermann, Paul Baker and John Fedowitz — friends from Stafford Senior High School — Skywave sounded like The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. At the time, Baker says, that’s not what locals wanted to hear.
“These days, the hipsters would maybe like us, but in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I felt like we seemed we were from another planet,” emails Baker, 38, who still lives in Fredericksburg.
But 12 years after Skywave went quiet, a fan in São Paolo, Brazil, is giving the band a belated tip of the hat. On June 20, Renato Malizia plans to release a free digital compilation called Got That Feeling: A Tribute to Skywave via his label and website, The Blog That Celebrates Itself.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Skywave from the start,” Malizia writes in an email. He says a friend who understood his taste — he counts the Valentines and Jesus and Mary Chain among his favorite bands — hipped him to Skywave’s 1999 record, Echodrone, after a trip to the U.S. It was “love at first hearing,” Malizia writes.
“We were playing songs with actual melodies and we looked like some skinny wimps, but we were louder and weren’t following some awful, flavor-of-the-month sound.” —Paul Baker, formerly of Skywave
When ex-Skywave members moved on to other bands — Ackermann relocated to Brooklyn and formed A Place to Bury Strangers and Fedowitz and Baker played in Ceremony until Baker left in 2012, starting Static Daydream — Malizia stayed hot on their trail.
In March, Malizia and Baker began chatting on Facebook about a Skywave tribute. The blogger contacted bands from all over the world with personal or stylistic ties to Skywave and commissioned 19 covers for the compilation. Oregon’s The Prids, Brazil’s Lautmusik, England’s Nothing.Existed and Virginia’s Screen Vinyl Image — in addition to A Place To Bury Strangers and Static Daydream — are among the bands chipping in.
In 2003, after years of playing to unappreciative audiences, that level of Skywave fandom seemed unimaginable, Baker writes.
“Sometimes … we’d play at some hipster place and they’d seem to hate us as much as the country or Top 40 sort of venues, because what we were doing wasn’t considered cool at the time,” Baker writes. “We’d play with hardcore, screamo bands, and I think we just blew them away and they didn’t know how to respond. I mean, we were playing songs with actual melodies and we looked like some skinny wimps, but we were louder and weren’t following some awful, flavor-of-the-month sound.”
Malizia says that’s exactly what he loved about Skywave.
“Skywave rescues on their albums that magic, that energy, that dream of making real music without using the marketing or the media,” the blogger writes. He admires that the group seemed to “say ‘f**k you’ to everyone.”
Or maybe it’s that Skywave — with its sound cribbed from the 1980s and early ’90s — was both behind and ahead of its time.
“Back then it seemed like we were playing shows for about five of our friends, which was cool, but it certainly didn’t feel like 10 or 15 years later anybody would remember or care enough to do some kind of tribute. So that’s a pretty amazing feeling,” Baker writes. “I mean, we were trying to do something great back then, but it never really felt like it was happening.”
The Blog That Celebrates Itself plans to release Got That Feeling: A Tribute To Skywave on June 20.
Below, a playlist of highlights from Skywave’s Echodrone and Synthstatic LPs: