One of Chicago's first punk rock bands, The Imports influenced the burgeoning midwest alternative music scene in 1980, out of which sprang acts such as Big Black, Ministry (band), Naked Raygun, and Urge Overkill. In a response to a solicitation for information on people, bands, clubs, zines, etc., for a Chicago Punk History Radio Documentary in 2006, Steve Albini of Big Black posted a concise response listing The C*nts, The Imports, Coolest Retard, Wax Trax, and WZRD. Members of The Imports later went on to play with the Vagueleys, Silly Carmichaels (a pre-Ministry Al Jourgensen project), Sharkey's Machine, ¡Ack-Ack!, The Arms of Someone New, Split Heavens, Sylvia Darling and The Moon Seven Times.
In the fall of 1979, during a time when mainstream radio charted hits by Peaches & Herb ("Reunited"), Rod Stewart ("Do Ya Think I'm Sexy"), and the Bee Gees ("Too Much Heaven"), The Imports forged their unique brand of post-punk in the quiet and tree-lined neighborhood of Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago. Making up the core of the Imports were Ben Krug (vocals), Tom Krug (guitar) and Joe Strell (bass). Like many bands, the Imports went through a series of drummers including John Krug, who helped establish the Imports as one of a precious few Chicago punk bands in early 1980, Alec Dale, who accompanied the outfit through its transition from punk rock to post-punk, and finally Tom Wall, who with his inimitable minimalism completed the band's singular sound that would prove to be decades ahead of its time, a sound commercially realized only in much later bands such as Interpol (band) and The Strokes.
During their brief career, the Imports played extensively throughout the limited nightclub circuit of Chicago's underground music scene, a scene they shared with other Chicago punk rock and/or new wave music--the distinction was never that clear--bands such as Bohemia, C*nts, Da!, the Dadistics, Epicycle, the Ferraris, Heavy Manners, the Men, Naked Raygun, the Oil Tasters (from Milwaukee), Painter Band, Phil 'n' the Blanks, Poison Squirrel, Skafish, Special Affect, Static Cling, the Subverts (from Rockford), the Sweatermen, the Throbbers, the Trouble Boys, and the Vaguelys. As Ken Mierzwa writes in Ephemeral Creation: Music and Art in Chicago, 1978-1982, "none of the first batch of local bands ever enjoyed more than regional success". The nightclubs in which The Imports played included The Lucky Number, Tuts, Jamie's Elsewhere, and Exit. Ironically, the majority of The Imports' band members were excluded from these venues on nights when they were not playing on account of being under the legal age for drinking, making it difficult for them to catch acts who weren't on the same bill.
Initially, the Imports played a quick pop punk set of originals inspired by late seventies American and British punk acts such as Iggy Pop, the New York Dolls, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Jam. Their repertoire soon swelled to over sixty originals, few of which ran much longer than two minutes, if that. The songs were fast and to the point, their earnest vocals and basic harmonies backed by driving drums, a melodic three-string bass, and the grist of a Gibson SG Junior Les Paul pumped through a Fender Twin Reverb. However, soon after their Chicago debut at the club Ann Arkees on March 6, 1980, the Imports were to trade their high-intensity pop-punk bombast for a hypnotizing style wrought of brooding melancholy.
In a meeting with Paul Weller during The Jam's "Setting Sons" tour, on Friday, March 7, 1980, the Imports ran through a quick "unplugged" set of their material before the Jam played a gig in Old Chicago, a combination shopping mall and amusement park on the far south side. After hearing the Imports play, Paul said that they would go over well in England, and that they reminded him of Joy Division and Gang of Four (band), which he recommended that the Imports check out. And so they did. Seeing the light (or dark) the Imports immediately tossed out their entire collection of punk originals and begin carving out their own niche in the post-punk landscape of the early 1980s, writing stark, mesmerizing compositions that relied not so much upon rapid chord changes but rather employed subtle differences in texture and voicing to convey an underlying message of existential angst and accompanying despair.
While together, The Imports released only one professional recording: a 7" single on Cirkle Records, published in 1980 with the songs "Visions of Reality" and "Darkness of Light" intentionally listed only as "Side One" and "Side Two", respectively. These songs were recorded on a four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder in the Imports rehearsal space in the basement of the Krug's home in Hyde Park. The recording engineer was Andrew Clark, guitarist and vocalist of the band Epicycle. In order to achieve some manner of separation between tracks, each member of the band was sequestered in his own corner of the basement. Recording lineup: Ben Krug (vocals), Tom Krug (guitar), Joe Strell (bass), Alec Dale (drums).
In addition to their single, the only other extent recordings of this band's extensive repertoire is a board tape made from their penultimate performance in December 1980 at Sammie's in Minneapolis, where they opened for the Jim Carroll Band, and a couple of rehearsal session tapes, recorded on a monophonic Sears tape recorder. In 2010, these historical tapes were re-mastered and released as a double-CD set.