Sara Steinberg didn't drop out of graduate school just to sink what meager amounts of cash she had left into releasing a record by her favorite hometown band, Ain't.
But, the first thing she did do after quitting the New College for Creative Writing in San Francisco earlier this year, after running into the band's guitarist/songwriter, Sluggo, was tell him again how much she loved the band's demo.
The meeting turned out to be more profound than anyone might have guessed.
"Sluggo was on his bike and I ran into him the day I quit," said Steinberg, co- founder of Gluttony Productions, which has just released Ain't's pure punk If It's Illegal to Rock and Roll...Then Throw My Ass In Jail. "And I'd been listening to their demo all the time and I told him I thought it was sad that no one on a mass scale would hear this album."
So, Steinberg, who had no experience in the music business, decided to launch the label with her then-girlfriend, Christy Schaefer, for the express purpose of putting out the album, a mix of righteous, throaty punk vocals from singer Laurian (no last names, please) and speedy, rockabilly and grunge- influenced guitar riffs from Sluggo himself.
The hyper-kinetic Laurian, 27, already gaining a reputation in S.F. for her wildly engaging stage presence, just recently joined the band, her first. "Sluggo started the band a while ago," Laurian, said, "I just started singing when he asked me to join and I figured since I was a big music fan, I could probably make some too."
The 14-track album, produced by Jack Endino (L7, Mudhoney, Nirvana) swings from the power sludge of "Aren't You Glad That I Don't Call My Fist, 'Papa?'," which samples a thudding drum loop from the band's hometown friend DJ Fanatik, to the stutter-step snarl of "Rum Old Joker." Much of the album's tracks bear the unmistakable stench of the sludgy grunge sound Endino pioneered in the late '80s and early '90s as one of the Northwest's most in-demand producers.
"We just call ourselves a rock 'n' roll band," Laurian said, "which I guess makes us part of a dying breed. Sluggo knew Jack a bit from before and asked him if he wanted to work with us and he just made it sound the way it does, with an emphasis on big guitars and low-end vocals."
And despite easy associations with the speedy crunch of early influences such as Husker Du and Black Flag, Laurian claimed to have no allegiances to either of those bands. "Maybe when I was 16," she said, "but it's not what I'm about. The music is kind of punk rock, but it's also pop. I love pop."
As for her rumbling, slightly scary vocal attack, the Portland, Ore. native admits that she may have developed her singing style by default from years of listening to "punk girl bands" such as L7, Babes in Toyland, Hole, Frightwig, and especially Gits singer Mia Zapata.
"It's not just about screaming, though," Laurian said. "It's also about trying to hold notes with a little vibrato and not just climbing the vocal masturbation ladder."
The singer said the band, which has gone through a number of members and styles since the early '90s -- one of which rears its mole-flecked head in a frantic, pummeling cover of Motorhead's "Rock 'n' Roll" -- lives most of all for the live experience. "Sluggo's a mad man," she said. "One thing that's happened with the re-introduction of the Moog [synthesizer] and all this Seattle shoe-gazer pop thing is, I can be as self-deprecating as the next person, but music isn't dangerous anymore. There's no surprises. Gosh, a mosh pit? When you go to a show you want to worry about where your beer will end up and if you'll get bloody, that's what I'm into."
But it's not just her rock sense that Steinberg loves about Laurian. It's her voice and how it fits with the band. "I just think Laurian has one of the greatest voices going," Steinberg said. "And she's an incredible performer. I just wish some major label would hear this and say 'this is so great we want these kids to make music and money and not have jobs.'" [Sat., Nov. 22, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]