Bitch Magnet was formed in the fall of 1986 by Jon Fine (guitar) and Sooyoung Park (bass and vocals), when the two were sophomores at Oberlin College. In 1987, they convinced drummer Orestes Morfín — then known as Orestes Delatorre — to sign on.
In January 1988, they recorded their debut mini-LP Star Booty in three days. The band self-released it in the fall of 1988 on their Roman Candle label, and the band began performing and building a following in key US cities. The pressing of 1,000 copies sold out quickly and the band was signed to The Communion Label in the US and Shigaku/What Goes On in the UK. Both labels reissued Star Booty and released the widely-acclaimed Umber, which saw the band add Dave Galt on guitar.
Amid a wave of extraordinarily positive notices in the British and European press, the band toured Europe, with Galt and Bastro/Squirrel Bait founder David Grubbs on guitar, in fall of 1989. Following the tour, with Grubbs on guitar, the band recorded the single “Valmead.”
The trio lineup of Fine, Morfín, and Park reconvened in the early spring of 1990 to record what would be their final album, the hugely influential Ben Hur. The album is now often cited as a key inspiration for the kind of instrumentally-focused music that would become known as “post-rock.” The “Valmead” single cracked the Top 20 on the British independent charts, and the band toured the US and Europe that year.
Bitch Magnet played its final show on December 30, 1990 in Holland at Groningen’s Vera Club. After the band quietly split up, its video for Ben Hur’s “Mesentery” garnered MTV airplay in the US and Europe. In 2004, Mojo magazine named Umber one of its “Lost Albums You Must Own.”
After Bitch Magnet’s dissolution, Park went on to form Seam. Morfín drummed in Walt Mink and Godrifle. Fine formed Vineland and Coptic Light, and briefly played in Don Caballero.
Much like their contemporaries in Slint, in the years following their breakup, Bitch Magnet has been recognized as a significant influence on generations of aggressive and musically complex bands, including Don Caballero, Rodan, June of 44 and Battles.
Bitch Magnet’s reunion at All Tomorrows Parties “Nightmare Before Christmas” will mark its first live performance since 1990, and the first onstage appearance of the band’s original lineup – Morfín, Park, and Fine – since 1989.
Jim Merlis/Big Hassle