He's flattered to be remembered at all, but David Lowery did not need the new Diablo Cody-written movie "Young Adult" to remind him that his band Cracker is nowadays mostly seen as an early-1990s nostalgia act. That reminder comes on a daily basis thanks to his new job teaching a music-business course at the University of Georgia.
"A lot of the students there tell me the same thing we heard from the soldiers when we performed over in Iraq" in 2009, Lowery said with a droll laugh. "They said, 'Dude, my parents are going to totally freak out when they find out I was hanging out with you.'"
Let's give Gen-X rock fans a little break and hope those kids were referring to Lowery's earlier, far quirkier band, Camper Van Beethoven, a mainstay of the college-rock circuit in the mid-'80s that landed one novelty underground hit, "Take the Skinheads Bowling."
Lowery enjoyed steady mainstream radio play with Cracker in the early 1990s with the slacker-flavored songs "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" and "Low." The latter landed on the "Young Adult" soundtrack alongside the Replacements, Lemonheads and other bands of the grunge era who weren't all really grunge. Now both of Lowery's groups have paired up for a short twofer tour coming to Minneapolis in the dead of winter.
"The advantage for me is I get to essentially cover my entire catalog in one night, which I really enjoy, and hopefully some of the fans do," said Lowery. "The disadvantage is it's a really long show, and actually a lot of work."
The eclectic, gypsy-punk-gone-country ensemble Camper Van Beethoven -- which originally disbanded in 1990 -- has been working on its first new album in eight years. "With [Camper], we really don't play a whole lot, and we kind of like it that way," he said. "Which is funny, since everybody in the business is touring more now because it's the only way to make money anymore."
As for the more straight-ahead Cracker, 2009's twangy effort "Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey" is actually something of a return to form.
"Cracker's first record really was a lot more Southern-rock/country-rock than people remember," he said. "I remember our longtime A&R person at Virgin said to us when we turned in that record, 'It sounds great. But do you really want to put out a country-rock record when nobody else is?' This was 1991, when Nirvana hit."
Lowery's trajectory with Cracker through the early '90s echoes that of ex-Minneapolitan Bob Mould's post-Hüsker Dü band Sugar, as the former indie-rockers went mainstream with new bands.
"We all kind of grew out of the tail end of punk-rock, when punk had sort of become this rigid art form and some of us just wanted to play rock 'n' roll -- something poppier, but not like classic rock, our own kind of thing. The mainstream sort of moved toward us instead of the other way around. MTV and radio suddenly discovered our bands. It wasn't like a specific stylistic thing. It was just like we were held up as the 'new generation of rock.'"