Dumptruck (band)

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OriginBoston, Massachusetts, United States
GenresCollege Rock, New wave, Americana, Jangle pop, Alternative rock, Roots rock
Years active1983-1991, 1994-present
LabelsBig Time Records, Rykodisc
Associated actsR.E.M., Miracle Legion
MembersSeth Tiven
Alan Durham
Andrew Duplantis
Tommy Roalson
Past membersKirk Swan
Steve Michener
Shawn Devlin
Kevin Salem
Tom Shad
George Duron
Tim McMaster
Mark Patterson
Spike Priggen
Brian Dunton

Dumptruck is an American rock musical group formed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1983 by composers, guitarists and singers Seth Tiven and Kirk Swan.


The principal songwriter and sole continuous member of Dumptruck is Seth Tiven. Born and raised in Connecticut, Tiven received his Bachelor of Arts in music in 1980 from Wesleyan University in Middletown. In 1981 he moved to Boston, where he performed in several local bands with Swan and drummer Mark Mulcahy.

In 1983, Swan and Tiven formed Dumptruck and began writing songs. The duo recorded six songs with Mulcahy at a local studio. "[They were] demos, really, more than anything else," Swan recalled on the liner notes to the 2004 reissue.[1] "Seth and I played bass on each other's songs... which is how we would tackle the songs live in this incarnation of the band." Pleased with the results, the duo recorded six additional songs with drummer James Clement and released D is for Dumptruck on Incas records in 1983.

The record was well-received "The dozen songs fall somewhere between Joy Division and the dB's", said The New Trouser Press Record Guide.[2] Robert Christgau awarded the record an "A-" in his Village Voice review.[3] The duo added Shawn Devlin on drums and Steve Michener on bass for live performances and signed with Big Time Records.

Their second album, Positively Dumptruck was recorded at Mitch Easter's Drive In studio in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with Don Dixon producing.[4] The record was played heavily on college radio and Dumptruck won the Best Independent Album Award at the Boston Music Awards.[5]

"By the end of 1986, a year and a half of pretty constant touring had taken its toll on the band," Tiven remembered.[6] "Steve Michener had quit the band shortly after Positively had been released ... When we returned home from a particularly grueling 3-month tour just before Christmas, Kirk [replacement bassist Michael 'Spike' Priggen] made a decision to leave the band."

When Tiven and Devlin were uncertain about continuing the band, the label urged them to move forward, offering them a chance to record their next album in Rockfield Studios in Wales with producer Hugh Jones.[6] Tiven and Devlin recruited Kevin Salem (guitar, backing vocals) and Tom Shad (bass) and began rehearsing Tiven's new songs.


For The Country was released in September, 1987, to highly positive reviews. All Music Guide gave the album four and one-half stars, saying "these are [Tiven's] strongest and most well-crafted songs yet... without coming across as slick or overprocessed... Highly recommended."

During the tour to support the album, the band discovered that Big Time Records was in financial difficulties, when checks issued by the label bounced.[7] During a meeting with label owner Fred Bestall, the band learned that the label had failed to renew the band's contract prior to its expiration date.[8]

In early 1988, the band learned that Big Time was negotiating to sell Dumptruck's contract to Phonogram Records.[9] The band's lawyer sent Phonogram a copy of the expired contract with a letter instructing the label to negotiate directly with them.

When Big Time discovered that the band was attempting to negotiate directly with Phonogram, the label sued Dumptruck for breach of contract, requesting $5 million in damages, and threatening the other label with a $10 million lawsuit for tortuous interference.[10] Phonogram (and subsequently, other labels) declined to sign a contract with the band until the suit was resolved, leaving the band with no way to release new material.

After almost three years (and $40,000 in legal fees) Dumptruck received a default judgment against Big Time Records when the label's attorneys failed to appear in court for a hearing.[10] The band (which had filed a countersuit) was awarded $240,000 (very little of which it received from the now-bankrupt label) and the rights to its Big Time recordings.[11]

After one of the creditors of Big Time Records filed a lien for rights to Dumptruck's master recordings, the band broke up in 1991, and Tiven moved to Austin Texas.[12]

Later Recordings[edit]

After relocating, Tiven worked as a computer programmer.[11] Songs recorded by the band between 1988-91 were eventually released as Days of Fear in 1994, on Unclean Records. At this time, Tiven was approached by guitarist Alan Durham about reforming Dumptruck with Austin musicians. Tiven was open to the idea and soon they were joined by drummer George Duron and a cast of bass players. Tiven and Durham still make up the core of Dumptruck, playing in Austin TX and occasionally doing shows in the Northeast with original members. Since relocating to Austin, Dumptruck has issued records: Terminal (1998) and Lemmings Travel to the Sea (2001), both on Devil In The Woods Records, and most recent "Wrecked" (2018)Schoolkids Records [13]

Salem has released six solo recordings and worked as a guitarist, vocalist, producer or engineer with artists including Emmylou Harris, Yo La Tengo, Mercury Rev and Mooney Suzuki.[14]

In 1999, Swan released a solo album, entitled It's About Time.[15] In 2009, he released a second album, It's Only Me.[16]

In 2003, Rykodisc reissued the band's first three albums with additional tracks.[17] In 2006, the label released a compilation CD, "Haul of Fame." [18]

In 2007, Tiven released a solo recording, entitled "Solitude".[19] Dumptruck continues to perform occasional shows in the Austin area.[20]


  • D Is For Dumptruck (1983)
  • Positively Dumptruck (1986)
  • For The Country (1987)
  • Days Of Fear (1994)
  • Terminal (1998)
  • Lemmings Travel To The Sea (2001)
  • Haul Of Fame (2006)
  • Wrecked (2018)


  1. ^ "Liner Notes from D is For Dumptruck". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  2. ^ TrouserPress.com :: Dumptruck
  3. ^ Robert Christgau: CG: Dumptruck
  4. ^ Positively Dumptruck [Bonus Tracks] - Dumptruck | AllMusic
  5. ^ Retooled Dumptruck Hits The Road - Los Angeles Times
  6. ^ a b "Liner Notes from For the Country". Archived from the original on 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  7. ^ "Even Piled With Problems, Dumptruck Plows Ahead" - Morning Call
  8. ^ "Liner Notes from "Days of Fear" CD". Archived from the original on 2012-06-30. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  9. ^ "Dumptruck: The Long Ride" - Perfect Sound Forever
  10. ^ a b "Dumptruck Reissue Conjures up the Record Industry's Ugly Past" - Chicago Tribune
  11. ^ a b "After Lawsuit Woes, Dumptruck Rides Again" - Los Angeles Times
  12. ^ Seth Tiven biography page[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Dumptruck, And Tiven, Keep The Indie Spirit Alive" - Hartford Courant
  14. ^ Discography page from Kevin Salem's web site
  15. ^ AllMusicGuide page for It's About Time
  16. ^ iTunes release page for It's Only Me
  17. ^ ""Dumptruck Get Some Respect" - Boston Phoenix". Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
  18. ^ "Dumptruck: Haul of Fame" - PopMatters
  19. ^ "Press Release for "Solitude" - Seth Tiven website". Archived from the original on 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  20. ^ Seth Tiven & Dumptruck :: Music - ReverbNation

External links[edit]