DC-born Punk band Underheaven has announced that they will be releasing To Every Purpose, a two song EP, recorded in late 2021 at Inner Ear Studios, the recording facility run by the band’s founding guitarist Don Zientara, who also engineered and produced these tracks. The songs “The Moment I Die” and “One Mad Answer” are being released as a digital download and via streaming platforms on May 26, 2023 by MoVillainous Records.
Underheaven was created by Washington DC area Punk Rockers who were already veterans of the scene when they started the band in 1982. Library of Congress AV professional Don Zientara was contacted by a former bandmate, Robert Goldstein, to record his new band, The Look, which included bassist / songwriter Howard Wuelfing. This resulted in the first Punk-related recording engineered by Zientara or made in the Capitol City, inaugurating a long career for Zientara, owner of the Inner Ear Studios.
Wuelfing meanwhile would move on to The Slickee Boys, then form The Nurses, recording with Zientara with both outfits. In 1982, he came to Zientara and proposed forming a new band that would meld “Post-Punk heterodoxy with classic guitar-pop melodies” with Zientara on guitars and vocals. They choose the name Underheaven, inspired by The Byrds / Pete Seeger tune “Turn Turn Turn.”
Joined by drummer Richie Labrie and guitarist Mark Jickling, from the group Half Japanese, this combo debuted with a live performance on Bethesda’s WHFS, played East Coast venues from Richmond to New York opening for bands like R.E.M. and the Bangles, and recorded with Ian MacKaye overseeing.
One of these tracks surfaced on an early compilation by the nascent Sub Pop label. A motorcycle accident and lengthy recuperation for Zientara spelled the end of the band, though the three other members stayed together and were absorbed into an expanded edition of Half Japanese, recorded with them at Inner Ear, and played that outfit’s first live West Coast shows.
Between 1982 – 1984 we were in a strange time where Underheaven was doing more guitar-pop even though punk was king at the time. Yet there was a punk tone that underlay Underheaven’s sound. Failed love was a recurring theme of ours. It was emotional punk. It had a mood to it, not just a loud, brash in your face attitude. Not that we’re putting that down.
Jickling, Zientara and Wuelfing reconnected in early 2019, recruited Gary Smith and began sorting through all set lists, baking and digitizing vintage recordings, and introducing new material. Dan Buccino, formerly of the Insect Surfers took over from Smith later in 2019.
Underheaven were preparing to start playing live just as the COVID-19 pandemic began raging and after putting all activities on hold undertook recording some of Wuelfing’s vintage originals. In the midst of the recording, Zientara learned that the building Inner Ear was located in and much of the surrounding neighborhood had been purchased to make way for an “Arts And Industry” corridor and that he’d need to move.
According to the band, “Much time, effort and emotion went into disposing of a massive amount of vintage recording gear, musical instruments and priceless analogue tapes accumulated over four decades,” before Zientara was able to re-establish his operation in the basement of his suburban Arlington, VA home.
They add, “This traumatic transition did spell the end of this iteration of Underheaven.” However, just before this line-up formally disbanded, Wuelfing began writing songs again after a 35 year hiatus. Soon after the D.C. edition of the band’s dissolution, he partnered with fellow Lower Bucks County, PA resident Chris Gelok, best known for his work with a series of Philadelphia area Progressive Death Metal projects and the pair have been steadily writing new material and recording.