Get Your Premium Membership

David Berman Biography | Poet

Photo of David Berman

Berman (born 1967 in Williamsburg, Virginia) attended high school at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, before matriculating to the University of Virginia. While in Charlottesville, Virginia, Berman began writing and performing songs (often left on friends' voice message machines) with his loose band, Ectoslavia, primarily composed of UVA classmates Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich.

Upon graduation from the University of Virginia, the trio moved to New York City, where they shared an apartment and adopted the moniker 'Silver Jews,' in part after the '60s group Silver Apples and slang for blonde-haired Jewish people.

Before moving to New York, Malkmus had also founded another band, Pavement, with his childhood friend Scott Kannberg. As Pavement's acclaim and visibility grew, the notion arose that the Silver Jews were a "Pavement side-project," despite the fact that Berman's writing, singing, and guitar playing led the band's music. On the band's early recordings, Berman even tried to protect the Jews' individuality by listing Malkmus and Nastanovich under aliases, but it backfired when people learned who "Hazel Figurine" and "Bobby N." really were.

Not long after the success of Pavement's debut album, Slanted and Enchanted (which was named after a cartoon Berman had created), Dan Koretsky, founder of the Chicago-based indie label Drag City, met Berman at a Pavement show. When he heard of the Jews' tapes, Koretsky offered to release them. On their first single and EP for the label, 1990's "Dime Map of the Reef" and 1993's The Arizona Record, respectively, the band held to their ultra lo-fi aesthetic and recorded the majority of both on a Walkman.

After the release of the EPs, Berman entered a graduate-level writing program at the University of Massachusetts and met like-minded members of local bands--the indie-rock/alt-country hybrid Scud Mountain Boys and New Radiant Storm King. Writing and teaching at the university left Berman time for songwriting; soon, he had enough material for an album, which became 1994's Starlite Walker. The album reunited Berman with Malkmus and Nastanovich (this time listed by their real names in the credits) in the 24-track Easley Recording studios for a more focused, polished take on the Silver Jews' literate, lyrical, country and noise-inspired rock.

David Berman: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes