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A longtime fixture of the Bay Area power pop scene, Chris Von Sneidern was one of the pop underground's more accomplished singer/songwriters, earning a cult following with a string of indie releases during the '90s. Born in Syracuse, NY, Von Sneidern joined a local outfit called the U-Turns in the early '80s before relocating to San Francisco in 1985. He played with several locally based power pop bands — including the Lost Patrol and (as bassist) the Sneetches — before joining Flying Color as guitarist in 1987. After they broke up in 1990, Von Sneidern hit the road with former Beat leader Paul Collins and lived for a short time in New York before returning to San Francisco to pursue a solo career. He surfaced on the Heyday label and issued his self-produced debut album, Sight & Sound, in 1993; in addition to winning raves from power pop fans, it also featured a guest appearance from John Wesley Harding, with whom Von Sneidern would collaborate frequently in the years to come. The follow-up, Big White Lies, appeared in 1994, and as word of Von Sneidern's music spread in the pop underground, he picked up more production work in addition to his own recordings, and opened his own Bay Area studio.
When Von Sneidern returned with his third album, Go!, in 1996, he was on the local indie Mod Lang; that label also released the follow-up, 1998's Wood + Wire. For his next project, Von Sneidern formed a soul/R&B-influenced outfit called the Sportsmen, which also featured pianist Khoi-San, guitarist Dave "Shaggy" Gleason, bassist Teenage Rob, and drummer Derek Ritchie. Their debut album, Spirited, was released in 1999 by the Japanese Lazy Cat label. Von Sneidern subsequently formed his own label, which allowed him to release several idiosyncratic projects in 2000. First came London Payne (subtitled Searching the Muse: Memoirs Across America), which set poetry by John R. Dykes to music; it was followed by 2-cute 2-be 4-gotten, a similar exercise that drew from poetry written by teenage girls. Finally, there was an additional live album spanning 1998-2000, Live Start Lifting.