Over the course of their seven-year recording career, Columbus, OH's Gaunt gained a sizeable following in their hometown, as well as across the globe. Fronted by the wisecracking vocalist/guitarist Jerry Wick, the quartet recorded albums for highly esteemed record labels like Thrill Jockey and Amphetamine Reptile before signing to Warner Brothers and eventually splitting up. In 1967, Jerry Wick was born in Parma, OH, to the proud parents of Sharon and Jerry Wick. Years later, during the early '90s, Wick set off to study violin at Kent State University. Upon his arrival, Wick had a general distaste in his mouth about the whole experience. Two weeks after starting classes at Kent State, Wick was in Columbus putting a rock band together. He landed a job at Used Kids Records and performed with the psychedelic band Black Ju Ju, but Wick was itching to be a successful musician and recruited guitarist Jovan Karcic, bassist Eric Barth, and drummer Jeff Regensburger. The foursome became Gaunt in 1991 and immediately recorded a split 7" record with friends the New Bomb Turks.
Gaunt's debut to the Columbus music scene was a lo-fi affair. Wick had recorded the material using a Yamaha four-track recorder and a Tascam Porta05. By the time the 7" was preparing to be released, Barth had exited from the bass spot and been replaced by New Bomb Turks' guitarist Jim Weber (aka Jim Motherfucker). Although Barth had played bass for the record, his image was omitted from the band photo on the front sleeve. A former New York resident named Craig Regala had just moved to Columbus when he heard about Gaunt and gave them the opportunity to release the record on his upstart label, Datapanik. As 1992 reared its head, the Columbus scene was starting to gain serious attention due to bands like Scrawl and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments. Gaunt decided to release two singles, the first of which, titled Fielder's Choice, appeared on Datapanik, while the second, dubbed Jim Motherfucker, was released on Anyway Stuff. Weber handed the band his resignation to focus more time on the New Bomb Turks, and Barth came back to the fold. Before 1992 came to a close, Gaunt appeared on an Anyway Stuff compilation, recorded a 10" album, and contributed to Datapanik's Bumped By Karaoke greatest hits collection. Gaunt appeared alongside other Ohio upstarts Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, Appalachian Death Ride, Mike Rep and the Quotas, as well as their old friends the New Bomb Turks on the Datapanik CD. As for the 10" album, that came about after Gaunt went to New York. The band was asked to visit the city upon an invitation from Matador Records' president Gerard Cosloy. Thrill Jockey label owner Tina Richards happened to be in the audience and was so impressed by the performance that she called Wick three weeks later to ask if she could release some material by the band. This wound up being the 10" full-length debut, Whitey the Man, which displayed Wick's knack for penning sloppy punk pop. As so happens, the band was the first signing for the label and their album was only the second release for Thrill Jockey.
Gaunt kept busy into 1993, recording a split 7" record with Ohio band the Beavers for the Demolition Derby label. They also followed up their Thrill Jockey debut with a single for the label and had four songs featured on Datapanik's Shave the Baby compilation, which drew from the band's first three singles and one unreleased track. Gaunt also recorded a split 7" with Dayton's Guided By Voices for the Bag of Hammers imprint. With all of this activity, Gaunt didn't have time to release a full-length album in 1993, but they made up for it the following year. In January of 1994, Gaunt called upon the duties of veteran indie producer and Big Black/Rapeman/Shellac frontman Steve Albini to produce their next full-length effort for Thrill Jockey. The band traveled to Chicago for the sessions that month and finished the recordings in May and July. Scissor Girl Azita Youssefi assisted on vocals and keyboards in the studio. The album, called Sob Story, appeared later that year, along with appearances on an Anyway Stuff singles compilation and a 7" for the small indie label Potential Ashtray.
As 1995 began, Gaunt realized that they had accumulated enough extra material from the prior year's visits to Chicago that they used the leftovers for their third full-length album, I Can See Your Mom From Here, which was released that February on Thrill Jockey. Meanwhile, the band was touring and made a stop in Minneapolis, where Tom Hazelmeyer -- head of Amphetamine Reptile Records -- put the group up at his home for a night. While there, Gaunt penned ten new songs, and Hazelmeyer offered to record the tunes. The group stepped into the label's studio with house producer and Halo of Flies' bassist Tim Mac to record their most pop-sounding record yet. The result was Gaunt's fourth LP, Yeah, Me Too, released on Amphetamine Reptile that November. The project was a one-off deal, however, as Gaunt was still obligated to Thrill Jockey. Gaunt was impressed with the work that Mac had done and decided to hire him on as the producer for their next album, Kryptonite, as well. The band returned to Thrill Jockey for the April 1996 release of the album. The production was even more slick this time around and began to catch the attention of various critics, as well as A&R representatives from various major record companies. Aside from having their song "Ohio" from the I Can See Your Mom From Here album on a Nitro! Records compilation that same year, the band also experienced a lineup change as Barth left to be replaced by bassist Brett Falcon and Regensburger left to be replaced by drummer Sam Brown. Upon their arrival, the group recorded and released a single for the Super 08 Records label. The band's name created even more of a stir in the national music media when the group was asked to write a song for the MTV program Buzzkill. That April, Mac journeyed to Columbus where he once again assisted the group in producing the theme song for the television show. Wick also spent his spare time recording solo albums that year under the pseudonym of Cocaine Sniffing Triumph.
As 1997 rolled in, Gaunt received a call from their old friend Regala at Datapanik Records. He was in the midst of assembling 38 Ohio bands to record a tribute to Cleveland experimental art-rock mavens Pere Ubu. Gaunt agreed to record the Ubu song "Solution" for the compilation. The release appeared that February and included such groups as Scrawl, Cleveland's Cobra Verde, Dayton's Brainiac, and Cincinnati's Ass Ponys. Wick also helped to produce an album from the Columbus band Ego Summit, which contained members of Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and the Gibson Brothers. Gaunt also appeared on an Amphetamine Reptile compilation that same year.
Everything seemed fairly normal for the band, but as they were touring through Minneapolis, Warner Brothers Records' representative Bruce McGuire caught their show. By this point in their career, Gaunt had toured both America and Europe, which also sparked McGuire's interest. He immediately signed the group to a deal with Warner Brothers. Since the last two albums had been well-received by the public, Gaunt once again hired Mac to assist them in polishing their sound even more for their major-label debut. The band also tapped the shoulder of producer Brian Paulson, who helped create the atmospheres on Slint's Spiderland. By the time the group finished recording the new material at Minnesota's Pachyderm Studios, they had treaded ground in previously unknown territories to the band. Bricks and Blackouts was released by Warner Brothers in March of 1998 and featured ballads, power pop, and sad love songs. Gaunt followed the release with a tour of the West Coast and southern United States, where they had the opportunity to perform at Austin's South by Southwest music festival. The tour became even more extensive as the band traveled to the Eastern United States and Canada. Back at the Warner Brothers' offices, sales figures for the new album weren't looking so hot. The company was ultimately disappointed in the public response to the record and dropped the group late that year. This ultimately led to the breakup of the group shortly after their release from the label. Brown went on to join Weber in the New Bomb Turks, while the other members pursued full-time jobs.
As of 2001, Wick was working at the Columbus restaurant Dagwood's. He was still a presence in the scene, going out to support local bands. Wick's life was brought to a close however in the early morning hours of January 10, 2001. After spending the previous day with former coworkers at Used Kids Records, Wick was riding his bicycle home from the Columbus bar Larry's at 2:30 a.m., when he approached a flashing red light at the intersection of North Fourth Street and East Hudson Avenue. Wick didn't stop, and a car heading eastbound on East Hudson Avenue struck him. 20 minutes later, following massive head injuries and a fractured neck, Wick passed away. Wick, who had spent seven years with Gaunt writing lyrics about literature, friendships, and relationships, was dead at the age of 33. ~ Stephen Howell