Did Sufjan Stevens record an album called Stalker in 1998? A Reddit user under the name lookitzpancakes alleged as much Wednesday afternoon. The user, later identified as a Dallas actor and musician named Marc Rebillet, posted images of the unreleased CD-R’s homemade packaging, which he claimed to have plucked from a Brooklyn dumpster after Sufjan disposed of it several years ago.
Lending credibility to Rebillet’s story is a 2006 interview with Delusions Of Adequacy in which Sufjan mentions that he has written songs about stalkers. On the other hand, the album’s liner notes say “© 1998 Asthmatic Kitty Records.” Sufjan didn’t found Asthmatic Kitty until 1999, but it doesn’t seem impossible that he would have printed the name on DIY artwork before actually launching the company.
As for the music, it sounds close enough to Sufjan that it could feasibly be real, but it’s so lo-fi that it could just as easily be fake. Stereogum contacted a representative from Asthmatic Kitty, who could neither confirm nor deny that the album was authentic. The same label rep, John Beeler, chimed in on Reddit after Rebillet leaked the music:
As someone who’s been privy over the years to unreleased music from several artists, I’d say you have received a special gift. You’re hearing something only a few have ever heard. It’s a rare honor. Whenever an artist sends me music early I take it very seriously.
I would rather you not share someone’s music without their permission; Sufjan or anyone else’s. If it was in the trash, there was a reason (most likely the expectation that it’d sit in a huge landfill outside of NYC).
AKR won’t send any “severe takedowns” or legal notices. We don’t do that. Instead, I’m asking you, as someone who’s also had the special privilege of hearing unreleased music, to politely ask that you keep it to yourself.
Beeler later added:
Like any great musician Sufjan writes a ton of music. 99% of it is unreleased for whatever reason. Sometimes you just have to trust the smurfjam
Rebillet later removed the leak and deleted his Reddit account. We caught up with him over email to get more details about the alleged lost Sufjan album.
STEREOGUM: When was it exactly that you found the Stalker CD?
MARC REBILLET: If I remember correctly, I found the CD in 2014.
STEREOGUM: Where did you work at the time/in what capacity? In what neighborhood in Brooklyn?
REBILLET: I worked in DUMBO, right off the East River where Sufjan’s studio/office is located. Same building. Same floor. Next door. I won’t say more than that in the interest of his privacy, as ironic as that may sound coming from me.
STEREOGUM: Why did you decide to upload it now?
REBILLET: I was rummaging through the drawers in my desk and the little guy resurfaced. I thought to myself, “Holy shit…why have I not shared this with people? This is a gem!”
STEREOGUM: What else did you find among Sufjan’s garbage?
REBILLET: Hundreds, maybe thousands of CDs in there. Seven Swans, The Age Of Adz, Christmas albums, track stems from his mixes, dozens of copies of each. The dumpster was pretty much filled with his stuff. It was inside our building, across the hall from one of my company’s offices on the first floor.
STEREOGUM: Did you have to like, climb into the dumpster, or was this CD sitting on top of a trash pile?
REBILLET: Me and a couple co-workers literally walked up to the dumpster and lifted this stuff out of the top. It wasn’t some treasure hunt. Very visible, very accessible, no dirt or grime or creepy binoculars. Just CDs in a dumpster.
STEREOGUM: Why did you delete the Reddit post?
REBILLET: I deleted the Reddit post because I felt awful about sharing the album after Asthmatic Kitty’s spokesperson kindly asked me not to. That was definitely a misstep on my part. I should have respected his wishes. On the other hand…this is trash we’re talking about. Publicly available trash. I didn’t Frankenstein the album together; it was right there, perfectly intact, complete with a clean-cut square of album art and a track listing. After discovering that it was never released, and reading the desperation from Sufjan fans who really wanted to hear this little piece of his history, I decided it best to allow Stalker to live through the self-multiplying preservationists that make the internet what it is. The alternative was a sad, quiet death for an album that I think shows a wonderfully playful side of Sufjan’s early career.
STEREOGUM: What would you say to people who believe this is an elaborate troll?
REBILLET: Hoax? Whatever. They can think what they want. I have neither the time nor the desire to prove its authenticity. It’s real.
STEREOGUM: What’s your favorite Sufjan album?
REBILLET: I think The BQE and Carrie & Lowell are two absolute masterpieces. Can’t go wrong with some Illinoise either, but the two I listed are closer to my heart.