Rock super groups are a funny thing. Sometimes stars are content to shine on their own, but every once in a while they band together, becoming brighter, heavier, and more desperate for attention. Tensions rise, demands are made, and everything gets more massive until, ultimately, this new star collapses into a gaping black hole, and all is quiet once more. Until the reunion tour, anyway.
Meet Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, a punk super group renown simply for its unusually long lifespan-13 years and running. They have been releasing records steadily since 1996, when they finally agreed to overcome their aversion to recording and work on their first full-length album, Have a Ball. Though all four members have achieved success in other bands (bassist Fat Mike is frontman for NOFX, guitarist Chris Shiflett moonlights with Foo Fighters), they were clear from day one that they did not want this to be about them-and that’s why they work exclusively as a cover band. But Me First is not just any cover band. Each of their albums has a theme that they explore and gallantly bastardize with loud and proud punk antics.
On Tuesday, August 5, Santa Barbara will have the chance to see what all the fuss is about when Me First and the Gimme Gimmes hit Velvet Jones in support of their latest release, Have Another Ball. Spike Slawson, the man responsible for the devilishly catchy vocal work behind Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, had a few things to say about keeping the band ahead of the rest.
How do you decide on a theme for songs to cover? Is there ever dispute over who wants to play what songs? Always. We all sort of elected [Fat] Mike as a leader for that purpose. Not because his musical range is so broad, but because of the opposite. If he hears something and likes it, chances are it’s good. He’s like the standard young guy who listens to modern punk. Like, The Clash listened to soul music and glam music, and they had all these varied influences, but you ask a modern band what their influences are and they all say The Clash, you know? Mike’s a very good indicator because his range is so limited.
After 13 years of doing covers, does it ever get old? Why not work on original material? As for me personally, I would say yes, but with the Gimmes, never. At least, I don’t think so. I think it would get really bogged down if we started doing original stuff, you know? It started so easy and fun and it was just there, but as of now it’s sort of a process of elimination. It’s a weird bouncing act between the creative and the practical side, you know? The process of eliminating the songs and arranging the ones you think might be okay. It can take a lot of time that does not necessarily improve the finished thing, whereas if somebody else wrote the song, that’s such a huge step that’s already been taken.
Have you ever wanted to cover someone who did not want you to cover them? No, I’ve never heard that. The only thing you need to get permission for is a sync license, and we were denied that by the Eagles. But that’s an honor. Their management said not only would they not allow us to do a video for their song because we needed a license, but they also said they hated our song. But we didn’t mind, because Don Henley is such a cunt, you know? It’s like getting booed at a Pirates game. If they cheered, it would’ve been a lot worse.
Numbskull Productions presents Me First and the Gimme Gimmes at Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Tuesday, August 5 at 9 p.m. Visit ticketweb.com for tickets, or call 965-8676.