“We can just sit here and watch my demise,” said Parry Gripp, leaning over his iPhone a few weeks back outside the Dutch Gardens. He did not look truly horrified. What Gripp and I were witnessing was the precipitous plunge the ringtone he wrote was taking. “Two weeks ago it was number-one,” he said, referring to “This Is My Ringtone,” a ditty he produced, posted, and then watched climb the charts, as the world of ringtone purchasers picked up the Goleta-born pop composer’s beautifully ironic jingle. “You don’t got one/You got Verizon,” he sings over melodies performed by Rhianna, Train, and B.O.B. (Eventually, it got capsized by Usher’s “OMG.”) “I was the number one ringtone for two whole weeks, though,” he explains.
But don’t cry for Gripp, Santa Barbara. Most people grow content with lives of quiet desperation; Parry’s existence has been more like a parade of brilliant, hilarious career triumphs. The former lead guitarist for Nerf Herder—part of the mid-1990s S.B. rock renaissance that also produced bands like Summercamp, Dishwalla, and Snot—Gripp is also famed for writing the steaming rock riff that opens TV’s glorious Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Back then Nerf Herder partied with Joss Whedon, Sarah Michelle Geller, and even Alyson Hannigan—Willow, dude!) He’s also managed to help run his parents’ orchid business and memorably wrote this paper’s Positively State Street column back when Club Iguana was downtown’s hotspot. Though Nerf Herder has been mostly on hiatus since 2003, Gripp avoided post-punk doldrums by creating a project he called “A Song a Week.”
“I just started doing it and putting the songs on my Web site,” said Gripp. Then an advertising exec called him out of the blue, asking if he could maybe write a song about waffles. They didn’t use it, but the goofy anthem, fittingly titled “Do You Like Waffles?” created a cultural juggernaut. As did most of the other songs Gripp has wrote, animated, and posted on this new gizmo the kids call YouTube. There’s “Cat Flushing a Toilet,” “Nom Nom Nom Nom” (more than 5 million hits), and “Chimpanzee on a Segway,” among others.
“Without a doubt, my favorite is ‘Spaghetti Cat I Weep for You,’” said Gripp, who is also now King of Hoagies for the Wawa company in Philadelphia. “’Cat Flushing a Toilet’ was in the last Michael Moore movie and Bill O’Reilly showed it, too, so I’m covered at both political ends,” he quipped. Gripp, who began life making “Unable to Get a Date” music, is now known everywhere computer screens intersect the Internet. “There’s all these little kids, like 10 or 11 years old, who know my songs,” said the former punk rocker gleefully. “That’s weird to me.”