Amongst the plethora of modern punk bands that play cheesy msuic covers, Me First and The Gimme Gimmes stand out. A punk super group, featuring members of NOFX and Swinging Utters, MFATGG routinely tour the nation and have released several full fledge album plus countless 7"s. From her secret fortress of solitude in Australia, Semone Maksimovic talks to Spike Slawson, lead singer of America's Number 1 party band.
Semone: You how did you first come up with the idea of Me First & The Gimme Gimmes being an all-star cover band?
Spike: Well, it was like six or seven years ago and it was just the shortest distance between two points, where you decide to start a band and then you're literally playing the next night. I mean, with the amount of bad original material that's out there, we didn't really see any reason to add to the cannon of bad original music, you gotta give some of these songs a home.
Semone: So how do you choose the songs you cover? Is there a rule in decision making at all?
Spike: Well, it's not really a question of choice, it's more what we're physically capable of doing, which is pretty limited. So, it's this sort of process of elimination, we'll try to play like 25 songs and then only one song will actually sound good, so we start from there. That was kinda where we got the idea of releasing 7"s. It's the only actual approach to being in a band that I've ever been involved in, like the approach we take when releasing songs and I'd never done anything like that before in other bands. We walk in and go 'here's the idea, we put out 500 copies of each 7". It's super limited and it's either going to be totally meaningless or elevate you to some weird mythical rarity.
Semone: What's the best song you would say that The Gimme Gimmes have covered? Or the song that you've done the best job with Gimme-tising?
Spike: I like the Boys II Men song that we did "End of the Road," you know the talking part where the guy leans on a step on the beach and starts pouring his heart out as his forgiving this girl...he was kinda like a lemming huh?
Semone: Yeah, all of those guys were lemmings!
Spike: (laughs and continues to chew gum) Well anyway, Joey kinda transformed that into his own, he made it more like a Santa Barbara guy, or maybe even more like an Australian guy, that would probably be the best Santa Barbara counter-part. Rich kids that hang out by the beach and commit crimes and stuff like that. Santa Barbara's a weird fucking place.
Semone: How so?
Spike: They're just people without a care in the world, that somehow wind up being criminals by the time they're like 14 or 15 and stuff like that, so that's Santa Barbara, I grew up in Pittsburgh, so the violence and crime there was excusable cause the town was disintegrating around us, but anyway, here I am in California!
Semone: And a little bitter about it by the sounds of things?
Spike: No, I love it, well I love San Francisco anyway. It's like a gay mecca, filled with people just walking around with pure bred dogs, nice shoes, good haircuts, you know what I mean? It's filled with wine stores and nice restraints, it's nice."
Semone: So, back on track, are there any cover songs out there that you guys wouldn't even dream of attempting?
Spike: We did "Stairway To Heaven" on the recent Warped tour. Mike somehow convinced us that it was a good idea to do Stairway To Heaven, so I guess there's no song out there we wouldn't touch (laughs).
Semone: What song would you say you've done the worst job with?
Spike: Let's see, you know, I'm gonna have to go with "Nothing Compares To You." We picked it cause Prince wrote it and it fit with the black motif we had for the new record, so that's why we went with it. But live it's a shambles. See, we don't practice, so live we're like watching a public rehearsal. The first five days are like a practice and there's a reason why practice rooms are sound-proofed, it's not only to keep the noise out, it's to keep the noise in (laughs), it's bad. But, we've got two rehearsals planned just prior to (Australian) Livid Festival, so we should be in better form. If we're not good, we will have a bar to take the attention away from us.
Semone: What covers do you find go down best live in a festival situation?
Spike: Well, when you're in a half hour slot in between other half hour slots, it's best to keep the energy up and belt out the faster, livelier ones. I'm looking back now and I guess we don't really do that, I mean we've been having a lot of time between songs and that's bad (laughs), because then, Fat Mike feels compelled to talk and say something so universally wrong and offensive, that everyone, even people in the band just turn around with their mouths open just going "Oh my God! Did he really just say that?" So now there's this pressure, to try and not have any time between our songs, or else Fat Mike is going to pipe in. And there's going to be a bar onstage. What is it about bars? what is it about alcohol?
Semone: You really do love this bar idea don't you? (laughs)
Spike: Yeah, of course. Alcohol gives you this gender tolerance and acceptance and then suddenly with alcohol Mike turns into Archie Bunker.
Semone: Do you have any new covers that you've been working on?
Spike: "Stairway To Heaven" and now Mike is talking about "Hotel California." You can't sink lower than "Stairway To Heaven" and I keep expecting to be able to say to Mike "Okay, you've proved it there's no lower we can go" and then he comes out with something like "Hotel California."
Semone: So, the cheesier the better?
Spike: I guess so, there certainly aren't any ethos in this band. It's more spontaneous, maybe that's why we don't practice.
Semone: Cause you like to keep it spontaneous and more like a party vibe?
Spike: Yeah, exactly, maybe that's it, I'll go with that excuse anyway. (laughs) When people are seeing human entertainment they recognise it, when they're seeing human flaws, they recognise it, that's why reality shows are so popular.
Semone: So, how would you describe a Me First show for anybody that hasn't seen one yet?
Spike: First of all, I would have to say, that we have a bar onstage, just to help distract you from that fact that technically, we're not good or talented. We're a cover band, so don't expect anything but a good time party band and you'll be okay.
Semone: What would you guys never play a summer festival without?
Spike: A bar, I keep going back to the bar, that way when we play hopefully all eyes will be on the bar, we need to find like an Australian Norm Peterson to sit at the bar during the performance and give him a microphone to comment on the set and request songs as he gets drunk for the duration of the set.
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