Covers, that's what Me First And The Gimme Gimmes are all about. Taking original songs we all know from the radio and spicing them up into punk rock versions. Brought to you by a super group comprised of artists such as Lagwagon's Joey Cape and Dave Raun, Scott Schiflett and Bad Religion's Jay Bentley and last but not least their crooning vocalist Spike Slawson.
When given the chance to meet up with Spike in their tour bus during their first European show of the tour at Groezrock, we at RMP couldn't resist this opportunity to hear all about our favorite coverband.
Welcome to Groezrock. For most of you it's not your first visit. What may we expect today from Me First And The Gimme Gimmes?
Covers, other people's shit. A couple of songs from the new record. Some ukelele songs,or at least one. Passionate intensity man.
You're talking about a new record?
Well, the one, the most recent record.
Today is the first show of the upcoming Euro tour. Looking forward to cruising the old country again?
Yes, absolutely. My back molar is loose, so if i have it taken out here it's like ten times cheaper then in the States.
The band is celebrating 20 years in 2016, i believe you started in 1996. Anything in the pipeline to celebrate two decades of MFGG?
Yeah. No, i guess not. The anniversary just kind of crept up on me. Nothing planned. For 25 years we'll throw something. It's a quarter of a century.
It all started as a fun project, all members are in touring bands that take up most of their time. So MFGG is a sort of a punk rock supergroup. How hard is it to get the band together for rehearsal or even recording?
We don't rehearse. We practiced here, no to far from here for this show. We know the songs. When we pick sustitute players or in some case the substitutes are like the players now. Like Scott Schfiflett is pretty much our guitar player now. They get it and they understand what it supposed to sound like. Without any mistakes it wouldn't be us really.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes takes on punk versions of well known pop songs. Have you ever received bad reactions from the original artists?
Yeah, The Eagles didn't like it. But that was kind of a red badge of honour. To be disliked by The Eagles. I'm not covering these songs because i like them. I'm not a fan, very few of the songs that we covered i'm like a fan of. As far as i know that's the only negative reaction we got.
Are there particular artists that you never want to cover?
I wouldn't do R&B again, i wouldn't do Hip Hop because i like it too much. Some people deserve to have the final word on what they did. Unless you can breathe something new into it. Some artists deserve the final word. Like Prince for example. When people die, that's the perfect time not to do tribute acts of them. Keep your mourning to yourself. Otherwise you're self tributing because you want people to pay attention to you after some guy died.
Like when Bowie died, i have friends who did like 500 tributes. The first one was like a wake and then the twentieth is like this bar gets to sell more booze and this guy gets to play music before more people that pay attention because they are going to play all good songs.
No, i wouldn't cover a Bowie song because i love David Bowie, i wouldn't do that to him. He doesn't deserve that.
Didn't you do that with Uke Hunt?
Yeah, i would do it with Uke Hunt. I get to control more of the output. I have a little bit more to do with the finished product. With Me First i just get to sing with this band, i just sort of put the words and melodies on top.
When it comes to picking the songs that get the gimmes treatment, is it a group decision or individual propositions?
For a long time it was Mike. Like on The Divas record it was mainy him. He has good pop sensibility and short attention span. Which i think is weird, he's sort of like in that regard ahead of his time. He's got the attention span of a millenial, if you can make him interested then you can get a millenial interested.
You've covered pop songs from diva's to country, 60's hit, even Australian and Japanese songs have been 'gimmed' over the years. Any plans on new roads to explore? Maybe EDM?
No, that is really doubtfull. It was fun while it lasted. If you're going to release a full length of music then you should do something more like the best songs you haven't done yet and you think come out the best and release that. Like a theme you will always find three or four songs and then the rest is filler. In the Itunes age that business model isn't viable. Because people can buy the songs the actually like instead of the full album.
One of your covers was even in a hit movie, the Wolf Of Wall Street by Martin Scorcese. Sloop John B is used in the film. Hollywood is awaiting for original themesongs…
My wife and family are Italian-Americans so that earned me a lot of household capital. So to speak. I love Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Martin Scorcese, it's pretty cool to be in one of his movies. It was a good movie too. I liked it.
Today No Use And Friends is playing Groezrock. As individuals with your respective bands you have also participated with the Tony Sly Tribute album, can we expect MFGG on stage today with NUFAN?
I'm going to do one song with them. I hope the people like it. I've been learning it all day. That's different, that's a tribute by the people he was in the band with. It actually feels like a tribute.
And they're calling this the last one, they are going to do it and go home. I respect that.
You will be touring with Uke Hunt in Europe soon?
Very soon. We'll be playing Berchem (Belgium), it starts late May in Spain, we're playng four shows there. And then we go up into central Europe. We're playing Amsterdam. Check the dates out, it's late May.
Any last words?
I think we may tour the East Coast, maybe the West Coast, look for 7”s here and there. As long as people write music we'll steal it.
Photo by Jurriaan Hodzelmans
Interview by David Marote