We met up with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes at Riot Fest this year and talked with singer Spike Slawson. We discussed their latest collection of cover songs, Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!, as well as a range of other topics that spanned the punk rock supergroup’s two-decade-plus career. We asked Slawson about the band’s process for choosing songs, what his favorite ones are to sing, if they’ve ever heard back from any of the artists they’ve covered and more. We also spoke about The Gimmes’ upcoming greatest hits record, which they plan on releasing in 2017.
Bill – Having been together for over 20 years now, did you ever imagine that the band would still be together at this point?
Spike – Yes, just because it’s such an easy proposition, you know what I mean? It’s already hit songs and as long as you kind of don’t get in the way of people having a good time, that’s basically all that’s required. The only reason it would stop would be personality crises and that’s an ever-present struggle, but they like traveling and making money and playing music in front of people. It’s not too tough, so why stop?
Bill – What about this project is still the most fun for you?
Spike – Live shows. Live shows is basically it because I get to dance around and make an ass of myself. People paying attention to you, that’s always been a problem for me, as with most musicians or politicians or anything like that. They grew up with some kind of attention deficit, does that make sense? Or a deficit of people paying attention to them, just a crazy desire for attention. Like if I weren’t doing this it’d come out in really annoying ways. It still does.
Bill – What do you like best about how the band’s most recent album, Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!, turned out?
Spike – Well, the cover was pretty crazy. I still have a hard time looking at that. I love the way Bill Stevenson, the guys out there in Colorado at the Blasting Room, I love the way they mix music. I love the way they make things sound. That was great. It was nice to finally put a ukulele song on the record too.
Bill – How do you guys typically go about selecting which songs to cover?
Spike – Well, I’ve learned to not do songs that I like, because I think that kind of has a dubious result most of the time. Like the Easybeats song that we did, I felt like the Easybeats already did it. Whereas if it’s a Neil Diamond or a John Denver song, I don’t like them or care about them, you know what I mean? I want to make a cool, funny version. Generally, it’s probably better if I don’t like it and Mike, (bassist Fat Mike) is a really good guy with a good sort of pop sensibility. He’s good at narrowing the field. Like if we came at him with 30 songs and played them for him, we’d come back with ten, which is kind of what you want to do.
Bill – What’s your favorite cover song to perform?
Spike – I love doing “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” I love that one and that’s one of our first recordings too. “End of the Road” is a fun one to play.
Bill – Have you ever received any feedback from any of the bands you’ve covered?
Spike – The Eagles, their management contacted us when we requested permission to do a sync license, which is what you have to do when you’re making a video where you’re mouthing the words to a song. Then you need their permission. I don’t think that falls under satire. Their management responded saying not only could we not do it, but the band wanted us to know that they hated our version. As far as I know, that’s the only response that we’ve gotten, which is fine with me.
Bill – That’s pretty great.
Spike – Yeah. I can live with that.
Bill – Who’s responsible for the various costumes you guys always wear?
Spike – My wife, Audra, is the sartorial genius behind our getups, which is the only way anybody should really get on a stage I think. It helps you inhabit some kind of persona that’s outside of yourself. It can still be true, you’re still screwing your guts up just to put something out, but the clothes or a mask helps you occupy some other personality. Just to keep it away from yourself so you don’t get so far up your own ass. And you just try to have an unselfconscious good time.
Bill – What are you looking forward to about playing Riot Fest later today?
Spike – All the fragile male egos…now with facial hair! You know what I mean? What a crazy dynamic.
Bill – (Laughs). Do you generally like playing festivals like this?
Spike – I like playing live shows. I mean, it’s better to play in a room, but this kind of thing I more look at from the perspective of the people that are paying to go see it. It’s a pretty good fuckin’ deal I’d say. There are a lot of great bands playing, so yeah.
Bill – Have you started working on a new album yet and if so what can you tell me about it?
Spike – It’s a greatest hits record, so it’s not going to require a whole lot of work, other than we took some pictures for it today. There’s going to be some b-sides on it, stuff that I hope people haven’t heard, and something from each of our records. I don’t know much more about it, because I’m usually the last to know myself. I’m hoping that it’s out sometime by spring or summer next year. We’ve got plans to tour next year too, but nothing solid yet.