By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Photo by Gary LeonardTwo years ago, Kim Shattuck was down on the Muffs. There were the label hassles, both major and minor, and the creative burnout—it was a hairy situation, you know? So she cut the Muffs down, until the world was again ready for their brand of brash and bratty guitar pop. Which, judging by all those other bands armed with three chords, loud guitars and a boatload of hooks, is right now.
In fact, it's the asinine topic of the "ROCK IS BACK!" movement—and the subject of the media's sudden fascination with garage music—that ignites the enthusiasm in this longtime OC band, with members Shattuck, bassist Ronnie Barnett and drummer Roy McDonald falling all over one another.
"There's one band I saw on TV, and they're really corny and remind me of the Easybeats," Shattuck says.
"That's the Hives," McDonald says.
"They're such geeky-looking guys," Shattuck says.
"They have a legitimate fat guy in the band," Barnett says.
"The legitimate fat guy's cool," Shattuck says. "I mean, I figure I'm gonna be fat, too, one day."
But not just quite yet. Maybe the Muffs haven't played live together in two years, but during their hiatus, they've been anything but lazy. While America struggled through the painful process of accepting that portly, unattractive, Swedish people should be allowed to qualify as teen idols as well as recovered from some terrorist attacks, the Muffs—who should be teen idols though they're neither portly, unattractive nor Swedish—were maintaining their musical figures with a steady diet of side projects.
With his probably copious free time, Barnett joined a Journey tribute band called Infinity, a subject that triggers chuckles throughout the interview. "Hey," Barnett says, "people showed up to the gigs wearing the Journey graphics on their shirts." McDonald was sidelined for a few months after breaking his ribs and collarbone in an accident—that's pretty rock & roll, if only for the prescription painkillers. And Shattuck (besides producing the sophomore album for Long Beach pop punkettes the Halo Friendlies) fired up a power-pop trio called the Beards—yeah, sort of a trimmed-down Muffs. But that's what she required, Shattuck says.
"I needed to get back into doing music, but without all the pressure," she says. "And this kind of eased me back into it."
Some of that pressure came from their old label, Honest Don's (part of short-pants-core punk powerhouse Fat Wreck Chords), Shattuck says. The Muffs might have a little growl to their guitars, but they're really a pop band with a punky little punch. And it's hard to sell a pop band to some of those punker kids.
"It just wasn't a good fit," Shattuck says with a sigh. "They're punk, and they expect everyone on their label to be punk, but they signed a band that's pop. We thought they wanted us for us, but they just wanted us to fit in, and we don't fit in."
But now they've hooked up with a little more like-minded label—one helmed by Go-Go Charlotte Caffey and That Dog goddess Anna Waronker. And Shattuck has a big pile of demos that's rapidly turning into something like a (gulp) Muffs comeback album. "A better batch of songs than the last record," she promises. "Much stronger." Of course, it's been about, um, six months since the Muffs decided to warm up their Kegel muscles and get back in shape—and they have yet to play a show. But why dive right in and risk straining something, right?
"We didn't have any pressing engagements," Barnett says. "We're not like U2—we didn't have a world tour booked."
"We're more like Def Leppard," Shattuck says.
"We're on nobody's schedule anymore," Barnett says.
"We're on our own time," Shattuck says. "Muffs time—and Muffs time is a long time."The Muffs perform with fluf at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600. Thurs., Sept. 26, 9 p.m. $7. 21+.