Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Throw Pop Music Into the Mosh Pit
“We’ve been described as some kind of punk rock boy band before, and I kind of dig that,” says Spike Slawson, lead singer of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. “Most of us are at least 50 or flirting with the idea of being 50, so being a boy band has it’s own kind of irony around it, and then there’s the whole punk rock thing.”
Calling the Gimme Gimmes a “punk rock boy band” may seem a little strange at first, but as the genre’s premier cover band, it’s an accolade that’s not undeserved. If you ask Slawson — who currently performs with Filthy Thieving Bastards and the Re-Volts after parting ways with Swingin’ Utters in 2012 — the first half of that title is just as bizarre and out of place as calling a bunch of middle-aged rockers a “boy band.”
“Punk rock is such a weird thing to be serious about in 2017,” Slawson says. “If you want to be punk rock and that’s what you’re into, that’s cool with me, but at least be aware that you’re either less colorful Deadheads or you’re just listening to a notch on the dial. The most punk rock thing I’ve heard recently was that there are people throwing raves in a sewer. I hate rave music and techno, but people went and threw a fucking party in a sewer. If that’s not punk spirit, what is? Who cares if they were wearing the uniform or listening to the music? So much of punk rock sounds like a fucking Toyota commercial now anyway.”
Regardless of how serious one takes their punk rock, there’s no denying that the Gimme Gimmes — which features members of NOFX, Lagwagon, No Use for a Name, and Foo Fighters — have made a hell of a mark over the last 22 years with chunky distorted covers of everyone from Boyz II Men and the Dixie Chicks to Styx and Lady Gaga. For that matter, Slawson believes more original bands should treat their own material like cover songs. In the singer’s eyes, it prevents.the Gimme Gimmes from getting wrapped up in each other’s egos or spending too much time perfecting how to convey the exact meaning of a song.
“It’s really weird because it’s more popular than anything original or any other cover band I’ve ever done,” Slawson says. “A lot of people treat this stuff as an afterthought, but it’s sort of eclipsed some of our so-called main projects. I don’t have a problem with that and I can’t knock it, because if something pays some of the fucking bills, that frees me up to involve myself in so-called serious music.”
The Gimme Gimmes can now claim a new title as the only punk rock cover band to release a greatest hits record. As with all of their work, Rake It In: The Greatestest Hits sees the group play a wide range of other artists’ hits while also celebrating the ridiculous live shows they regularly perform — which Slawson says is their Americanized take on the poppy German Schlager culture of the ‘80s.
“The best thing about this greatest hits release is that it’s an overview of our live presentation, which is what I’m most proud of,” Slawson says. “There’s something about putting on a costume that gives you a character — whether it’s an embellishment of yourself or a completely separate personality — that helps you jump around and act like an idiot onstage while still feeling like I’m presenting something that’s weird, transgressive, and fun.”
Of course, the Gimme Gimmes are really just all about having fun when it comes down to it. As long as both the band and the fans are enjoying themselves, Slawson knows that everyone is doing their jobs.
“There are many layers of irony that we hope people can unironically enjoy,” Slawson says. “Or they can enjoy it ironically, whatever.”
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes perform with Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds at the Observatory 3505 S. Harbor, Santa Ana (714) 957-0600, www.observatoryoc.com, $22, 8 p.m. Fri. May 12, 8 p.m. All ages. You can also check them out Saturday, May 27 at Punk Rock Bowling in Downtown Las Vegas. For full info, click here.
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