Sunday, April 11, 2010

Vintage Sleaze: The Briefs Interview

Conducted 2001-ish. Originally for Boston's Weekly Dig, which is still around, sorta. The Briefs eventually broke up and became the Cute Lepers


The Briefs are a punk rock band from Seattle, but they're not the phony mall punk-lite they're using to sell skateboard t-shirts and orange juice these days, and they're not all that eyes and teeth moshpit apocalypse hardcore junk, either. No, the Briefs are punk in the classic sense- two fingers in the air, bubblegum chewing, bad fun savages, equal parts 'Gabba Gabba Hey' and 'Ready Steady Go', complete with a closet full of Richard Hell's old clothes- ripped t-shirts, skinny ties wrapped around their neck like bandages, heads full of clorox and Knox gelatin. And no finger pointing, no righteous indignation or emotive yearning, just 2 minute chunks of snarky, snarling rock and roll. They remind me of Tony Coca Cola's fictional band of new wave speed freaks, the Roosters, in that classic late 70's splatterfest Driller Killer. You know, the band who's incessant rehearsal of their signature sloppy girl-group rip-off punk trash anthems finally made Abel Ferrera snap and go on that power drill killing spree. They've even got the same kind of goofy stage names- Steve E. Nix, Daniel J Travanti. No coke snorting French lesbian back-up singers though. Of course, the tour's just getting started.

Striped shirts, wrap around slit shades, new wave buzz, check. But what do the Briefs sound like? Well, try bingeing on Count Chocula and Dexatrim, and then jump up and down like a Ritalin ready brat on a pogo stick for 20 minutes, you'll get the idea. As far as the Briefs are concerned, that sage cartoon n' roll advice still rings true: "Have a good time, all the time." Having relegated their hi-jinx to soggy old Seattle for long enough, they're hitting the road in a wild search for goofy thrills, pop culture icons, and maybe even a few nights of searing party-punk along the way.
After being chided for not sounding sleazy enough on the phone- got to work on that slur, I guess- by their exotically named PR girl, I finally got in touch with the elusive Briefs frontman, Mr. Nix. I bombarded him with questions, and he did his best to duck.

So, you guys are getting ready to go on tour. What are you doing to prepare- have you broken up with your girlfriends yet?
No. We're just trying to get our record mixed so we can get out of here. It's pretty stressful.

You're in Seattle. There's a lot of guys still wandering around over there wearing flannel and playing grunge, you know.
Yeah, it's weird, I don't really get it, myself, but you do see that. There's actually a tribute band to grunge out here that's called, oddly enough, Grunge. I don't really know anybody like that myself, but you see them kind wandering around on the outskirts.

The Briefs seem to be doing pretty well for a punk band. Not many punk bands have their own PR chick.
That's something new for us, but we figure, we're trying to tour the country, we ought to have a publicity person. I mean, a lot of times we go somewhere and nobody's heard of us, and nobody comes to the show, so we ought to just do it right.

Yeah, playing for nobody. That's got to suck, right?
We haven't actually played to exactly nobody, but we have played to like, 10 guys that really like heavy metal, and don't like us.

So you've played to openly hostile audiences? Cool.
Not hostile, necessarily. Most towns we got to, there's a handful of people there who know who we are, and like us.

You ever see Driller Killer, Steve?
What? No.

You guys are like the Roosters. They played underneath the guy, that's why he went crazy and started killing people with a drill. Only difference is, no chick back up singers. You've got to get some, Steve. That would really put the Briefs over the top.
We tried that once. It didn't work out.

Why? What happened?
I don't really know.

Well, now you've got a money machine behind you, you can hire some pros. Man, I was checking out your message board- you guys must get the chicks left and right.
Umm... I don't know how to answer that question. I don't think we fit into the typical sex, drugs and rock and roll kind of band.

I see. How was touring with the Damned? Well, first of all, those guys are obviously going first class. Did they make you travel around in a van? Did you have to sleep in the van while those fuckers had hotel rooms?
We had a van, but we had a motel room, too. Only we had to have somebody sleep in the van to watch the gear. But they were cool, though. Captain Sensible, especially. He became pals with us. We actually got to play some songs with him. The Damned weren't doing 'Jet Boy, Jet Girl', so we ended up playing that, and Captain ended up singing that with us on the last three shows we did. He came out with the beret and the sunglasses and joined in, it was fun.

Yeah, you know, that's what people say about you guys a lot- that you put on a fun show. What's a fun show? When you guys come to town, what's going to happen?
Well, we're going to play some music, and hopefully we'll do it well, and be entertaining. I don't know, man, it's a surprise. We're not a 'shtick' band, we just like to play a high powered set. I guess the look has something to do with it. You know, if Elvis didn't look cool, then nobody would've cared, and it wouldn't have been any fun. We like pop culture, you know?

Who's in the crowd for your gigs?
Cool kids.

Really cool kids, or backpacker kids?
I think there's been maybe one backpack sighting. And that kid got beat on, and thrown out of the club.

Righteous. Hey, how do you know if your girlfriend is becoming a Communist? What are the warning signs?
That's a good question, because they do it real under the table, you won't even know that it's happening. You should look for these signs. They start going to the gym a couple of times a day. They change their diet to veganism. They change the way they dress, too. Short hair, and ties. You know when girls sometimes wear ties? That's a sure sign right there. And that whole late night Espresso scene, where you stay up all night and talk about deep issues. Oh yeah, and bike riding. Basically, if you see your girlfriend taking off an a mountain bike, wearing a tie, going to the coffee shop at 2 in the morning to meet with her so-called friends, look out.

You know all this from personal experience, Steve?
I'd rather not talk about it.

Ok, so the Briefs are no Guns n' Roses, but they're poor and they're weird, and baby, that ought to be enough to keep you happily pogoing though the night.


- Sleazegrinder
Great Rockabilly Vol 4 - Just About As Good As It Gets
Smith & Co

By now surely almost rivalling the Bear Family and Proper labels for their exhaustive and pretty much indispensable collections, please welcome with a roll - drum or what other grabs you, by all means - volume 4.
Not using much in the way of chronology (eg this is 1952-59, the ones before '54-'58 and '55-'57) means a set chock full of classics as well as obscurities to all but the most archivist. As usual then alongside the slew of Elvis, Gene, Carl and Eddie and Johnnies Cash & Burnette, aswell as classics from the rockin grind scene like Charlie Feathers, Groovey Joe Poovey and Glenn Glen there's ol' George Jones, Don Gibson and Ricky Nelson, all who started out on the rockabilly line before moving to country and pop and then Derrell Felts & The Confederates. From rock'n'roll history through to punk and psychobilly - One Cup Of Coffee, White Lightnin', Cast Iron Arm, Sunglasses After Dark - this 70-tracker is as heavy as its Sabbath namesake. Essential.
Stu Gibson
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