By Matt Soccio “We are all very, very, very excited.” Jason Finn, drummer of the crazy ’90s punksters, Presidents of the United States of America, responds when I ask him how they’ve adapted to their return to the mainstream spotlight again.
You may remember the Presidents through the repeated airings of their 1995 singles Peaches and Lump on commercial radio stations throughout Australia. Their unusual brand of punk-pop stood out of the broody grunge crowd in Seattle, and ultimately became poplar all over the world. Though their second release, II, and two other subsequent releases Pure Frosting and Freaked-out and Small were not as successful, the boys continued on with side-projects and other jobs. But at the time, Cris, Dave and Jason barely had enough time to scratch themselves before they were whisked into unknown waters, a fame that ultimately led to their breakup in 1998. But they’re handling their return with an unbridled enthusiasm.
“We’ve been at it for a good little time now. The new record for instance has been out for over a year in the US, and since about February in Europe, so we been touring a lot so as far as being ready, we’re in a totally fighting way.
Do you think that your unique style will fit in well into the current music scene?
“Well, first I start by saying that I don’t know what the current Australian scene is like, but I’ve found that we’re fitting in the same as we always have, which is to say not very well. I don’t think there are a lot bands around that feel connected to us.
“But fitting in isn’t what we spend a lot of time doing, particularly now in the US we’re finding that the crowds are pretty much ours, they’re not just pop culture, random people. We seem to have a personal connection. But our indicators say that the tickets for our show are going to be gone in a couple of days.”
We’re comfortable filling a certain gap, and we’re really good at that and we really don’t have much reason to stretch that much.
It is not difficult to get nostalgic about the Presidents and their wacky “absurdist rock” style. Many of us would have seen their memorable sold-out shows at Festival Hall in 1996 on the back of their first self-titled album tour. Their ticket sales indicate that we still haven’t forgotten the Presidents, but they were unsure if we would.
“You know when we put out this record last year we weren’t even going to put it out in Europe, much less Japan or Australia because didn’t even know if anyone would care. We’ve been kicking ourselves a lot because the record’s doing great.
“Australia was always the best country for us so we tried as fast as we could and finally got our shit together. I think it’s going to be the start of a happy, happy new relationship.”
The latest album Love Everybody exhibits a similar punk-pop that they’re known for, so I asked Jason if they feel they should stick to a good thing when they find it.
“Yeah, well, we’re never going to be the kind of band that is growing and evolving, you know, I mean stuff like that we’re not going to be doing all the time, like next year we’re probably not going to work very much.
“We’re comfortable filling a certain gap, and we’re really good at that and we really don’t have much reason to stretch that much. People have already covered the rest of it.”
I mention that I’d noticed that that they’d resurrected the song Monkey River for the new album, a B-side from the Peaches single. Jason Laughs.
“We tried to record Monkey River a bunch of times but it never sounded like we nailed it. The B-side that we did, well it sounds okay but we felt like… and again we were recording it this time to be a B-side… I don’t know why we rolled tape on this one. It turned into a happy accident because we nailed it. But I think most of fans never got a chance to hear it because it was only a B-side in Australia ”
The Presidents did a similar thing with Twig from their second album, II, which was on the Australian release of the Lump single.
“Yeah, we use different B-sides all over the place; it [Monkey River] is largely unknown. Actually that’s the first I’ve thought about that; it’s kind of cheating. We should have pulled it off the record for this release.You see that’s just a sign of our blatant disrespect for the Australian audience!”
The Presidents’ live show is somewhat of a spectacle, the drawcard being their unusual instruments (the three-string guitbass and two-string bassitar), should we expect the same kind of energy nine years later?
“I think we’ve got a little more now. We always have an awesome time when we’re in Australia but it’s always at the end of album cycles. These days, though, we work on a schedule that we control, so we’re going to ride to France after a couple of weeks off and we’ll basically run out until the end.
But the burning question behind the bands’ very existence remains: will we ever see the day when one of them actually runs for president?
“I can answer that for sure: absolutely 100 per cent no way! The crappiest job on this planet. Although I’ve always wanted to do it, to be president now it must be thrilling to be so tough like that (laughs).”