Laughing Matters

The Bloodhound Gang and Nerf Herder differ drastically in terms of musical style and stage presence, but they share emphasis on the humorous and insulting

Channel-surfers flipping past the USA Network's music showcase program, Farmclub, might have had their fingers stop dead in their tracks if they happened to come upon the Bloodhound Gang's recent performance on the show -- one that featured fire-blowing, sporadic nudity and snippets of TLC, Rammstein and Korn songs spliced into an original tune built around a lurid reference to the Discovery Channel. Thanks to such over-the-top antics and the equally outrageous material contained on the group's amusingly naughty new album, Hooray for Boobies, the Bloodhound Gang has become a headlining attraction, which occasionally means getting its set pushed back into the wee hours of the morning.

"That night, we got there at 7:30," explains guitarist Lupus Thunder from his hometown of Philadelphia. "Somebody grabbed us, gave us our passes, and said, 'You're on around 10.' Then they told us there was an open bar, so we figured that we had just enough time to where we could drink without getting too drunk. Well, they pushed us back to about 1:30. I don't even remember much of the performance. I was very afraid that it was going to be really bad."

Lest anyone think that the group's booty-flashing, hit-single-sampling antics were a drunken aberration, Thunder says that fans can expect all of the above, and more, from the average Bloodhound Gang show. "We always try to put in some pop-culture stuff, whatever's going on at the time," he says. "That keeps us from having to play the same stupid songs all the time. It's more fun to do a little TLC instead. As for getting naked, we'll do that no matter where we are, as long as we think we can get away with it."

Nothin' but mammals: Discovery Channel pranksters the Bloodhound Gang.
Nothin' but mammals: Discovery Channel pranksters the Bloodhound Gang.
SAmmy sucks!: Van Hagar bashers Nerf Herder
SAmmy sucks!: Van Hagar bashers Nerf Herder

On the other end of the stage-show spectrum in terms of glitz and spectacle lie the Gang's tourmates, Nerf Herder. Singer-guitarist Parry Gripp describes the possible highlights of a Nerf Herder concert in his trademark self-deprecating fashion.

"We just kind of stand there and play the songs," he says. "We're pretty disorganized, so sometimes between songs we argue about what song to play next. Sometimes we stand around and tune our guitars, and occasionally somebody will break a string and we'll have to switch guitars. There's not too much excitement."

Still, if there's a band that can get by on music alone, it's Nerf Herder. On its 1996 self-titled debut and the recent follow-up, How to Meet Girls, this trio-turned-quartet blends Weezer-style pop with quirky, inventive lyrics and some of the best odes to rock stars this side of Wesley Willis. The group earned a hit on its first album with a tribute to Van Halen, which piled lavish praise on that group's early work before lambasting its Sammy Hagar-era material (Can't drive 55/ I'll never buy your lousy records again). In response, Hagar angrily dismissed the group's members as "faggots" and recently became incensed when a San Francisco newspaper dared to bring up Nerf Herder's song during an interview. However, the group's latest single, "Courtney Love," a revamping of The Rotters' "Sit on My Face, Stevie Nicks," that chronicles Love's ascent from riot grrrl icon to glamour queen, met with approval from its subject.

"Our label was really worried about putting out the song," Gripp says. "They thought it was going to cause a lot of trouble for them, so we sent her the song and she gave us her permission to put it out, which was pretty cool. That was very nice of her." (Especially given that the song contains such lines as "Now I'm overweight and ugly/Just like you used to be.").

While Nerf Herder now records for the indie label Honest Don's, the Bloodhound Gang is currently labelmates with Love's band, Hole. Like Blink 182 and the Offspring before them, the Bloodhound Gang has used sophomoric humor as a weapon to wedge its way onto pop radio between preteen pop and testosterone-heavy Ozzfest fare. (The group occasionally merges these styles in concert with a bit Thunder refers to as "what if Marilyn Manson covered the Backstreet Boys?")

"Everyone's tired of the seriousness in rock," Thunder insists. "For a while there, it was Matchbox 20 or Rage Against the Machine. Everyone was singing about love or politics. That's great, Rage Against the Machine, I'm sorry for the people of Peru, but I came to the show to drink beer, get rowdy and jump around with my friends. It's time for people to relax a little. Of course, I think everything goes in cycles. In a few years, bands like us won't be able to exist, and it will be back to complaining about the president."

Perhaps misreading such a cycle, Arista dropped Nerf Herder (despite the fact that the group once delivered a rocking rendition of "Happy Birthday" to the label's recently ousted head honcho, Clive Davis), and the band eventually ended up on Honest Don's, a San Francisco-based indie with ties to heavyweight melodic-punk label Fat Wreck Chords. "We wrote a lot of songs for Arista, and it turned out that none of them were really up to major-label quality," Gripp says with undue modesty, considering that tunes such as "Pantera Fans in Love" and "She's a Sleestak" would put the vast majority of major-label rock offerings to shame.

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