Music News

Ghoul Talk

In the 1997 Groovie Ghoulies song "Graveyard Girlfriend," bassist/vocalist Kepi sings, "One day I'll lay next to you in a beautiful coffin built for two." And sure enough, according to guitarist Roach, Kepi's graveyard girlfriend — actually his wife and musical conspirator of more than a decade — "We do sleep in a velvet-lined double-wide coffin!"

Whether or not you believe that, there's no question that the Groovie Ghoulies (who also include pigtailed drummer Scampi) embody their shtick as obsessively as some of the greatest self-invented rock characters.

An exceptional shtick it is, too: part Ramones, part Addams Family, part Muppet Show. Live, they've been known to play among a menagerie of cardboard-cutout monsters and shower the audience with candy. Their albums and Web site are decked in Kepi's cheerfully demented artwork: a slack-looking ghoul in a red jumpsuit, a cathedral gargoyle as bright-eyed as a puppy. And the band's documented preoccupation with a certain pastry was evident during the interview for this article, in which several questions were answered by Roach with the emphatic non sequitur, "Doughnuts!"

If it all sounds too downright silly for your own weighty sensibilities, Kepi has a rejoinder on-hand. "I see silliness in music from T. Rex, Chuck Berry, even Bob Dylan," he says. "I have always thought of our music as having a timeless quality to it."

Indeed, there's more to the Ghoulies than shtick. Their dead-catchy tunes have absorbed influences that only the enthralled ears of pop worshipers could fit together, including Neil Diamond's early bubblegum, manic troubadour Daniel Johnston, and original California cartoon punks The Dickies. But as attested by Kepi's clipped, tangy vocals and Roach's rocket trail of guitar, The Ramones were the first band over which the couple bonded in high school.

Most recently, the Ghoulies have developed a conspicuous crush on Chuck Berry. Their last full-length album of new material, 2002's Go! Stories, bears the influence of Berry's breezy phrasing, and 2005's Berry'd Alive EP covers seven of Berry's lesser-known tunes with typical Ghoulie guts. They even played a St. Louis date in 2003 where they opened for Berry and scored a private audience with the man himself.

"He was very nice to us," says Kepi of Berry. "He signed all of our vinyl and asked if we had stolen it from our grandmother. He probably thought we were a little crazy."

At least a little.

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Andrew Marcus