"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."
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.
Nerf Herder is enjoying its share of success. How to Meet Girls is the highest-charting college-radio album ever released on Fat Wreck Chords or Honest Don's, an impressive task considering that acclaimed artists such as The Muffs and No Use for a Name call those labels home. And although the group's submissions to the soundtracks for Home Alone 3 and Muppets in Outer Space were rejected, a situation Gripp describes humorously on Nerf Herder's Web site (see http://cahnman.com/nerfherder/music/meetgirls-liner.htm), its theme song for Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues to provoke new interest in the band. For the next few months, Gripp and company will tour with friends, collaborating on songs (Thunder has been known to join the band during "Sorry," Gripp joins the Gang for "I Hope You Die," and the whole touring cast often takes the stage during "Fire Water Burn") and playing its infectious tunes to packed venues full of impressionable young fans. Even the pessimistic Gripp might be prodded to admit that things could be much worse. However, budget constraints have him questioning the band's future beyond its current tour.
"I don't know what the future holds," he admits. "We have a lot of songs just sitting around, and maybe we'll use some of them if we make another record. Unfortunately, at this point we don't know if we will. We've blown all our tour support on this tour. We don't really have a lot of money to work with, and it's all going into this tour."
Money problems have also prevented the group from making any videos for songs from How to Meet Girls, which is unfortunate given the amusing content of the "Van Halen" and "Sorry" videos, which featured such guest stars as Valerie Bertinelli and Mark Hamill. Thankfully, the Bloodhound Gang has picked up the slack with its "Bad Touch" video, which features the group members donning monkey suits while chanting "You and me baby ain't nothing but mammals/So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." This song's funk/synth sound differs somewhat from the blend of indie-rock and sleep-deprived rap that characterized its previous hit single, "Fire Water Burn," but Thunder says this doesn't mean the group is headed in a different direction. After starting in 1993 as a band that relied solely on samples and sequencers, the Bloodhound Gang, since the release of 1996's One Fierce Bear Coaster, has attempted to become fluent in nearly any musical language.
"We do rock, rap, some dance stuff, some punk, and some metal," Thunder says. "Every song that we do is basically a rip-off of some other genre. The only things that are the same all the time are the lyrics and the sense of humor. Nothing's really 'not our style.' I think we could do a country song as long as the lyrics were the same. In the end, every record's basically a time capsule of what we've been listening to on the bus."
The Bloodhound Gang is scheduled to perform on Monday, May 22, at the Celebrity Theatre, with Nerf Herder and RX Bandits. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.