Music News

They Still Be Trippin'

Undeterred by four years of music business grief and languishing sales, incendiary rockers Supersuckers have named their new record Motherfuckers Be Trippin'.

"As if we didn't have enough hurdles putting this record out on our own. We had to put up this one," remarks Eddie Spaghetti, the band's proverbially good-natured bassist and singer, from his home in Seattle.

The album title, however, seems to fit the band, which has been cranking out energetic, tongue-in-cheek big rawk and country anthems about booze, drugs, cheap dates, rock 'n' roll excess and general scumbag culture since the late 1980s.

"A friend of ours in another band always said he wanted to use that title. He'd always go around saying it. We said, You don't have the balls!'" Spaghetti says. And he didn't, so the Supersuckers broke the ground for them. "We always say people are trippin', that they don't get the Supersuckers. For a white band to put out a record with that title is pretty fucking hilarious.

"It's probably not the smartest move in the world," the bassist adds. It's tough, after all, to see parents buying bumper stickers and tee shirts with the word "motherfucker" for 15-year-olds.

No matter. The new album, which also manages to drop "motherfuckin'" 71 times in the liner notes, is the Supersuckers' most rocking affair in years, with 12 straightahead bash-outs that speed by like old Motörhead, Ramones and Thin Lizzy tunes over the course of 34 minutes. Charmingly, the band evokes the dawn of the rock era throughout, adding boogie-woogie piano to "Rock and Roll Records (Ain't Selling This Year)" and infusing a sock-hop, "Leader of the Pack" melody into the punk lament "Pretty Fucked Up." It also co-opts the brand of shtick that defined '70s arena rock. "Rock Your Ass" even goes the self-referential KISS route -- "I'm ready/I'm Eddie/And I'll rock your asses steady," Spaghetti shouts as the chunky riffs speed past him.

In spite of the success of other rock 'n' roll jokers like Tenacious D and Andrew W.K. over the past two years, Spaghetti knows the silly approach has its limits, which the Supersuckers have seen firsthand. Signed to Interscope Records in the late 1990s, the band sat on a record for an entire year as static from the label intensified. They were released from their contract before that record came out and had to play negotiation games just to be able to rerecord it for Koch Records. After finally releasing The Evil Powers of Rock 'n' Roll (standout tracks: "Cool Manchu," "I Want the Drugs") in 1999, the band then watched as the album sold like Romanian polka, taking more than a year to reach modest sales goals.

Dispirited, the band backtracked and started its own label. Motherfuckers Be Trippin' is the second release on its Mid-Fi Recordings, following 2002's Must've Been Live, a collection of the band's country songs and covers recorded live.

"We got into this to not work, that's for sure," says Spaghetti, whose real name is the aristocratic-sounding Edward Carlyle Daly III. "But it's been super rewarding. We released this album two months ago, and we've already sold as many records as we've ever sold."

"We try to do things in a very honest and a very smart way. We don't have the money to throw at problems, so that's not an issue," he expands, noting a propensity by bigger labels to do just that.

In its newfound efficiency, the band has discovered a few things. They've learned just how hard it is to hire and oversee their own publicity, especially when they're an older band seen as the partying screw-ups that sing about booze and heroin. "The comedy movie never wins the Academy Award," Spaghetti says. "AC/DC will always be labeled by critics as stupid, even though they're one of the most influential bands of all time. People say, Oh, they're just those dumb clown rockers from Seattle.' That's fine. I don't see that as a deterrent."

They've also learned, though, that they have some artistic capital to cash -- radio people and promoters out there owe a few favors, and times like this is when that comes in handy, Spaghetti says.

Through all of the changes of the past five years -- members of the quartet have also curtailed their drug habits and started families, and Spaghetti has a 2-year-old son -- Spaghetti insists the band is not in any way bitter about its undying cult (read: broke) status. "Rock and Roll Records (Ain't Selling This Year)" sure sounds bitter. "You know it's a bitch/Playing in a band watching shit bands get rich," Spaghetti sings on the two-and-a-half-minute firecracker.

"To be really mad about stuff, I guess you would genuinely have to care first," Spaghetti explains. "I don't have any animosity toward these shit bands. In fact, I wish I were one of them. These are a bunch of shitasses like my band that are doing what they set out to do. Whether any of these bands are any good doesn't matter.

"My references are bands that are relatively obscure. The Motörheads of the world, the Replacements in a big way, the Pixies. These bands, they sort of felt the pinch of obscurity, and they let it get to them. The moment you start trying to succeed in what I call other people's world is the minute that you're done."

To the contrary, Spaghetti says he and his bandmates -- guitarists Dan "Thunder" Bolton and Ron Heathman and drummer Dancing Eagle -- are closer now than they've ever been. And they've known each for a long, long time. The four grew up together on the east side of Tucson, miles away from the hipsters of the University of Arizona. Spaghetti recalls actually landing more gigs in Phoenix than in Tucson in the band's early days, since the Valley was much more receptive to metal and tough-guy rock at the time. They played the Mason Jar regularly in those days, ironic since that's where they'll be playing this week.

The band, itching for a change of scenery, followed a friend's advice and in 1989 relocated to Seattle. Nice timing -- within three years, the band was sharing bills with Nirvana, Mudhoney and others as the grunge phenomenon exploded. "It was awesome . . . We were just overwhelmed," he says. "Everything just felt validating."

Now, the Supersuckers are focused solely on validating their own careers. Spaghetti says the band plans to record a new country album for release on Mid-Fi by the end of the year. Its first, 1997's twangy, rollicking Must've Been High, featured a cameo by Willie Nelson, and, oddly, is the band's top-selling record to date. Surely, that album, like Motherfuckers Be Trippin', will sound intermittently like a Beavis and Butt-head fan club disc, and Spaghetti and cohorts won't be apologizing.

"We have to keep working all the time," Spaghetti says. "We don't have the luxury of coming to our mansion and driving our Lexuses. We have to be working all the time so we can pay for our apartments and our Toyotas."

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Christopher O'Connor