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Tucson Weekly Making Weird

When It Comes To The Next Big Thing, Forget Hanson: Meet The Weird Lovemakers!

By Lisa Weeks

JULY 13, 1998: 

"If brain bats land on earth tomorrow, kill everybody in a day, I wouldn't waste my time with bawling, I get no balling anyway. I'd get some comic books and some movies, 'cause that's what I do every day. My life is one great big diversion, escape the outside if I can. The world is broke and I can't fix it, so I'll keep reading Spider-Man. My only small, sad satisfaction is playing in this crappy band."

--Weird Lovemakers, "Letter to Starlog"

"Almost everybody who matters in music today got started in a punk or hard-core band."

--Jello Biafra

THE PRIMARY PREREQUISITE of punk rock is, in a word, angst. Although The Weird Lovemakers are a number of years past their teenage woes, they mine their adolescence well, manifesting musical angst on a variety of topics--seemingly everything from alienation to Alien Nation, spiced liberally with references to pop culture and sex, and all couched in clever, two-minute rants and rages. In a recent interview I learned the dope behind their deal with eMpTy Records, their plans to split town for a four-week summer tour, and discovered that the Teletubbies episodes are actually Zen koans designed to be as meaningful for 30-year-old punk guitarists as they are for pre-speaking babies.

We sat in the alley lot behind Bentley's coffee shop--which in itself could be construed as a modern commentary on the state of punk rock in these sanitized '90s, if it weren't for the practical fact that Bentley's was convenient, and the alley quieter than the rabble indoors. The funk from the dumpsters redeemed us somehow, making it seem as though we were refugees from the café counter culture within.

Although this coming tour is not their first venture away from the Old Pueblo, it's their most extensive tour to date, and their first since signing with eMpTy and the release of Flu Shot. The Weird Lovemakers are currently looking for a roadie, preferably a thin, intelligent one who's not too good looking, who has a strong back, a quick head for figures and a lead foot.

Having the eMpTy Records name behind them has made an inherently odious task somewhat less torturous. According to guitarist Greg Petix, "Compared to other tours we've tried to book, this tour has been so easy. All you have to say is that you're on eMpTy...." Wham bam.

The band has dates planned with fellow labelmates the Kent 3--who were recently billed with them locally at Skrappy's--as well as The Murder City Devils from Seattle. The tour takes them through the heartland, across the north and down the Pacific Coast, revisiting several places from previous Weird adventures. Roughly half the gigs are all-ages shows.

Although dropping the eMpTy card has worked booking wonders, the label generally doesn't offer much in the way of support for a band's first effort beyond some promotion, name recognition, good company, and best of all, terrific distribution. So it's not as though our heroes will be pulling into Boise in a big-ass bus or anything.

In fact, the band recorded Flu Shot out of their own pockets, aided by Mike Panico of Tucson's Gouramie Records, the label that released their first full-length player Electric Chump. The Lovemakers fully intended to release Flu Shot on Gouramie, but Panico graciously released the band when the deal with eMpTy came about. It was towards the end of recording that fellow guitarist Jason Willis sent in materials at the suggestion of friends in the Kent 3, and the rest is history.

"It just seemed logical," Willis explained about the choice of labels. "A lot of my favorite bands are on that label."

The new record shows more tooth than their first release, edging towards a harsher sound--less poppy and lighthearted, and less like Green Day despite teenagers' comparisons. Punk is the music of youth, and the band does feel their age (which averages out to about 28) in these small ways. Rather than references to the Circle Jerks and other seminal punk bands that are sources of the Weird Lovemakers' inspiration, kids in line for autographs find comparisons between the Lovemakers and unlikely bands such as Face to Face and Rage Against the Machine, exposing a real generation gap.

Willis described a conversation he had recently with a local indie record-store owner who informed him that among the teen scene, there was brewing something of a local backlash against the Weird Lovemakers--that the kids were claiming that they "got signed and sold out." The inevitable outcome, really, when you consider the fact the band has been formative in local youth experiences of live punk rock.

"We've been around for the entire duration of these kids' interest in this whole punk rock deal anyway," Willis said. Which after four years would make the band seem status quo to young fans.

It's only natural that despite the genre of music they play and its typically youthful appeal, the band would experience some trouble relating to a stone-cold sober audience that, for the most part was born in the '80s. But the kids relate to the music, and that's what's important.

"Most of my themes are left over from adolescence," bassist Héctor Jaime said.

Petix, laser blue eyes flashing, added, "It's not like I write for kids, but I write in a way that they can understand it."

The recording of Flu Shot stretched over several months, so some of the material is, at this point, over a year old. They already have another album's worth of material in the kitty, and tentative plans for recording are in place following this summer's tour schedule.

What do the Weird Lovemakers see for themselves when they shake the Magic 8 Ball? A big fat "maybe," just like every other band in their position. As far as aspirations go, the Lovemakers are pretty realistic: Drummer Gerard Schumacher speaks for all when he emphatically states, "We plan to hang on as long as we can. And if at all possible have this be a source of income."

"We're not going to make our fortunes doing this," Willis added, saying he feels their window of opportunity for making it big is barely cracked at this point. "Really, it's just a way to prolong adolescence. That is, until we all go bald."

"Hey, all the guys in Bad Religion are bald," Jaime said.

Mostly, they just look forward to four weeks of "driving, rocking and goofing off," and with luck the occasional triumph. But then the Lovemakers find their triumphs in Weird ways:

"A guy I work with went to Zia and was trading stuff," Willis said. "A woman who'd been working there for awhile was playing some sort of salsa music in the store when this new kid put on something that was really fucking loud and totally abrasive. The woman was really unhappy, people started leaving the store, and she told the kid, 'Can't we turn that off or turn it down or something?' And the kid was like, 'No way! This is really fun! This the Weird Lovemakers!' It was our new album, and it totally cleared out the store! Isn't that awesome? The kid was totally digging it!"

Ah, success.

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