The Truth About Shoebomb:
Sure, They're Boring; But They're Relatively Harmless
By Lisa Weeks
July 21, 1997: IF THE APPEAL of pop music is, in essence, good-natured fun, then it's not surprising that Shoebomb has become so successful within the local music scene in a relatively short time. The band--Melissa Manas, vocals, rhythm guitar; Joe Manas, lead guitar, vocals; Margaret Ford, bass; Diane Juergens, drums--has quickly become one of Tucson's most popular alternative pop bands. Drawing increasingly larger crowds, Shoebomb is arguably the most likely band in town to find its way out and on to the bigger and better.
"It all began in the Summer of Love," jokes Melissa, with a put-on dreamy, hippie expression. In truth, the present line-up came together just shy of two years ago. Before that, Melissa and Diane performed for a year as a trio with another drummer, with whom they parted ways after about a year.
Late in the summer of '95, Joe left his previous band, Shovel, to join Shoebomb; and Diane, noted former drummer of the Sidewinders, soon came aboard--and just in the nick of time: Shoebomb was booked to open its first show at the Club Congress while still between drummers. You could say they got off to a running start, and the momentum has been building ever since.
"Really, we all wanted to be in Shovel," laughs Melissa about Shoebomb's beginnings, those days when she and Margaret were still trying to find the "on" switches. "So I guess we're sort of an off-shoot of Shovel."
The band members cite many reasons for their success, among them their practice space, where they can "play full volume and really get cranking," allowing them to "play like they're playing live."
Because they seem to rise to every occasion, Shoebomb headlines regularly and has had the opportunity to open for a number well-known acts: Ben Folds Five, the Toadies, That Dog, and sharing the bill with Fountains of Wayne and Big Head Todd at the recent Rally in the Sun. Still more recently, they rocked the house at the packed Save Ferris show. Having their catchy singles "Argumentative" and "Show Off" added to the playlist and in regular rotation on KFMA has also exposed them to a wider audience, a break for which they're very obviously grateful.
Let there be no doubt: The members of Shoebomb are ambitious. (What band doesn't eventually want to quit the day job and rock for a living?) But what keeps them grounded and makes them so approachable--personally as well as musically--is the fun-loving attitude and profound sense of humor they share.
"Who knows?" says Melissa, musing about that big record deal that could free them all from working for The Man. "Maybe we'll never get a deal from anyone. This could be the pinnacle of everything, so we're really just trying to enjoy it."
Shoebomb's collective bright, positive attitude, committed, professional manner, and solid interpersonal relationships are the makings of success in any group endeavor. With their effervescent and accessible music, they've emerged in the forefront of the pop music scene in a town saturated with talent.
As any pop band should, they also manifest a pointed and diverse awareness of pop culture. Conversation topics move from a sarcastic assessment of The Spice Girls to Martha Stewart's cable TV show, from recipes for lemon cake to how and why Courtney Love sucked at Lollapalooza back in '95. They're also up on the hottest scandals in the pages of Entertainment Weekly.
They're getting a taste of fame themselves--Melissa was recently recognized by Shoebomb fans while at the mall. The rhythm section, however, seems still to labor in obscurity.
"People will come up to me and ask about Shoebomb, not knowing that I'm in the band," says Diane.
"Yeah, people at shows sometimes come up to me and ask, 'Have they gone on yet?' " Margaret laughs.
Joe finds that scandals are one of the aspects of fame--or rather foregone conclusions--he finds most intriguing. "I just love picking up magazines and reading about the bad New Kid (On The Block) who set the hotel on fire, and then wondering which Spice Girl is going to go bad first."
So, if Shoebomb makes it big, what scandalous headlines will jump out from the check-out line? Diane blurts out: "That we're all men! That we're not really women! There's your headline: 'Shoebomb: They're really men!' "
While fame is nice, the band is really hoping for some roadies.
"We're always moving equipment," says Joe. "That's the one thing that sucks. Success for me would be when someone just comes and takes care of it."
That day may not be far off. While Shoebomb isn't going to change pop music as we now know it (nor does that seem to be the band's intention), they are unabashed and open about describing their motivations.
"We had an industry person say to us that we were intelligent rock, with respect to what we were saying on stage and what we we're singing about," says Joe with a shrug. "I just told the guy, 'You know, we're really not up for saving the rain forests. We just want to rock!' You get up there and have that raw energy just cranking out. It just feels good, and the last thing you're thinking about..."
He pauses, and Diane finishes his sentence: "...is, hey, I'm so smart!"
Shoebomb performs Friday, July 18, at the 3rd Stone Bar & Grill, 500 N. Fourth Ave. Call 628-8844 for more info.
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