Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: An Interview with Parry Grip of
There’s a fine line between wittiness and absurdity, between dorkiness and cool. Nerf Herder not only cross those lines, they dance over them gleefully, maniacally laughing as they trip and fall to one side or the other. Don’t take that as a lack of intelligence or talent, though – there’s a big difference between stupid and stoopid, and Nerf Herder are most definitely the latter – the characters and situations in their songs may seem kind of dumb and uncool, but there’s definite wit and even brilliance to the pop culture-laden lyrical turns the songs take. And that’s to say nothing of the music, a hook-laden, melodic pop-punk stew that puts you in the mind of bands like Weezer and Love Songs for the Retarded-era Queers. It all comes together for a sound that a lot of people term Nerd Core, which is about as apt a description of the band as you’ll get – imagine the kids from the A.V. Club in high school set loose with guitars after listening to nothing but the Ramones and NOFX for a few months, and you’re on the right track.
The band came together in 1994, around a nucleus of guitarist/vocalist Parry Grip and drummer Steve Sherlock. Taking their name from a throwaway insult Princess Leia hurls at Han Solo near the start of The Empire Strikes Back, they recorded a self-titled album for tiny indie My Records (Joey Cape from Lagwagon’s label), working as a trio with original bassist, Charlie Dennis. Nerf Herder quickly took off based on the unexpected enthusiasm for its first single, “Van Halen” (a tongue-in-cheek character assassination of the band’s career), which made it onto San Francisco radio powerhouse Live 105 before the band even got a copy of the record! Based on the radio attention, the major labels came sniffing around, and by early 1997, the band was signed to Arista Records, who reissued the debut album. After a rollercoaster ride that saw the band going through several bassists, making $100,000 videos, and writing the theme song for TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the band took some time out of the limelight.
Regrouping as a quartet with second guitarist Dave Ehrlich (who they swiped from the band Ten Speed Summer after falling for his song “Pantera Fans in Love”) and bassist Justin Fisher, the band recorded their long-awaited sophomore album, How to Meet Girls, in the summer of 1999. After an extended wait based largely around making sure they weren’t going to get sued over Girls’ first single, the scathing Courtney Love indictment “Courtney,” the album was finally released in March of this year, and the band headed out on tour with their close, personal friends, the Bloodhound Gang. They also chose to leave the majors behind, signing with the cool mid-size indie label, Honest Don’s. And the rest, as frontman Parry Grip might say himself, is history. I recently corresponded with Parry via e-mail to learn more.
How many times have you seen the Star Wars movies, and what was it about Princess Leia’s throwaway reference to a Nerf Herder in The Empire Strikes Back that made you say, “yes! That’s the name for our band!”?
We’ve all seen Star Wars a lot, although, interestingly enough, the biggest Star Wars fan in our band is Justin, our bass player. He is also the guy who girls like the most, the most athletic, and the most musically talented. Man, that guy has it all! Steve thought up the name, which, at the time, seemed better than “Liquid Ice Cube.”
You often talk about the fact that you weren’t into punk rock as a kid – I believe when I saw you the exact reference was “I was listening to Rush and trying to get my hair to feather.” What got you into punk rock?
I was always into the Ramones, ‘cause when I was a little kid I heard “Teenage Lobotomy” on The Doctor Demento Show, but I didn’t really think of them as punk at the time. The reason I got into “punk,” and subsequently bought a punk rock leather jacket, was because I had a big crush on a girl who was a big fan of Stiff Little Fingers and pre-cornball Social Distortion. Then I saw NOFX, and that was it.
Dave, our guitar player, was always into punk rock, and has a great punk rock record collection. He is pretty cool that way.
Were you a bigger nerd in high school than you are now?
No, I’m working on being a bigger nerd every day. Now that everyone has computers and the Internet, it is becoming much harder to maintain top-nerd-status. To be honest, it’s killing me trying to collect all these Magic: The Gathering cards.
What do you think of the rumors that David Lee Roth is returning to Van Halen? And who’d win in a steel cage match between him and Sammy Hagar? And could you kick either of their asses? What about Gary Cherrone’s?
I really liked Van Halen in high school, which was a long, long time ago. Are those guys still around?
How did you strike up a friendship with the Bloodhound Gang? What do you think your bands have in common, and what do you feel is completely different about the two bands (aside from the obvious musical differences)?
We became friends with the Bloodhound Gang in 1997, when we met in Austin at a radio show. They immediately took pity on us and we’ve been their loser, hanger-on friends ever since. Lets see – both of our bands are funny, although I think that their band is much funnier, smarter, and catchier. Yeah, that’s the difference. Also, they rap and dance, and we sound like a bad Weezer rip-off.
Your new album is called How to Meet Girls, but on your Web site, you say that being in a band is no help. Have you find any good ways to meet girls, and can you share them with our readers?
A good way to meet a girl is to follow her into a crowded public area and then punch her in the face and call her a “whore” and then urinate into her shopping bag. It’s getting a second date that is the tough part.
Also on your site, you claim that Jonathan Richman was a huge influence on Nerf Herder, yet on the refrain from your song “Jonathan Richman,” you sing ,”please, God, don’t let me end up like Jonathan Richman.” Why is that?
Jonathan Richman is awesome… Steve and I are huge fans. I think that the reason I don’t want to end up like Jonathan Richman is that, as a great artist, he writes so truthfully about his feelings that the rest of the world perceives him as “crazy.” He is the real deal. Actually, I couldn’t be like Jonathan Richman if I tried, which I do.
Another tidbit I noted on your Web site – you mention that How to Meet Girls’ release was pushed back because you “had to wait until Courtney Love’s lawyers told us that she wasn’t going to sue us for writing a funny song about her.” Does this mean that she’s heard “Courtney”? What did she think of it? Will she be taking you up on your offer to sit on your face?
I’m not sure if she has heard the song… but her lawyer definitely has. Man, he liked it a lot! I haven’t heard anything about Courtney wanting to sit on my face. I don’t see why she wouldn’t. What could go wrong?
What’s the root of your pop culture obsession?
I don’t understand that question, but did I mention that Nerf Herder went bowling with Corey Feldman?
Is there anything you feel is off limits lyrically, anything you’ve thought of but scrapped because you felt it would be going too far?
Well, originally our song “5000 Ways to Die” had the words “suicide, suicide, suicide” in the chorus, but some people thought that was too negative, and so it was changed [to] “There must be 5000 ways to die.” I prefer the “suicide” line, but what can you do?
Has writing the theme for Buffy the Vampire Slayer led to any other “Hollywood” opportunities? Is that something you’d have an interest in?
We’d love to do anything for anyone in Hollywood, for a couple reasons. One, they might pay us. Two, why not? I watch a lot of TV, so I should be an expert. Do you hear that, Regis? Get some real music for that game show, come on!
Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d want people to know about Nerf Herder?
Nerf Herder is eco-conscious and kind to animals. We donate money to all kinds of charities. We only eat health food. Girls who kiss us generally see a decrease in their auto-insurance payments.
For more information on Nerf Herder, visit http://www.nerfherder.net.