ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 28, 1996
It seems as if you can hardly get through a TV beer commercial these days without being bombarded by images of speed-crazed snowboarders charging recklessly down the slopes. I feel sorta left out when I see the type of thrill-seekers the Canadian breweries are targeting in the ’90s, because when it comes to snow, I’ll only “shred” if there’s a nice wide toboggan or one of those inflated truck-tire tubes handy.
But I do have one thing in common with the snowblowing hipsters who will flock to the Commodore on Saturday (March 30) for the Sno-Jam concert, and that’s a fondness for California pop punks No Use For a Name.
They remind me a lot of Bad Religion.
“People say that a lot,” says a very ill-sounding Tony Sly, singer, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist of the San Jose–based quartet. He’s hacking up phlegm at a gas-station pay phone somewhere in the frozen wasteland between Regina and Edmonton, on a cross-Canada trek that also brings Ten Foot Pole, Trigger Happy, Mock, Ten Days Late, and No Use For a Name’s Japanese label mates Hi-Standard to town.
“We used to get it more,” adds Sly of the Bad Religion comparison, “but I guess people are getting used to our sound now. I mean, the first punk album I bought was [Bad Religion’s second album] Back to the Known, with those songs like ‘Frogger’ and ‘Along the Way’ and all that stuff. So we’ve been heavily influenced by Bad Religion in our songwriting over the years, but I’d have to say that everything I’ve ever listened to is an influence.”
The last time No Use For a Name was in Vancouver it played the Pacific Coliseum as part of the Warped Tour, which included such extreme acts as Quicksand and L7, heavily favoured by the skate- and snowboarding crowd. (Sno-Jam is kind of a club-sized version of that travelling arena gig.)
“That was great,” says Sly of his Warped experience. “The management that was in charge of the tour made it real easy for the bands, plus we were only playing a half-an-hour set, so it wasn’t exhausting at all. It was just kind of like a big party, you know, for a month.”
Speaking of parties, the riotous sound of No Use For a Name’s new CD, ¡Leche Con Carne!, leaves the impression that there was mindless fun being had in the studio—especially considering the disc’s hidden track, a twisted compilation of punked-up verses from the Knack’s “My Sharona”, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, and even (gasp!) Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey”. But according to Sly the comical medley resulted more from him being just plain bored while waiting around for rhythm tracks to be laid down.
“I was just sitting there with the acoustic the whole time,” explains the 25-year-old tunesmith, “playing other people’s songs and trying to make people laugh in the control room. I came up with this medley and they said, ‘Hey, we should record that,’ so we just wrote down the names of the songs for the guys, and the measures, and we just did it in one take. ’Cause if we didn’t do it in one take we weren’t gonna keep it on the record.
“We decided to put it at the end,” adds Sly, “and it worked out pretty good. Some people refer to it as the ’80s medley, and some people refer to it as the ’80s nightmare.”
There’s a nightmare of another kind portrayed on the cover of ¡Leche Con Carne!, an illustration of some hapless man in a dressing gown being surprised by a ham-wielding, black-skulled skeleton-lizard when he opens his fridge.
“That was sort of acquired as our mascot at one point,” says Sly of the monster, affectionately known as Bio-man. “It was just drawn by somebody, and then it became like this ongoing thing. I’ve got the tattoo of it on my arm. And we have a surprise in Vancouver: we’re gonna have a 10-foot Bio-man coming out behind the drum riser.”
Alright! Just like Iron Maiden’s Eddie! Cool!
“No, I’m just kidding.”