ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 27, 1996
By Steve Newton
When Arizona rockers the Refreshments were starting out, they would do most anything to get a crowd interested. They used to play gigs in shower caps, water wings, and senior’s sunglasses, and give away candies and chocolate milk to first dancers.
Hey, you gotta go that extra mile once in a while.
“When we first got goin’, we frankly didn’t know that many songs,” says Refreshments guitarist Brian Blush, calling from a sound check in Riverside, California. “So we pretty much had to turn it into kind of a variety hour just to get through the night. We would encourage people to get out on the dance floor by bribing them with these goodies that we would pick up before the gig.”
Although handing out cheap treats helped the band win over fans when it needed them most, the vibrant original-music scene in the band’s hometown of Tempe was also a bonus.
“There has been sort of a real strong, supportive musical community around there for a long time,” says Blush, “but once [Tempe’s] Gin Blossoms hit, it really got active, and a lot of bands came out of their basements.”
The Refreshments got their own first break after performing at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, early last year. A New York–based big shot from Mercury Records was impressed, and by the spring of ’95, they had signed a recording contract.
“One gig there is probably worth about five years of bustin’ your butt in a local scene,” says Blush of the annual SXSW festival and conference. “When you’re there, you’re playing for people who can do things like sign your band—or at least get the interest starting to roll—and that’s pretty important, for young bands especially.”
The result of the Refreshments’ Mercury signing is Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy, a poppy roots-rock debut that sounds, well, refreshing. Blush’s sharp lead-guitar work brightens up the combined efforts of singer–rhythm guitarist Roger Clyne, bassist Buddy Edwards, and drummer P.H. (“Professionally Homeless”) Naffah. Tunes like “Banditos” and “Mexico”, and shots of the band cavorting among cacti in full mariachi regalia, show a particular fondness for Arizona’s neighbour to the south.
“We’re about two hours from the border of Mexico,” explains Blush, “and there’s definitely a respect and love of that country and of the people down there. It’s a pretty untamed place, and it’s sort of a refuge of ours; we like to hide out there whenever we can.”
Before they can vanish into the Land of the Taco, though, the Refreshments will be crossing a northerly border for a show at the Starfish Room on Saturday (June 29), accompanied by current tour mates Cola. The opening band’s moniker is well-suited to the pairing, especially considering that the Refreshments once pondered the idea of calling themselves Pop Enema.
“That lasted for about 25 minutes,” says Blush. “When I first came in and met the guys in the band, we were kickin’ around some song ideas, and we finished one and I said, ‘Wow, that’s really a pop enema.’ And they said, ‘Oh, there it is; that’s the name of the band.’ And I stoutly said, ‘No way. I’m not going to my grave having named a band Pop Enema.’ So at my request, we kinda chickened out.”