While other Seattle bands tended to be downers during the '90s, the
Presidents of the United States of America were a fun pop-punk group
that wrote songs about peaches and swamp-dwelling lumps. If Eddie
Vedder and Kurt Cobain were the mysterious hipsters sitting in the back
of class, then the Presidents were the lovable pranksters asking the
teacher hilariously inappropriate questions.
With their new album These Are the Good Times People out and a show at San Francisco's Great American Hall tomorrow, drummer Jason Finn took a moment to talk with The Daily Californian about politics, Weird Al and the appropriate musical backdrop for doing crossword puzzles.
THE DAILY CALIFORNIAN: Keeping your band's name in mind, would you care to weigh in on the 2008 election? Jason
Finn: Sure. I caucused
for Obama. But, it's not like I don't want you at my gig if you're
voting a different way. I think it's great that people can disagree in
DC: Would you ever want to have another huge hit like you had with "Peaches" and "Lump," or do you like being under the radar better?
JF: Dude, we would love to have our songs all over the radio again! But there are a bunch of reasons why we could never be that big again. So we just put out records when we want to, tour when we want to ... I guess we're just too lazy to be huge again! We get to be more in touch with our own little world this way instead of having to find a way to fit into pop culture.
DC: What do you think of bands who take
themselves really seriously and have an implicit no-fun policy at the
core of their music?
JF: I listen to records like that too and I would say that introspective and somber music has its place. I would never tell anyone to listen to nothing but our music all the time. It would drive me nuts! It's kind of like books. I always have both a novel and a non-fiction book on my nightstand. And, ultimately I just don't think rock music is that important. If you're in a mood for something fun and funky, put on a PUSA album; if you want to do the crossword, put on some Iron and Wine.
DC: These are the Good Times People covers some new stylistic territory for PUSA, like swing, country and funk. Where did these influences come from?
JF: Yeah, the song "Flame is Love" has a real swingy feel and "Deleter" is by far the funkiest number of our entire career. When we practice or play shows sometimes we just start making fun of a genre. So we parody something and before you know it we will have been playing a funky song for like five or 10 minutes. That's how we end up going in these directions. We don't sit there with a clipboard saying, "Ok, we need a country song, a funk number, and a swing number."
DC: Tell us about your past and present collaborations with Weird Al.
JF: We were honored that Weird Al came out to direct our new music video for "Mixed up S.O.B." We know him from back when he parodied our song "Lump" (turning it into the Forrest Gump themed "Gump"). I remember back when we were at a gig and Al walked onto our bus with a cassette. According to him, he had never before played one of his songs for the artist he was parodying prior to the song's release. In other words, by the time Al would meet people like Snoop Dogg, they would've already heard his parody. So, he played it for us and we loved it and now whenever we're in town we go mow his lawn.