Months before the release of his debut album, Liam Lynch was getting strong airplay for his quirky garage-punk spoof "United States of Whatever," a demo of the song had already scaled the U.K. charts, and his pals Tenacious D, Dave Grohl and Ringo Starr were looking forward to collaborating with him.
Not bad for a guy who was previously best known for talking through a sock puppet on the surreal TV show "Sifl & Olly."
"United States of Whatever" is a novelty tune made up of a simple, repetitive riff and tumbling drums that regularly drop out completely so Lynch can cut in and ramble about ... whatever. If it sounds like he's spouting out the first thing that comes to mind, that's because he is.
"I made up the song as I went along," Lynch admitted. "There was nothing ever written, there were no lyrics. I just hit 'record' and started playing and tried to find the vibe as I was going along. The entire thing is my very first take improv. All I had in my mind was the phrase 'United States of Whatever.' I think if I would have taken the time to write it and think about it, it wouldn't have been good."
When he wrote the song, Lynch had just returned to California after four years at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, where he was taught by Paul McCartney, Brian Eno and other legends. And while it felt good to be back in California, it was also a little unsettling.
"I was still sort of culture-shocked from being back in America, so maybe that's why there's an American theme," he said. "But I just thought of that phrase and thought it was funny, and then I literally went downstairs and hit 'record.' That's why in the beginning of the song, the lyrics are really vague, but by the end it gets more specific."
"United States of Whatever" is one of 20 tracks on Lynch's Fake Songs, a quirky, irreverent album full of spot-on artist spoofs and rough-around-the edges recordings in such styles as alternative folk, heavy metal, classic rock, disco and rap.
The sprightly and poppy "Cuz You Do" and the Stones-y "Try Me" feature drumming by ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, and the metal stomper "Rock and Roll Whore" is a duet with Jack Black of Tenacious D. Lynch hooked up with Starr not because of his professor, Sir Paul, but through the media grapevine.
"He heard my song on a radio station in England and loved it and called me at home," Lynch recalled. "I got a phone call out of the blue from Ringo and he had no idea I had studied with McCartney, which was awesome. But he's great. He's a total natural."
The Jack Black connection is a bit more organic. Lynch, who also works on music videos, directed the Tenacious D vid for "Tribute," wrote lyrics with Black and recorded video footage for the band's tour.
"Jack and I are just PlayStation buddies," Lynch said, adding that he and Black recently worked on a song for the long-awaited debut LP from Dave Grohl's side project Probot.
"It's the hardest rockin' song that's ever been written," Lynch said. "It's called 'I am the Warlock,' and it is so hard, it's beyond Black Sabbath."
As entertaining as "United States of Whatever," "Rock and Roll Whore" and Lynch's other original originals are, some of the most memorable cuts on Fake Songs are the "fake" ones in which he imitates other artists. Unlike Weird Al Yankovic, who writes new lyrics to existing tunes, Lynch creates entirely original songs that sound strikingly like unwritten cuts by Björk, David Bowie, Pixies, Depeche Mode and Talking Heads.
"I'm not making fun of those artists, because I love them," he insisted. "I just wanted to feel what it was like to do what they do. The truth is, there are so many different artists that do parodies of other artists but never admit it. Like on Sum 41's 'Fat Lip,' they wanted to be the Beastie Boys. And even that new Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow song 'Picture' is a fake Bob Seger song. I think a lot of people get away with worse than what I did, and they call it their own."