When you head to the polls on Tuesday (November 2), remember that only one group has vowed to put the “party” back into the two-party system: the Presidents of the United States of America.
The Seattle jokesters behind such mid-’90s rock-radio staples as “Lump,” “Peaches” and “Kitty” (and their accompanying videos featuring dune buggies, exploding fruit and the gratuitous use of ninjas) are back with a new album and a renewed sense of purpose: to kick out the jams.
“Our thing is that we’re a party band. Every gig we play is like a party in your basement. We don’t have to be serious,” said the Presidents’ commander in chief, Chris Ballew. “We’ll play wherever anybody will have us. We’ve played everything from fraternity parties to NASCAR events to community celebrations with corn on the cob and elephant ears. It’s been real fun.”
You’d think that with a name that rings with extra resonance during this election year, the Presidents would take the opportunity to get on the soapbox and speak their minds. And while they did play a John Kerry fund-raiser in Seattle a few months back, it’s clear by the good-time rock and roll sentiments on their new album, Love Everybody, that they won’t be quitting their day jobs to become political pundits anytime soon.
“Here’s the deal: Our name is funny because we don’t do political songs. We don’t do anything to acknowledge the name. We try to keep the joke in check,” Ballew said. “We called our new record Love Everybody because it’s a little political without being overtly political. It’s not like I’m dissing Green Day or Sum 41, but everybody feels like they have to make this overt statement, like American Idiot or Sum 41′s record [Chuck].”
“I don’t think that sh– belongs in rock and roll at all. Rock and roll is a party,” he continued. “That’s just rock. They dropped the ‘and roll.’ The ‘and roll’ part is the fun part. We’re political by being pure joy distilled. It’s good to shut up and dance sometimes.”
The Presidents’ dance party continued unabated throughout much of the mid-’90s (though their second album, the appropriately titled II, failed to equal the sales of their self-titled debut), but they never really got the respect they deserved. Goofy humor was not welcome amidst the doom and gloom of the grunge era. Discouraged, the Presidents vacated rock’s Oval Office in 1998, after Ballew decided he didn’t want to become just another pop-culture footnote (see “Presidents Of The U.S.A. End Their Term” ). That feeling didn’t last long, though, because he got inspiration to continue the Presidents from possibly the biggest footnote of the past 30 years: the Fonz.
“We were on a TV show with Henry Winkler in Paris, and we were hanging out backstage, talking about stereotypes and fame,” Ballew said. “And he said, ‘You know, I will always be the Fonz. I got over it years ago. I’m going do other things and be in real plays, and no one will ever know me as anything other than the Fonz. And I have to be OK with that because that’s just the way it is.’ ”
Inspired by those wise words, Ballew and the Presidents reconvened and got to work on making Love Everybody. They have also finally fulfilled their plan to re-release their debut album (see “Presidents Back In Office; First Executive Order Is Reissue Of Debut” ); it comes out, fittingly, on Election Day. And if their new album fails to light the charts on fire, Ballew will be OK. He knows that with a band called the Presidents of the United States of America, he’s got a steady gig lined up every four years at least.
“Well, I’d like to think there’s going to be another record before 2008, but we’re probably going to need a break after making this one,” he said. “It takes a while for us to do a record. So it could be four more years. I like that idea. We’ll do four-year terms.”