The Theatrics of Desire
We’re The Pink Spiders, and you’re not
by Kevin Crowe
"You’ve been warned,” our MTV told us last year. They were talking about Nashville-based trio The Pink Spiders. Yes, you’ve been warned. Each song from their newest album, Teenage Graffiti , blends ridiculously catchy bubblegum pop with a slightly weatherworn punk ethos, complete with risqué hooks that make the ladies scream. And the guys? We like it, too.
“It’s my favorite thing,” says frontman Matt Friction. “I’ve always liked drinking and drugs and girls. Wake up hung-over, get in the van. Then get all the nervous energy out…. Most of these things come naturally.”
When they released their EP The Pink Spiders Are Taking Over back in 2003, it came across as an acrid battle cry, a frenetic yawp to let Nashville scenesters know that The Pink Spiders aren’t like anything they’ve ever heard before. And it was fun, especially in the early days, when drummer Bob Ferrari was apt to greet their crowds with a middle finger, and bassist Jon Decious would spit beer on unsuspecting fans in the front row.
We’re The Pink Spiders, and you’re not , Friction would scream at the crowd, like a glam-rock Dionysus, clad in tight pink. This was the music of uncontrolled lust, laid naked and trembling, unsure if it’s seduction or torture. Said you were looking for a boyfriend, baby , Friction sings on “All the Cool Girls Are Dead.” You’re wasting your time with me .
“I wish I could remember that,” Friction says of the early days. “We were just some guys, we just knew each other, and it kind of fell into place. We were on food stamps. Made it by any means necessary…. No one quit their jobs or broke their lease. It wasn’t planned, just went to this place in Georgia, slept on the floor of the studio and made a record.”
She’s out of luck, out of hope and out of cigarettes , they sing on “Modern Swinger.” Misunderstood with naked pictures on the Internet/ Her social deviance is teasing me and I know what I want .
“It was a lot darker,” Friction goes on, describing the maturation of their sound. “It became more playful and colorful. It was the more aggressive side that changed…. It was heavier and a little more abrasive. We definitely have a younger female fan base than we used to. A band finds its sound and finds its look naturally. We realized that we weren’t tough guys.”
The Pink Spiders play a kind of power pop that will delight nightclub deviants and infuriate boyfriends. Even though the sound has softened over the past couple of years, there’s still a hard edge, as hedonistic desire still inflects every lyrics with a brash, defiant lick. This would be Caligula’s favorite band. Casanova would’ve loved them, too.
On “Easy Way Out,” Friction sings, Broads in the bar in the car sipping vodka tonics/ Another couple drinks and then they look just fine/ It’s easy, as they say, but believe me see I hate it/ When the hardest part is acting like I just don’t try .
“They’re all kind of a blur,” Friction continues, talking about life on the road. Girls come back to hotel rooms. Bars start to look the same. Sometimes, you wake up, and everything’s gone completely alien. “A cat was lying on the floor,” he says, straining to piece a hazy memory together. “It was drinking Jack Daniels. The tour’s been going on for a month or so. There have been four or five days that I haven’t been asleep.”
Once, at a dingy strip club in Anytown, U.S.A., the DJ began play a Pink Spiders song. You know you’ve made it when your song is playing in the strip club.
“It’s cool to see yourself on MTV and to hear your songs on the radio,” Friction Laughs. “But girls stripping to your songs is a little bit cooler.”
Somewhere, beyond the hyperbolized chauvinism and the strange theatrics of The Pink Spiders, there’s something bigger. It’s carnivalesque, a giant middle finger shoved in the face of decency, ethics and anything that we may take too seriously. There’s something that gets lost in the addictive hooks of any good pop song. Did you hear it? It probably doesn’t matter.
“Any means necessary,” Friction goes on.
Who: Kill Hannah and The Pink Spiders w/ Love Arcade and Action Reaction
ONLINE EXTRA: Q & A with Asheville-based quartet Peace Jones
by Gigi Novelo
Q: So tell me about what kind of music you play? How would you classify yourself?
A: Primarily rock’n’roll, more like progressive rock, I guess, with some reggae, country, blues, and classic rock—we like to do a lot of genre-hopping.
Q: What sort of messages do you send through your music, if any?
A: You know, just peace, mainly. We want a new image for the 21st century, we want people to be more conscious of the world issues as well as personal issues.
Q: So do you have a lot of political songs?
A: Yes, we have several. “Faith for Oil” is one, “Division” is another. You know, everyone needs money to live, and oil as well, but if we don’t stop consuming stuff so unnecessarily we are going to run out of everything and the world is going to end. We need to conserve.
Q: Do you consider yourselves to be activists? Do you go to protests?
A: Our shows a lot of times end up being political protests because I talk a lot about politics and conservation, and, you know, just giving back to the community.
Q: So tell me about this “flauting” you do, your unique flute playing style. How is different from any other bands with flutes?
A: Well, I don’t really know of any other bands that play the flute, do you? I mean, just the fact that I play the flute is enough to get people to come out. I play it as a solo instrument. Like, in rock’n’roll you hear those crazy guitar solos, kind of like Hendrix did, but instead I do it with the flute. I mainly play the guitar on stage, but then when it is time for the flute solo, I just walk over and pick up the flute. It brings a whole different flavor to my musical voice.
Q: How and when did the band come together?
A: June 2004. I had been writing since 1997, and I had been doing some professional drumming. I started writing some stuff and playing it for my friends and then decided it was time to make a little record. After that it started taking off. We had this dynamic fun funky bluesy sound starting to turn up. I think it was something people hadn’t heard before. Then we started playing and it just kind of took off.
Q: What are your influences?
A: Jazz—a lot of more later though, like from the ’50s and ’60s, some classic reggae and just classic rock, you know like, Jethro Tull. Blues is also a big influence, because it can grow and change.
Q: Would you consider yourself a “hippie” band? What kind of audiences do you cater to?
A: (Laughs) Hippie? What do you mean by that? I mean, we show a message of peace, but “hippie”—some people hate that word. I mean, we are not trying to classify ourselves. We are all earthy people, organic, out of the cities and into the woods, bumpkiny almost. Sometimes our audiences are confused because we sound so urban but we are from the woods. You know, I grew up when rap was getting big. Who we don’t do well with is, well, once we played for an underage crowd—like all-ages, and we didn’t mesh well. It was like they wanted some type of Top 40 stuff, you know, and that’s not what we do. In Asheville we kind of do well with the hippie college-y type. When we go play out of the city we get more older type guys and gals 35-45. I think they like it because we are like a blast from the past for them. We have a bar band act when we go out and our down-home act. I am happy to say it is about 50/50
Q: You said it was important for you to get your message of peace out. What about more material goals? What are your monetary aspirations? Is it your goal to make money at all?
A: Yes—the more money I make playing music, the more music I will be able to make. I want to make as much money as possible. My ultimate goal is to produce music. I would like to make enough money to enable me to do all the things I want. I also want to write some theatre, maybe. And give back to the community, of course, maybe build an eco-friendly school. It’s just something that is on the drawing board, but that I would like to accomplish.
Q: An eco-friendly school? That teaches conservation, or just practices it??
A: Well, both. I mean, people can’t conserve if they don’t know how. People need to know that there are different ways to produce power. Like different power systems, different ways to give power through solar panels, windmills also, to teach people to conserve. Consuming is bad; people need to buy things that are more resourceful. It needs to teach lifestyle change. We have to conserve or everything is going to run out. I mean we need oil; I am not that idealistic to think we are going to get to ride horses. Those are the things we are trying to teach, but like, I said it is long term. Right now we just want to get our music out there. So far we are doing really good.
Peace Jones will be performing Saturday, Jan. 13 at Downtown Grill and Brewery.