The Queers have been around for a long time, probably since about 1982. The current incarnation includes founding member Joe King, bassist B-Face and drummer Hugh O'Neill, and this trio has been continuously spreading the gospel of punk and the ideal of being true to yourself and having fun fun fun.
Yah, that's a trademark line from the Beach Boys. You're going to have to get over it, because when you talk about the Queers, you're going to hear about two bands -- the Beach Boys and the Ramones -- over and over, so dig out your leather jackets 'cause we're goin' surfin'. I felt a little uneasy asking Joe King the obvious question: is he tired of being compared to those bands, or does he find it to be a compliment. Joe lunges in: "No, I don't get tired of it... are you kidding? Those are two of the greatest bands ever."
Ok. The band's new album, the followup to 1995's The Queers Move Back Home, is entitled Don't Back Down, and is scheduled for release sometime in August. Joe jumps in: "'Don't Back Down' is a Beach Boys cover... this album is going to have more Beach Boys influence in it than our previous stuff... Yah, this is probably our best album to date... we managed to catch that buzz while recording and we're really looking forward to it." Joe is referring I hope to the buzz they get from performing live.
I was about to clarify that when we were interrupted at the other end: "Well, well, well. Look who just walked in, it's my mentor, Larry, from the Potatomen." Larry is also the band's label guy in Berkeley. Joe turns the discussion back to me. "I'm sitting at his desk eating a Reuben." Geez! I'm glad it's a phoner, the thought of sauerkraut wafting in my face is making me queasy. Must (Captain Kirk dramatic pause) focus.
Yes, today the Queers are in Berkeley, California. Now, it is known that Berkeley is one of the punk capitals of North America and you might then assume that this is where the Queers reside. If you thought this to be true, you are mistaken. Don't pass go, don't collect $200 and head straight to jail... remembering, that in jail they force you listen to Michael Bolton. Joe actually lives in New Hampshire while Hugh and B-Face hail from Boston: It's not that bad, as Joe relates: "It's only about an hour and a half commute." Sorta like living in Surrey.
The Queers are signed to Lookout Records, a small label in California, which also houses such acts as Pansy Division and the Groovy Ghoulies. And, incidentally, Lookout recently signed a distribution deal with Vancouver's own hip label, Mint Records.
So why are the Queers in Berkeley? "Today we're in the office finishing up some artwork for our new album... then we're heading up the coast... Oregon, Washington... " and, yes, folks, to (North) Vancouver , where they played with the Smugglers and the Hi-Fives last week. This was a rare opportunity to see the Queers in Vancouver, or in Canada for that matter. "After Vancouver we head on our first Cross-Canada tour... we're excited about it... we've played southern Ontario before, but we've never gone across the country."
Like most bands you talk to, touring is the Queers' lifeblood and they all share an eternal passion for being on the road. "Yah, it's always good, you always meet new people and stuff... I feel privileged to have the chance to see new places and to have friends all over the world." Isn't Canada a rather brutal country to tour, what with the lack of cities to play and its sheer land mass? "We're used to driving, I mean we drove from Boston to Berkeley and then we're making the haul [and a beautiful, scenic haul it is] up to Vancouver and across Canada before we head home, so it doesn't bother us... we've logged a hell of a lot of miles over the years."
With a new album coming out, their first cross-Canada tour moments away... where do the Queers fit into the grand picture?
"The Queers are about fun fun fun, and we have no desire to be rock stars... You know, we were in San Francisco and there's this hotel where they all hang out, the Phoenix. It's sad... Sonic Youth was there... it's a big rock star drug hangout and it's just not us... " Larry pipes up in the background about somebody from a band OD'ing there recently [ed. Yup. Brad Nowell, founder of Sublime, was found dead on May 25.].
Joe continues without missing a beat: "I'm sure we could sign to a major label or Epitaph or something, but what's the point." (Larry pipes up in the background again: "We'll give you bus fare to Epitaph." ) Joe parries: "We don't want to be lost in the big company... we're on a small indie label now and we are having fun... if we do become big stars and sell tons of records it'll be because the audience beat a path down to our door, not because we beat a path down to theirs... We'll still be playing the music we want to play and if it becomes big, great... people will probably call us sellouts, but... whatever!... I'm doin' all right, I've got about 10 or 15 bucks in the bank and that's pretty good." I told him he was about 17 bucks up on me, 'cause I'm overdrawn. Joe comes to the rescue: "That's cool, I'll lend you a couple of bucks when we come up."
Joe must abort the interview, now. Upon asking if I was going to be at the show, he told me: "Come up and say hi. I'll be the guy walking around in a daze... just ask for Joe Queer."
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