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Published on March 13th, 2012 | by Darren Byrne


Competition Closed: Interview and Ticket Competition: Presidents of the United States of America

“Lump sat alone in a boggy marsh, totally emotionless except for her heart.”

Truer words were never spoken.

“Millions of peaches, peaches for me; millions of peaches, peaches for free.”

Words to live your life by.

Ok, so the Presidents of the United States of America were never the most profound songwriters, but there’s no doubting that their music was exciting and latched hold of the minds of a generation. My generation.

In the 90’s, the surreality of Lump, Peaches and Kitty (Meow!) really grabbed me. I remember walking to the pub with friends screaming out the lyrics of We’re Not Going to Make It.

So, imagine how bouncy excited I was to hear that the Seattle-based PUSA were not just back touring over this side of the pond, but they were touring their self-titled debut album.

“Kitty on my foot and I wanna touch it.”

I chatted with drummer Jason Finn earlier today. The band is approaching the end of the tour and I caught him after a day off as they were on the road to Eindhoven (having already toured much of the UK). He was chowing down on a bowl of muesli as I chatted to him.

@Culch_ieYou guys were part of the anthem of my teenage years. Though you’re hardly the typical magazine celebs, are you aware of the influence you had when you first exploded onto the international music scene?

@JasonFinnGood question. We don’t really think of ourselves as having that much of a lasting impact on our fans. Our connection is intimate and strong, but we don’t feel you should plan your life around our music. You should just do that on the weekend.

@Culch_ieThe self-titled debut album, II and Pure Frosting – I loved these albums. I’ll admit I lost track for a while (having discovered the music of Tom Waits and refusing to listen to anything else), but These Are the Good Times People was excellent. Are there plans afoot for a new studio album?

@JasonFinnHa, well that could take years, that could take a decade it itself. Nice.
No, we’re almost 20 years old and that’s a pretty good lifespan for a band. Bands are inherently unstable configuration to start with and I don’t think we need to belabour it or push it. We’re certainly old enough that it’s too hard to tour like we used to. There’s not enough time in the schedule, there’s not enough physical vigour in our bodies anymore. So now, we’re on a limited schedule and when it pops up, that’s all we can manage now. But never say day. If songs show up one day, we’ll record them.

@Culch_ieIt sounds like the ideal situation. You get to do exactly what you want to do right now?

@JasonFinnYeah, this trip is the perfect length. We’re having a lot of fun and there’s no time to really get too run down physically or anything. We’re just in and out a bunch of places that we prefer and skipping all the places we not-so-much prefer.

@Culch_ieIt’s a few years since you last hit Ireland, what do you think of our fair isle?

@JasonFinnMy God! St Patrick’s Day right – that’s a terrifying coincidence. We’ve had a complicated and very long relationship with Guinness. We so rarely get to have it from the source and that’s an opportunity we do not take lightly. And we’re going to take it very seriously on stage…at least two or three times. This is the second Dublin gig in a row that we’re ending [the tour] with a Dublin trip. So, we’ll be able to leave everything on the stage at the end of the night.

@Culch_ieYour The Presidents of the United States of Americadebut album was brilliant. It was on constant repeat for me and my friends. At the risk of answering my own question, why have you decided to tour that album now?

@JasonFinnCertainly, it’s by far the farthest-reaching record we did. I think that any sort of internet poll would have most people voting for that one. If we went out and did These Are the Good Times People I just don’t think it would have the same sort of resonance, but we’re doing a block of other assorted tunes at the top and end of the set, so we’re blanketing the debut with some other stuff. Every night the kids are asking when we’re going to come back and do the second record so, that might be the new thing. We might just switch records every Summer.

@Culch_ieI still know all the words to Lump (and I have murdered it in karaoke once or twice), do you still enjoy playing the classic tracks?

@JasonFinn[laughs] Yeah – we’re not out there for four months a year, playing this stuff to death. We’ve condensed our schedule to where we go out and play Lump or Peaches maybe 8 times in the UK and Ireland…it’s transcended. They’re really sturdy songs and they’re holding up for us. I think they can bear a little repeating.

@Culch_ieWhen I caught Eels, they had massively reworked they’re older tracks to the point of which they weren’t recognisable to me. Can we expect some reworkings or are we going to hear the songs as we know them?

@JasonFinnYeah, kind of the opposite. A lot of the songs got gradually reworked in our other tours and what we’ve done really is the opposite. We’ve taken them back to how they originally were. We’ve been listening a lot to the original record. A lot of them we were playing too fast; a lot of them we put these big middle parts into them or things like that. So, we’ve taken out all of that. It’s in order, it’s simple, it’s the way it was. And I guess for us that is the ‘reworking’.

@Culch_ieYou’ve crossed paths with “Weird Al” Yankovic over the years. He’s parodied Lump and he directed Mixed Up S.O.B. a few years back, how weird is Weird Al?

@JasonFinnNot very, not very – he puts his pants on one leg at the time. Chris [Ballew] has spent the most time with him socially, but we’ve known him since the Gump days. He showed up at an LA show and hopped on to our bus with a cassette to play us Gump. It was terrifying for us because he was Weird Al and it was terrifying for him because apparently that was the first time he had ever personally played one of his parodies for the artist in question. From that very nerve-wracking introduction was forged a nice friendship. He always comes along to our LA shows and sometimes gets up. Sometimes we’ll do Gump instead of Lump. Yeah, believe me, the kids go pretty bonkers when that happens.

@Culch_ieHow has the tour gone so far? Are you getting a different kind of reaction, playing your classics?

@JasonFinnWell, I’ll tell you what, in the UK, the crowds have been consistently so insane that I can’t say if they’re more insane for this. It’s a real compliment to the crowds here that they’ve been so consistent over the years. But certainly, it’s been really gratifying.

@Culch_ieYour music has featured in The Wedding Singer, The Drew Carey Show, George of the Jungle, a number of video games – tell the truth, you all just want to be famous actors, don’t you?

@JasonFinn[laughs] Pretty much. We all 100% wish we were in LA, industry people.

@Culch_ieSo, what would you be doing if you weren’t steeped in the music?

@JasonFinnHard to say. I don’t know – I suppose I would have continued on in my bar tending career. As it happens, I do have some restaurant interests at home, in Seattle, and I enjoy that business. I suppose Chris would be doing exactly as he is now, which is the children’s music, which is literally what he’s born to do.

@Culch_ieAre you all Twitterheads? Who are the technophobes in the band?

@JasonFinnWell, we don’t have any technophobes, but yeah, I’m the only one Twittering @JasonFinn, of course, and I’m doing the bulk of @therealpusa stuff too. We have a complicated relationship with technology. In fact, I don’t think I’ve done a blog post since the start of the trip.

@Culch_ieWell, as you mention that, on your website, you announced that if the Vicar Street show sells out, you’ll perform without your pants. Does that still stand?

@JasonFinnOh yes, it certainly stands on my account. I think that people have misread it to think that everyone is going to be nude, but I can’t vouch for that. But for me, guaranteed no pants. I’m going to need some verifiable ticket count.

@Culch_ieI’m sure we can arrange something. This is the end of the current tour, so once you’ve recovered from St Patrick’s Day, what’s next for the band?

@JasonFinnWell, we go home and that’s pretty much the whole show for the year.  We’re looking at some festival offers for the late Summer. We might be in them or we may not. Those will definitely be on the continent [USA] though. And that’ll be it. In fact, I’d say most years from now on will look a little more like this from now on and a little less like the old days. It’s very much the sunset days of the Presidents. There comes a time where you just let it be the size it’s going to be and just  see what transpires.

Competition Closed – winners notified my email

There are still tickets available on Ticketmaster for this Saturday’s gig in Vicar Street. Doors at 7.30pm and show at 8.30pm. Tickets for the show are priced at €25 inclusive of booking fee. So, if you want to see Jason perform half naked, now’s your chance. On Culch.ie we’re giving a few of our readers the chance to win a pair of tickets to the gig.

Tell us the name of The Presidents of the United States of America’s song that was parodied by “Weird Al” Yankovic. Email your answer to competition@culch.ie with your name and a contact number. Winners will be selected on Thursday evening (15th). It’s an awesome way to spend your Paddy’s Night, so make sure you enter.


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About the Author

Blogger, writer, movie buff, amateur dramatist and all round nice guy. When I'm not spouting about on Culch.ie, I can be found Tweeting inanities @DarrenByrne or @Culch_ie. I am the admin behind Culch.ie and if you want to contact me for anything, drop me a mail.

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