INTERVIEW: Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

Published in The Music (NSW, VIC, QLD) on, Sept 2017

Why They Choose To Put Tours Before Albums

Punk rock and politics don’t always go hand in hand, as Me First & The Gimme Gimmes vocalist Spike Slawson tells Daniel Cribb.

“My fear of heights was triggered,” Me First & The Gimme Gimmes ringleader Spike Slawson recalls of a balcony filmed acoustic session with The Music during the band’s 2013 Aus tour.

There’s been a number of touring line-up changes within the group since that stint, with The Living End’s Chris Cheney now locked down on guitar for the band’s 2017 Australian tour. With “better outfits, funnier jokes, and more compelling dance moves” on the menu, the tour also celebrates the recently release Rake It In greatest hits record, which marks a massive 22 years for the band. “It’s kind of bizarre,” Slawson tells. “It’s kind of like a blur; it seems to have happened very quickly.”

They’ve survived two decades of a rapidly changing music scene, and are one of a handful of ‘90s acts who can still sell out Australian tours, which Slawson partly attributes to the atmosphere they create at each gig.

While, as individuals, each member of the band (which currently also features Lagwagon’s Joey Cape and Dave Raun, alongside Bad Religion’s Jay Bentley) has strong political views, a Gimmes gig is a chance to temporally forget your troubles and some of the world’s issues, and have some “dirty, trashy fun”.

“I definitely think there’s a place for political statements in music and art, but I think if people are going to be serious about something, they’re going to be motivated by more than just one guy yelling in a song,” he explains.

“Punk culture informed my political outlook, so maybe it will for other people to, but I don’t always necessarily agree with it either. It doesn’t make any sense for us to be overtly political.”

Anyone familiar with the band’s extensive back catalogue of covers albums will confirm there’s little room a political agenda. Although fans had a steady flow of Gimmes albums over the years – most recently 2014’s Are We Not Men? We Are Diva! among some EPs – we might not see another for a while. “Playing shows is more fun,” Slawson says. “I like playing these songs live and telling jokes and dancing around and if recording some songs gives you the opportunity to do that, then that’s kind of what it’s good for.

“If you don’t have 12 great songs to put on a record, why bother? But if you have two or three good ones, why not do a 7-inch and go play those songs somewhere.”

When and if the band manages to assemble its all-star, original line-up (which includes NOFX’s Fat Mike and Foo Fighter’s Chris Shiflett) for another release, we might see a change in format their previous efforts. “I would like to cover a variety of genres and have it be more centred around events – weird live shows like weddings or communions, things of that nature,” he tells.

It’s a similar format to the band 2004 live album, Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah, recorded at Fat Mike’s accountant’s son’s bar mitzvah. “The great thing about playing events like that is you’re always going to have an older generation or even people your age that are going to want to have nothing to do with it, but are just indulging their kids, so there’s this weird, awkward tension.”

There mightn’t be any new music from Me First & The Gimme Gimmes within reach, but you can expect some punk boogie gems from Slawson soon. “I also have a band called the Re-Volts, which is original material… we’ve been playing some shows around town and working on a new record, which we should have out next year.”