Good glaven! After a short departure, Rising Stars of Geek Rock is back.
Today's band, Hired Goons, found me only a few weeks ago. Thank Jebus they did! Their music is as fun as a game of knifey-spooney.
...Are you catching the blatant Simpsons references? Super-dee-diddly-uper, because Hired Goons is a "Ramones-influenced Simpsons tribute." They perform covers and originals right here in Springfield- er, Chicago. Believe it.
I found the marriage bizarre at first, but The Simpsons and Ramones have crossed paths before. The band appeared in the 1993 Simpsons episode, Rosebud, and critics raved. The work of Hired Goons isn't so strange after all.
The following is an interview with band member Paul Czarnowski, a.k.a. Homer Ramone. Best. Dialogue. Ever. ...OK, OK, I'll drop the Simpsons jargon. Just have a read.
Geek Girl Chicago: How did Hired Goons get started?
Hired Goons (Paul/Homer): Monty and Homer were sitting around late some summer night in 2004, watching Simpsons on DVD (or on one of the many 6-hour VHS tapes of Simpsons reruns that I've taped over the last decade), when Monty turned to me and said, "We should start a band that sings about The Simpsons."
We thought about it, and thought about it. Then, a few months later, I was watching End Of The Century, the documentary about The Ramones, and it hit me: where was the first place I ever saw the Ramones? On The Simpsons! "Gabba Gabba Hey" quickly became "Gabba Gabba D'oh,"... and the destiny of the band was written.
GGC: Why do you all love The Ramones? The Simpsons?
HG: I, and I'm guessing the rest of my bandmates, have enjoyed The Simpsons since they appeared on The Tracy Ullman Show. You know those guys who just belt out Simpsons quote after Simpsons quote for even the most unrelated conversation? That was us. I'm sure there are better TV critics who could tell you the appeal to children and adults as well as sociology texts... but it's brought us such joy over the last two decades and influenced our lives and our friendships and who knows what else.
I personally didn't get into the Ramones until a year or so prior. SHOCKING! I can't speak for Monty's Ramones experience, but I've been friends with him since 1992 and we were both into a band called Screeching Weasel, who are also heavily influenced by the Ramones. I didn't even know what punk was until the late 90's... I had heard the Ramones before, but it wasn't until I picked up Rocket To Russia on vinyl on a whim that they finally made a lot of sense to me, and I loved what I heard. I don't know what took me so long, but better late than never.
When we decided to combine the two for this band, Monty and I, as well as our new friend Kodos, listened to every Ramones album and dissected nearly every song to see what made them tick. Suddenly, their supposedly simple songs were brutally tough to keep track of while playing, and it was brutal playing them. Did you know that Johnny only did down-strokes? Try down-strokes at that pace for even under three minutes! After getting into shape to play these songs, I had even more respect for the band and they've been one of my favorites since.
GGC: What audience are you trying to reach?
HG: Simpsons fans, rock fans, music fans... I hope we're good and we get their attention. It might be hard to take us seriously because of the subject matter, and we do joke around a lot both on and off stage, but we're four friends and we're having a great time. We are a tough act to follow (bring it!). We're aggressive enough to hopefully lure the crowd who are into the heavier stuff, and catchy enough to get people to sing along. I want the audience to have as much fun as we are... and I want them to rock out!
GGC: What role do women play in Hired Goons?
HG: Our wives are unbelievably supportive. Krusty had been filling in for a few shows before his wife turned to him, pointed out how much fun he was having with us, and that he should just join.
Kodos was the only girl in our band and she was amazing. You'd never know from talking to her that she was a holy terror on the drums. She plays a variety of instruments, and helped Monty write the melodies for his songs on Everything's Coming Up Milhouse and nearly everything on Bigger Than Jebus. And I don't know, even if she's just one of the guys, there is something about having a woman's perspective directly in the band that's NOT one of our wives. She's also a total sweetheart. She put up with our fart jokes very well. There were a lot of them.
She moved to Tennessee and is a mom now, and is working on her PhD. We're in touch with her all the time, and we still discuss band business with her, but we're looking for a new drummer. We're hoping to meet more female candidates.
GGC: You've played a lot of "geek" venues- G-Mart Comics, Hot Topic, etc. What is special about these locations?
HG: We'll play anywhere. Is your grandmother in a rest home and needing to be cheered up? Turn up her hearing aid and call us. If the venue isn't a "proper" venue, and we're asked to turn the instruments down so's the neighbors don't complain, we'll meet the challenge.
Full disclosure- I'm the manager at G-Mart. There's a map of Springfield on one of the G-Mart walls.
GGC: You also have Snickety-Snikt-Snikt, the Marvel-inspired EP. What other fandoms influence you?
HG: We played the 60's Spider-Man theme, as the Ramones used to, at some of our early shows. Then, the movies for Iron Man and Wolverine were being developed, so we thought it'd be funny to change the lyrics a little bit. We also had an in-joke in calling the Punisher movie "The Revenger," so we rewrote our own song, "I Like Revenging," to match the events in the movie. We recorded these on one microphone with no editing or overdubs. We'd like to re-record these for realsies with the new [band members], and even expand on other Marvel movies that have come out since then. ...and maybe write a song dedicated to Darkhawk, but Monty is giving me the evil eye on that one.
We're big into comics, especially Marvel comics of the 80's, and especially Spider-Man. Monty and I got into a contest where we started name-calling each other the worst possible Spidey villain of the late 70's/early 80's. "You're Puma!" "Oh yeah? Well you're Rocket Racer!" I think I won when I dusted off "Wil-O-The-Wisp," which maybe made Monty cry.
We're children of the 80's, so we're always gabbing about Star Wars and web shooters and robots that turn into things and so much more. I'd love to do a Futurama based EP. And Arrested Development. We don't have the time in our collective lives to sing about everything we love, otherwise we'd make a 3 disc concept album dedicated to Ghostbusters.
Visit gabbagabbadoh.com for streaming music and updates on the Goons' next gig. Both Hired Goons albums- Everything's Coming Up Milhouse and Bigger Than Jebus- are available on iTunes and Amazon MP3. You can also become a fan on Facebook.
NEXT TIME: The biggest GEEKend in Chicago yet!