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INTERVIEW: Presidents of the United States prepare to rock Brandeis

By Leor Galil

Section: Arts

April 15, 2005

Admit it: you own a copy of a Creed CD, you downloaded Sugar Rays Every Morning, and you absolutely love the Presidents of the United States of America. While listening to Creed or Sugar Ray may be considered embarrassing, the Presidents still have their hooky, punk-infected, pop-rock tunes to entertain the masses at no cost to your rank on the social scale. With the release of Love Everybody in the fall, the Presidents have announced their return to the world of rock, brining with them a much-needed boost of energy and happiness into music today. Presidents drummer Jason Finn took some time off the bands preparation for WBRS annual Springfest show and an ensuing European tour to talk to the Hoot.

The Hoot: Why did you guys decide to comeback? Why now?

Jason Finn: We started up again about 2 years ago for no particular reason, some guys in Seattle asked us to do some little show here and it turned out to be a lot of fun, and we kept doing shows. It wasnt until last spring that we decided to do a record. As far as timing, there wasnt any reason to choose the time to get back together, it just happened.

Hoot: How did you first meet up with Chris and Dave to form the group?

Finn: I already knew Dave, kind of a convoluted thing;

I went to high school with some guys, and not all the same thing, if you know what I mean. Dave sister used to go out with the guy I used to live with, and then Dave introduced me to Chris. Its all way back, kind of a long story.

Hoot: What happened to the collaboration with Sir Mix a Lot, otherwise known as Subset?

Finn: Right, yeah, we did do that. We played shows in the Northwest for about a year or a year and a half, and it was really fun. We got along really well. We tried recording it, but it never came out, it was nothing we were shooting for in the studio. We tried again, but his record came out, and then we did our own thing. It was super satisfying. Were not giving up hope on making an album, maybe sometime in the future. A bunch of the sessions we recorded and didnt release are online, on downloading websites, you should check it out.

Hoot: With your first breakthrough, you guys arose from the dust of the grunge empire with a sound of an incredibly upbeat and happy tempo. Did you expect for your sound to catch on as quickly as it did, or be looked over as just another Seattle band?

Finn: The non-connection to grunge was sort of a convenient story for journalists the world over in their use in first describing us… Its sort of not the thing you can plan, the whole world domination thing. Of course, we had all of our friends in town that knew what to do, they told us how to handle all the things we needed to know for the music biz.

Hoot: In the 7-year absence, you produced 2 albums: Pure Frosting and Freaked Out and Small. Despite your breakup, the need to produce music, especially as a group, mustve still been there. Was it the constant touring and physical demand that accompanied your earlier band stages that really made it hectic?

Finn: Definitely, the rock lifestyle certainly was not for us. Chris and Dave, their families were getting bigger, the road was wearing, and we werent prepared for the rock life. Breaking up was the only weapon against the record labels and doing it on our own terms. We didnt have a clear idea of taking time off, and there was always something coming back. Its nice to be back on our own terms, were on our own label now, were the boss.

Hoot: As previously mentioned, you guys exude a certain sense of happiness, which calls to mind only a few other bands of similar proportions, such as Andrew W.K. and the Polyphonic Spree. Those very bands also manage to pull off the most exciting, engaging, and just plain fun live shows. After being blown away by your set at the Paradise this past fall, I wonder how much of an importance goes into your live performances.

Finn: We do a lot of stretching and drink a lot of water. Really, what we do live is totally what comes naturally. I mean Chris is a very gifted and extroverted performer. We dont plan anything when we go onstage, we just go and its something thats on. If anything, it would be very difficult to turn off, if we were offered a million dollars to turn it off, it might not work.

Hoot: While you guys are a Seattle-bred band, you have roots in the Boston area. Is there something about Boston that you place above most other places, not only as a place to perform, but one to be in?

Finn: Mainly for Chris, he lived there a couple of years after college. Well drive around, and Chris will be like, yeah I had a drink in that building. Its sort of a feeling of remembering your college days. I always like the food;

you cannot get a good chicken parm on the West Coast, especially the Northwest. I look forward to that for weeks.

Hoot: Ten years after your self-titled album, you guys return with Love Everybody. What did you feel was more compelling about this piece than your previous three albums?

Finn: Were very proud of it, we worked quite hard on it. In some ways, its more similar to our first album than any of our others. With Pure Frosting and Freaked Out and Small, those didnt represent our relationship as a band;

Pure Frosting was a bunch of songs we hadnt released, and Freaked Out and Small was recorded when we were broken up, so Love Everybody really shows how we work as a band. In fact, were still re-learning a couple of songs off of Freaked for our upcoming shows.

Hoot: Why the name Presidents of the United States of America?

Finn: It just popped out of Chriss mouth one night at a party where he was. I wasnt there, but there was a jam session, he sort of grabbed a guitar, took charge of the thing, and started saying random words. It was about the third thing he said, and the 8 stoned people or so who were in the room were like chuckles and he knew he was onto something.

Hoot: Who is your favorite president?

Finn: Van Buren, for obvious reasons.

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