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(We start off talking Fight Church, and the Parry Gripp interview begins at 26:50)
Nerf Herder is a nerd rock/garage punk band that came out of Santa Barbara, California in the mid nineties, where guitarist/lead singer Parry Gripp had been writing a music column for the local newspaper. They released their self-titled first album on My Records, an indie label started by Lagwagon’s Joey Cape, but after their single “Van Halen,” started getting airplay on Live 105, they were signed to a recording contract by major label Arista in 1997. Arista re-released the album, which started getting mainstream airplay. Somewhere around this time I heard their second single, “Sorry,” with the climax “Sorry I jacked off outside of your window/while you were sleepin/I thought you’d never know,” and was hooked. I immediately stole the CD from my friend Clint, who had one of those ridiculous CD club memberships where you got dozens of CDs for a penny. Thanks, Clint. Clint runs a tri tip truck in Portland, Oregon now.
Some of the greatest hits from Nerf Herder’s brief flirtation with traditional rockstardom included singing Clive Davis happy birthday and riding in a limo Demi Moore had once been in. Not to mention getting ripped on by Sammy Hagar, who Nerf Herder famously poked fun at in their most famous song. (“Dave lost his hairline/but you lost your cool, buddy/Can’t drive 55/I’ll never buy your lousy records again.“)
Many sites quote Nerf Herder’s Fat Wreck Chords profile, saying that Sammy Hagar once called them “f*ggots,” which I couldn’t find attribution for, though the subject of the Nerf did come up in this 1999 SF Weekly profile on Hagar:
Hagar says he was flattered by the attention, but he’s not the type to let such talk slide without punching back. He sits up in his chair, chewing his gum more furiously. Three years later, it still gets him worked up.
“What dumb-ass f*ckers would come up from nowhere and make fun of one of the biggest bands in the world? And to sit there and f*ckin’ make fun of them, or make fun of Sammy Hagar, ‘I Can’t Drive 55,’ Number 1 records and stuff — uh uh. That ain’t the way to make a livin’. Especially, here you are, tryin’ to be in the same business. These f*ckers! What’d they expect me to do? How in the f*ck do they expect to make it by makin’ fun of somebody that everyone loves? It’s silly to me.”
I imagine there must be something so gratifying about getting someone with such a carefully-constructed persona as a laidback dude to call you names. At least, if I got Jack Johnson to call me a dickweed, it seems like that’d feel pretty good.
Early on, Nerf Herder were sometimes disparaged as a Weezer ripoff, which Parry has always said he took as a compliment.
I remember seeing Weezer very early on [pre-Blue Album] playing at a friend’s birthday party, and hearing the lyrics to “In The Garage” where they sing about the twelve sided die. It was liberating. I thought, “Wow! I don’t have to sing about being cool. I can sing about being uncool!”
I always thought of Nerf Herder as a funnier, more direct, sillier, more overtly immature – more me, essentially – answer to Weezer. Especially now, even when Weezer is being overtly self-referential, like in their new (pretty great) single, “Back to the Shack,” Rivers will sing something like “I thought I’d get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks,” and you don’t know quite what he’s talking about, even when it sort of feels like you do. Did Weezer make a disco album? I must’ve missed that. There was rarely that kind of ambiguity and oblique vagueness with Nerf Herder, singing songs like the truther love story “Wtc #7,” with lines like “I don’t wanna go down/for no good reason.” When your songs are as clever as Nerf Herder’s, why be vague?
Nerf Herder’s first tour ended up being opening for Weezer on the East Coast leg of the Pinkerton tour (a bummer for me personally, being on the West Coast, though I did get to see Weezer and Superdrag play at a VFW hall in Visalia on the same tour and still know all the words to “Who Sucked Out The Feeling“). Parry has said of Weezer at that point in their career, “they were in a very dark time.”
They were in a very dark time. Pinkerton was sort of disaster for them. Matt Sharp was leaving the band. The shows were awesome, but backstage it was grim, and I’m sure they didn’t want to hang out with us. Later, before the The Green Album came out, River’s contacted me to set up their first shows after a long time of not playing. I suppose we got to know them a little better then.
Set them up how?
Well, River’s called me out of the blue and said that they wanted to start playing again as Weezer, and that they wanted to play with us in Santa Barbara (our hometown). I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I believe I might have put him in touch with the club owner at the place we would always play. The whole thing was nuts! He seemed concerned that people might not be interested in seeing them, which to me seemed ridiculous. Anyhow, we ended up playing 4 or 5 shows with them at that point.
Somewhere in there, Nerf Herder wrote the theme song for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who needed someone to do it on the cheap, and whose cast and crew were fixtures at LA Nerf Herder shows. Parry probably didn’t know it then, but this would eventually become his main career. Parry says Joss Whedon has told him about playing “Nosering Girl” for his kid, and for the record, claims Joss Whedon’s head isn’t as big as it looks in pictures, though I’m not sure I believe him.
The funny thing is, we were signed to a major label during the period we were working on the Buffy song, and when the show was finally going to come out our label didn’t want us to have anything to do with it. They actually negotiated our name smaller in the credits! Later on, when the show was a hit, they suggested, “Say, why don’t you guys add some lyrics to that Buffy song? We could do an EP”. Typical. [Techland, 2008]
In 1999, Nerf Herder saw the writing on the wall and asked to be let go from their own record contract, and continued making records for My Records and Fat Wreck Chords affiliates. Parry discusses this period in our interview:
There was this period of time where record labels were signing any kind of sort wacky band that people seemed to like. Record labels were signing a lot of these bands, and I think at some point they just realized it was a giant mistake. And so a lot of bands were getting dropped, and with us, I think there were like, ‘Well let’s give them some other bands to listen to [to try to emulate], like this band Matchbox 20.’ That was the example we were given, Matchbox 20, like ‘Gee, these guys write songs, and people like ’em!’ And so, it makes you feel like, well why’d you guys sign us if you didn’t like the songs we came up with? But at the same time, the thing is, before you get signed, you’re writing songs to have fun. I mean we were just goofing around in our garage and trying to play on the main street in our town. Getting signed was just like the craziest, weirdest thing that could happen. And then all of a sudden you get signed, and it’s like your job, and people are going to get fired if you don’t have a good song. It really changes your process, and you really write some terrible songs.
On their second CD, How To Meet Girls, Nerf Herder continuing poking fun, this time at Pantera fans (a song Parry doesn’t like to sing anymore because he didn’t write it), death, and Courtney Love, a song with the gloriously unambiguous bridge “Courtney Love, sit on my face.” Unlike Sammy Hagar, strangely, Courtney Love was apparently cool with it.
Her lawyer, who must be a real busy guy, approved the song, saying that he thought it was “funny”. And Courtney herself has been quoted as saying that the song is “bizarre.”
Both true, incidentally. As for “Pantera Fans In Love…”
Do you ever get a feeling like the crowd wants you to play a song while you’re touring, and you’re just thinking ‘I do not want to play this f*cking song?’
Yes, and I can tell you specifically an example of that is that people always want to hear our song “Pantera Fans In Love.” Which is a great song, but I didn’t write the song, it was written by Dave, who was in our band for a while, and I don’t really want to play the song that he wrote, it’s kind of his song. So when people ask for it, I always say we don’t play it anymore because of Dimebag.
While Nerf Herder is back playing shows (with their new-ish line up of Parry, Ben Pringle on Bass, Steve Sherlock on drums, and Linus of Hollywood on guitar) and are crowdfunding a new album, Parry has been writing jingles, tunes, theme songs, and whatsits, a project (?) he started in the mid 2000s, when Nerf Herder was on hiatus after American Cheese. The original video for his song “Do You Like Waffles?” racked up 21 million views on YouTube and brought interest from all sorts of folks needing a jingle or a theme song for a kids’ show. A few of my personal favorites include “Space Unicorn,” “Young Girl Talking About Herself,” and “Lazy Harp Seal,” but they’re all pretty damned great. If you don’t like “Space Unicorn” there’s a decent chance you’re a corpse.
I asked Parry whether he’s made more money from YouTube or Nerf Herder. Try to guess what the answer to that one was. These days, Parry’s so prolific a jingle writer it’s hard to keep up:
He has written theme songs for the shows Being Ian, Super Hero Squad Show, Ben 10: Omniverse, and The 7D. He does the jingle for Wawa Food Market’s “Breakfast Hoagiefest”, songs for Hallmark Cards e-characters hoops&yoyo and has song appearances on Disney Junior DJ Shuffle, Learning Town, and Phineas and Ferb.
Anyway, Parry updates us on what he’s been up do lately, and even though he forgot his own crowd-funding site, I did not. It’s here. You could pre-order their new album or you could keep being a douche, it’s really up to you.
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