For a little over a year now, the Sleazies have been spreading their authentic brand of early American punk over the northeast by way of hilarious and high-powered performances. Marked by an undeniable amount of musical capability and witty song writing proficiency, the Sleazies create an amusing and unwearied sound.
After a recent show with the stripped down roots/blues/punk trio the Konks at Boston’s Abbey Lounge, I managed to bully the Sleazies into an interview. Here’s what happened…
Michael Grigelevich: Why don’t you start by stating your affiliation to the Sleazies?
Mike: I play bass and sing background vocals.
Josh Towers: I play drums.
MG: What bands were you in before the Sleazies?
Mike: Well, Jami and I were doing Violent Anal Death before this, and I was in a group called the Loutz.
Josh: I was in a band in high school called the Corporates. It was just straight-up punk. Then I was in a surf-rock trio called the Catatonics.
Jami: Yeah, what was I in? Violent Anal Death, the Sinners Club, Louisiana Hayride…
Josh: Don’t forget Thrash Frog!
Jami: Oops, can’t forget Thrash Frog.
Mike: In that case, you can’t forget that I was in Fortress back in ’87.
Jami: That’s true. You were in Brooklyn Steamer, too.
Mike: At one time, yeah.
Jami: Oh, and you and I were both in the Doosh Bags at one point.
Mike: That’s right! Actually, you and I are original team members of the old school Doosh Bags.
Jami: Yeah, before it was an official thing.
Mike: Right, right. Actually, everybody in Violent Anal Death and the Loutz at one time was in the Doosh Bags.
Jami: Yup. Did we forget anything?
Mike: Yeah, we’ve been in so many bands. But those are the best ones.
MG: Explain your sound in one sentence.
Jami: I think Mike is the best at that.
Mike: I would say that the Sleazies are an old school style punk rock band a la 1977-1981 style with a pinch of AC/DC topped off with Motorhead and a whole hell of a lot of snotty pogoing rock n’ roll.
Jami: Sounds good to me!
MG: What do you think of the current state of punk, or more appropriately, things that get called punk, such as the whole emo trend and Dashboard Confessional types?
Jami: Well, I think that’s a marketing term at this point. There’s really, really good stuff and there’s a whole bunch of crap. If the crap wants the term punk so bad, we can be bounce music or something. I don’t care. We’re a rock’n’roll band.
Mike: They call a lot of things punk that truly isn’t. But, you know, sometimes punk itself is a meaningless term depending on how you define it.
[At this time, the bass line to Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” can be heard drifting in from the PA to the backstage area.]
Mike: Rush is more punk than some of the bands today.
Jami: Yeah! (laughs).
MG: Are there any bands today that you guys stand behind and really like?
Jami: Oh, fuck yeah.
Mike: The Briefs!
Josh: The Briefs are definitely great.
Jami: Mike and I were both listening to the Prostitutes all the time when we first started this (the Sleazies). That was what inspired us to be in bands again.
Mike: That’s right. The Prostitutes were a big influence.
Jami: The Stitches, Kill-A-Watts, Henry Fiat’s Open Sore…
Mike: The Clap is a great band from New York.
Jami: And the Skulls have a new record out, although I suppose that they aren’t exactly new.
Mike: Endangered Feces from Queens are fun. There’s a lot of great bands and there’s more that I haven’t heard.
Jami: Oh, and the Cripples. There’s lots of bands with synthesizers in them out in the Pacific Northwest that are really good.
Mike: The Spitzz from Boston are a band I dig.
Jami: And the Spits from Seattle! There’s a lot of good stuff everywhere. It’s just usually one or two bands per town.
MG: How do you feel about the scene in Providence?
Jami: I like the scene in Providence, actually.
Josh: I like the scene even though I feel that it’s gone down since the good old Gringo days when you could get a band playing and fill up The Met Cafe. Now it’s a little spotty. I don’t know. It’s still good. It’s small, it’s tight, you get to know a lot of people and it’s easy to advertise.
Jami: I think that we have more good bands per capita than a lot of places I can think of.
MG: Yeah, like Lightning Bolt.
Jami: Right. Bands like Lightning Bolt, the Midnight Creeps, and the Deterrents. I don’t know if we’re talking just punk, or music…
MG: Just music.
Jami: There’s Blackstone Valley Sinners – there’s just shit-loads of stuff going on, and it’s not a very big town. And it’s easy to play shows.
Mike: There’s also a lot of clubs. This makes up for small town situations.
MG: What was it like playing with the Dead Kennedys?
Mike: That was one of the biggest highlights of…
Josh: My life!
Mike: It was great sharing the same stage with guys like Klaus and D.H. and East Bay Ray. They were great guys and heroes of mine. I’ve been listening to them for more than half my life.
Josh: They were really nice and down to earth.
Mike: They mingled with the crowd and they hooked us up with a show the following night that we weren’t originally scheduled to play. That was one of the most fun times that I’ve had being in a band.
Jami: Well, the first punk single that I ever heard was “Holiday in Cambodia” and the first punk record I ever bought was Plastic Surgery Disasters. The reason I started playing guitar was East Bay Ray. So it was kind of nice to get to play with those guys. You know I’d love to get in the time machine and go back to 1980 and see them in San Francisco – see them with Jello and all that.
Mike: But Brandon (Jello’s vocal replacement) was a great guy.
Jami: Yeah, Brandon was great. If I saw them with all four original members then I’d have respect for everybody but Jello. That’s sort of against everything that he stands for, so I understand why he wouldn’t do it. But I’m really glad that the rest of them did it because it put a big smile on my face, and pretty much everyone else’s who chose to go to the shows.
Mike: They represented the same thing that they represented back then. The message is the same and the music is wonderful.
Jami: And you know what else? They had big smiles on their faces, too. They didn’t look like they were at work. They were having fun.
Mike: And they sold their merch very cheap. Their albums were only like six, seven, or eight bucks.
MG: What has been your favorite show so far?
Mike: Dead Kennedys in Warwick. Also a lot of the shows that we’ve done in the Boston area have been a lot of fun.
Josh: The one at Charlie’s Kitchen (Boston) is up there because everything flowed so nice and it was just such a great night. The show with the Briefs is up there…
MG: The one at The Met Cafe?
Josh: Yeah. That was a good time.
Jami: I really liked the Long Island one too, with the Vibrators, the Candy Snatchers, MDC, the Dirty Fingers and the Clap.
Josh: Yeah, it’s tough to pick out one favorite. But I’d say my favorite was Charlie’s Kitchen.
Mike: Yeah, it was nice to play a good show with your friends and eat a delicious sandwich and have some pretty good priced beers.
Jami: It was wonderful.
MG: The Sleazies have yet to release any recorded material. Are there any plans to do so in the future?
Jami: Oh yeah. Well, we recorded 12 songs – about half an hour’s worth of stuff at Sound Station Seven in Providence and it sounds great. So it’s just a matter of time for it to come out. In February or March we have a seven inch coming out on Rapid Pulse Records. Soon thereafter we’ll be putting out a full-length CD on our own, and there are a couple of comps on the horizon as well.
MG: How serious are you about the Sleazies? Is it something that you see reaching beyond the northeast?
Josh: Yes. I definitely plan on world domination and unlike any other band I’ve ever been in before, this is definitely serious. It takes precedence over work and…
Mike: I wanna be bigger than the Beatles.
Josh: Yeah, we all have bigger dicks so now we just need to sell more records.
Mike: And all of us are still alive and good-looking. And we’ve got bigger dicks than English people.
Jami: Nicer teeth, too!
Mike: That’s true. I’ve been to the dentist a few more times than most of them.
Jami: There’s talk about going on the road with the Midnight Creeps in late February, or early March, or all of March, or I don’t know. Maybe the East Coast – maybe all of the country. I don’t know. We’ll see.
Josh: Just keep checking the website. We always have updates.
MG: I feel that it takes a certain amount of intellect to write a dumb punk song. Would you guys agree?
Josh: Yes, I think so. I haven’t really written a song, but I mean these guys are far from idiots.
Mike: I’ve been writing dumb punk songs since I was a little kid sitting in my bedroom at home. I think that if you spend most of your life sitting in your bedroom as a kid listening to your records and trying to figure out how to play the guitar – and you listen to a lot of creative music – I think that you can come up with fun stuff. I’ve come up with a couple things on my own that I’m pretty proud about.
Jami: Well, Dee Dee Ramone is my favorite example of somebody who is a brilliant songwriter who writes great songs that are completely stupid and completely brilliant at the same time. In his particular case I suppose that he’s a really smart guy who didn’t get much book learning. I would say that our stuff is definitely clever stupid. I’m not particularly interested in writing songs about anything deeper than eating glue.
Josh: Or killing yourself so you can keep it up.
Jami: Yeah, shooting yourself in the head to get an erection through rigor mortis. We write lots of love songs, but always have some kind of twist to them. Like from the point of view of a pathetic individual who does nothing all day and relies on the girl he loves to steal him stuff, for example. Our stuff ain’t no smart!
Josh: Nah, dude!
Mike: Rock’n’roll is a fun kind of music. It’s not a thinking man’s music. The only reason that I know how to play music and write songs is because of all the hours I spent in my bedroom as a kid listening to Kiss, Ramones, and Beach Boys albums. So that’s my music for writing songs so far.
Jami: I think of stuff and it comes out. I try to make stuff I wish I could listen to. I try to keep my crap detector on and if anything sounds a little bit stupid or lame, then I won’t say it. That’s it.
MG: If I broke into each of your houses right now, what would I find in the stereo? Be honest.
Josh: Carnivore, Retaliation.
Mike: The record that I listened to on the way to the club today was Motorhead’s Bomber.
Jami: On the way to the club we listened to Mindless Self Indulgence and Tracy and The Plastics. The stuff I have at home is the newest Sahara Hot Nights and Turbonegro’s Ass Cobra.
Mike: I gotta admit in my bedroom when I was alone and bored I did have Issac Hayes’s Greatest Love Songs on the turntable and I was in bed by myself. If it’s okay to say, I touched myself, I smiled, I’m happy. I may have had a Brian Wilson record on, too.
MG: What’s your earliest rock ‘n roll memory?
Mike: I’ve liked music since I was a little kid. The first group I liked was the Beach Boys. Then I got into Kiss in about 1978 or ’79 when I was a little boy.
Jami: He’s got photos. He can prove it.
Mike: Yeah, there’s pictures of me when I’m a little boy on Christmas holding up my new Kiss album.
Jami: How old were you?
Mike: I was about four. That was 1978 and Kiss was very big. They had a television show and a pinball machine. They were like superheroes in a comic book. I was very attracted to that and I already had the love for rock’n’roll music. The first concert I saw was Kiss in 1982 on the “Creatures of the Night” tour. I’m proud of it. I love Kiss.
Josh: When I first moved to Rhode Island, I met this kid. He was a total shut-in masturbation addict-freak. He was an utter weirdo but he listened to the Dead Kennedys almost nonstop and that’s when I first really heard rock ‘n roll. This was when I was like…I think I just turned thirteen. That’s probably my memory. Going into his room, catching him beating it and listening to Plastic Surgery Disasters.
Jami: Oh, boy. I remember being really into ’80s metal eventually because my brother was into it. I don’t think I was really excited about anything until I was fifteen and started hearing punk rock records. I ultimately got excited about all kinds of music, but then, I don’t know. I didn’t care. I was stupid.
MG: If you didn’t have the Sleazies, what would you be doing?
Mike: Eating out of a garbage can.
Josh: I’d probably be playing crappy mellow surf-rock still.
Jami: I’d probably sing for the Fast Actin’ Fuses.
Thanks to The Sleazies for being such nice guys and making time for me. Go to http://www.sleazies.com/ for pictures, sounds, and updates.