The Spits have been ripping it up since uprooting from their ancestral home of Michigan and violently planting themselves in Seattle. Through their own blood and toil, an outpour of music has consistently flowed from the Wood brothers, A.K.A. Shawn and Erin Spits. Their first single came out in the late ‘90s. My copy features a hulking beast stealing into the night with a beautiful girl draped over his shoulder. Instead of fearful, the girl seems to be quite delighted with her abduction, not minding the uncouthness of her Neanderthal captor.
Skateboarding, alcohol, drugs, heartbreak, and not fitting in are common Spits themes. They use violence, touring, and punk rock as their main escape from a shitty world. Thankfully, many have been able to use The Spits punk rock music as our own escape for over a decade now.
Get your skateboard under your arm, drink six beers, take your young girl’s hand, go into the night, and take back the alley. I caught up with them on their last tour, sneaking in a quick interview. The Spits had ants in their pants, wanting to jump back onto their skateboards to bomb one of the ramps nearby. Here’s the best punk band on the planet, The Spits.
Interview by Justin Maurer (www.justin-maurer.com)
Justin: The Spits, as I understand, were conceived in Allegan, Michigan?
Justin: You guys masterminded the band in the bars on Locust Street?
Sean: That’s home of the Locust Street Saloon where we started hanging out back in 1986, soon as we were old enough to start drinking. Michigan law—it was a little different back then—you could go into a bar not even being twenty-one. It didn’t matter. We’d go in there and watch local metal bands just rip. We always wanted to be in a band and that’s where it started.
Wayne: You guys started out being called the Riot Midgets, right?
Erin: Yeah, probably. In 1987.
Justin: [To Wayne and Johnny] Where are you guys from originally?
Wayne: New Jersey.
Justin: Why the move to Seattle as opposed to Cleveland or Detroit or Chicago?
Sean: ‘Cause Seattle had a lot more goin’ on; nothin’ else goin’ on anywhere else.
Justin: When was the move?
Erin: I moved there in 1990. We formed the band in ‘91.
Justin: That first single with “Tired and Lonely,” when did that come out?
Erin: It was pressed around ‘96 or ‘97.
Justin: As a punk musician myself, I got some of my own inspiration from frustration with my Dad. Do I sense some Dad frustration with the Spits?
Sean: Yeah there was. A sense of frustration against the world. All kinds of shit. Small towns, government, cops, moms and dads and Jesus.
Erin: I think you’re right. Our parents are both really supportive now, but we were bad kids, you know.
Justin: In what way?
Erin: Me and my brother grew up in and out of foster homes. We were juvenile delinquents.
Justin: Smashing mailboxes? Shoplifting?
Erin: Oh absolutely, whaddaya got? We all had a kind of shitty upbringing. All the Spits had a bad time growing up; kind of a prerequisite to be in this band. Wayne, what was on your resume to be in the band?
Wayne: I grew up in a bad neighborhood. My Dad and I used to get into fist fights. We had a pretty bad relationship. I grew up in a black neighborhood and used to get my ass kicked daily.
Sean: Me too. I used to get my ass kicked, Johnny used to beat up cops in Detroit!
Johnny: Yeah, me, and some skaters.
Justin: What got you guys into skateboarding?
Wayne: Thrasher magazine! Skateboarding in the 1980s was still very underground where we grew up.
Johnny: And looked down upon.
Justin: You had to take a break in the wintertime as far as Jersey, Detroit, and Michigan were concerned?
Erin: You could skate parking garages in the winter.
Wayne: We used to skate year round.
Justin: I’ve seen Spits tattoos as far away as Spain and England. Do you have any idea how many Spits tattoos are in existence worldwide?
Erin: Last time we checked with our headquarters…
Justin: The new record on In The Red, how did that come about?
Sean: Larry had been chasing us down for a long time. My brother calls all the shots, and Erin thought he didn’t want us on his label. I said that, “Yeah, he did.” Finally Larry said that he did want us. Erin said “Okay,” and so we did this record with him.
Justin: It’s on 45 RPM speed, too?
Erin: It’s on 45 RPM and it’s self-titled.
Justin: So it’s the forth self-titled Spits album, or fifth, including the Nickel and Dime record that shall not be named?
Erin: Slovenly Records is re-pressing that album, our first. Nickel and Dime hasn’t paid us any royalties at all on that album for over ten years, digital downloads for over ten years. We’re owed thousands of dollars, so enough is enough. We’ve taken it back and it’s in press now on Slovenly Records.
Justin: You guys have a favorite Canadian band?
Erin: Viletones were a good band.
Sean: Sin 35 were an excellent band.
Wayne: Skull Skates was from Canada. Rush.
Sean: I like Rush.
Erin: Forgot about Rush.
Justin: Strange Brew, Story of Anvil, or Fubar: which is a better cinematic purveyor of Canadian culture according to the Spits?
Wayne: That’s a good movie, but Anvil!
Sean: Anvil, oh yeah!
Erin: I’m going with Bob and Doug, ‘cause I’m a huge fan and that movie rules.
Justin: A lot of critics and reviewers state Devo as being the Spits reason for having a keyboard in the band. Why did you guys decide to have a keyboard in the first place?
Sean: It’s like having another guitar.
Erin: Devo. [All laugh]
Sean: Another guitar but a different sound. It was like a spit in the face to all of those garage bands at the time like the Mummies, the Makers, and all of those bands. We wanted to have keyboards but make it sound tough. Nobody else was doing it.
Erin: Not a Farfisa, but an old Casio. One local band, the Cripples, were doing it. We thought we could do a little better. Then the Murder City Devils got a fuckin’ keyboard and it was all downhill from there. [All laugh]
Johnny: I got started playing in the Human Eye, and I got serious about it then, like eight or nine years ago.
Justin: Wayne, what made you start playing drums?
Wayne: Well, what got me playing drums was necessity.
Erin: You don’t even like playing drums. You wanted to play guitar.
Wayne: I still do.
Erin: What was that band you were in?
Wayne: The Prime Evils.
Erin: We played a show with them at a strip club in Portland and asked him if he wanted to play drums. He said, “No, not really.”
Justin: What’s the story behind the fight at that dive bar Gibson’s in Seattle?
Sean: We went off. We were being jerks. The bands were the Gimmicks and the Castros, I think [all laugh]. Chaos ensued. The owner of the bar was a small, old Asian man. He told me to get the fuck out. And I told him, “Shut up and eat rice, Grandpa.” These guys start swinging on me, and then the next thing I know we’re taking on the whole club. The whole fucking place. And we beat them all up.
Wayne: With a tire iron.
Sean: And a kryptonite bike lock.
Justin: Final words for your fans?
Sean: Keep it real, eh.
Johnny: Stay in school.
Wayne: Drop out.
Sean: God bless Canada.
Justin Maurer is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. He is the singer for Clorox Girls and LA Drugz. His music and writing can be found on his website: http://www.justin-maurer.com/