Spinning Platters Interview: Spike Slawson of Me First & The Gimme Gimmes

by Dakin Hardwick on May 23, 2017

Photo by Katie Hovland

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes have been the most successful cover band in America for well over 20 years. What started out as a joke has turned into a successful career of rearranging classic pop, soul, and showtunes as pop punk. Spinning Platters had an opportunity to chat with their lead vocalist, Spike Slawson.

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes will be playing Punk Rock Bowling in Las Vegas May 26th-28th.

How do you feel about the fact that (Sympathy Records Artist and fellow SF Band) Me First are virtually unsearchable because of your band’s excellent SEO?

It kind of sucks. They represent a bygone era of music in San Francisco, and it’s difficult for me. I wish that weren’t the case. But I didn’t even know they existed when we started. But, yeah, I do feel bad, for what it’s worth.

So you are familiar with their work?

Thirteen, Me First, I miss the cool arty bands that San Francisco, most likely, won’t see the likes of again.

What makes you feel like SF is doomed to not get another Me First?

Because everything that’s cool about SF moved to LA. They colonized a part of LA that nobody wanted, Sunset Junction, west of the river. The more ambitious people, the people that weren’t afraid… Everything now is so self referential in San Francisco. All of the garage bands have Brian Jones haircuts. And if you are perceived to be ambitious about the image and music you want to project, or how successful you want to be, that’s a bad look in that town. I don’t feel in LA that people are as preoccupied with that. They are less self conscious.

That’s kind of a flip of how it was historically.

Exactly. The story was that all the inspiration was in SF and the ambition was in LA. Now both are in LA. There are tons of coders in SF, but not a lot of people pushing the musical envelope.

How do you feel about the greater Bay Area? Is anything exciting you from home?

I love Shannon & The Clams. I love all the less formal garage and 60’s punk. I love the idea of the East Bay as a network of garages where people can do what they want to do. But that’s even disappearing. If you are willing to spend 2,500 to live east of San Pablo, the “skid row” area of Oakland, not only are you an idiot, but you are distorting the relation of cost to value for everyone else.

Did you expect Me First to exist 20 years later, just doing silly  covers of well known songs?

I didn’t, but (Fat) Mike has a better vision for that than I do. They are able to see things beyond the component parts, they can see it down the line. He saw it as a dumb punk revue. He just went into it to see what could happen, but he thought it could be a retirement plan.

Is there anything that’s off limits?

There is definitely some cerebral R&B and soul music. The story is told with rhythm and energy, and it’s something that I don’t think we do much service to. I personally would prefer to stick with things like AM Gold. Something I don’t like. I prefer the process of turning it into something I can stand. It gives it a weird energy and irony.

Are you saying that you are specifically looking for songs that you don’t like to cover?

Yes. Yeah… because we tried to do an Easybeats song for an Australian EP. That was a horrible mistake, because I love them. It didn’t need fixing. But John Denver and Neil Diamond— the only way I can like those songs is to laugh about them. I can’t do a song that I have serious feelings about.

It takes a lot of time to learn how to play and rearrange a song. Is there anything you learned how to love while learning how to play it?

Yeah… Some of the showtunes I learned to really like. I never thought of them before. Like “Cabaret”—I learned to love that song!

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