A righteous troupe of old-school stalwarts (members have been in AGRESSION, ILL REPUTE, STALAG 13, RAT PACK, BAD SAMARITANS, NOFX, and JUGHEAD’S REVENGE), they infuse their Elvis covers with classics from bands such as TSOL, RAMONES, and BLACK FLAG deftly on their debut, ‘Back from the Dead.’ Each taking on a different Elvis persona, the guys (Elvi, plural) have their aliases: vocalist Eric Lara is the band’s namesake, bassist George Snow is Elvis ’56, drummer Larry White is the down-and-out Has Been Elvis, and guitarists Tony Cortez and Dave Casillas are Elvis of Nazareth and Elvis Vicious, respectively. Along for the ride is vocalist Sara Jo Merin, “Little Sister.”
Eric and George phoned me, luckily, as themselves and not their wacked-out alter-egos – not to say there weren’t any wacked-out moments. I can only hope the following reads as funny to you, my dears, as it does to this mental patient…
I HAD THIS FEAR YOU WERE JUST GONNA BE TOTALLY IN CHARACTER, NOT USING YOUR REAL NAMES, AND THAT YOU’RE ALL DRESSED UP.
ERIC: [Laughter] Oh, we’re dressed up.
YOU CAN LIE TO ME ‘CAUSE I CAN’T SEE YOU… I SAW ON YOUR SITE YOU’RE HITTING EUROPE THIS FALL. YOU USUALLY JUST STAY AROUND CALIFORNIA?
ERIC: We’ve done Texas, we did SXSW, we did Vegas. Oregon. The West Coast we stay, the Southwest. We’re pretty much a new band; we haven’t been doing this all that long.
THE FIRST SHOW WAS AT THAT PUNK ROCK BOWLING THING?
ERIC: Yeah.THAT’S APPROPRIATE: LAS VEGAS… WAS IT MEANT TO BE JUST A ONE-OFF [PERFORMANCE]?
ERIC: It was meant to just be fun and then we had Mental Records take an interest in us and it just took off from there. And now it’s snowballing. I don’t think I was ever meant to be on Howard Stern [he was going to be on the show for some porn thing. Don’t ask] or the radio, like we’re getting play on Sirius radio. We’re really surprised with the response we’re getting. If you think about it, it’s quite a retarded project. [Laughs]
WELL, THAT’S THE WHOLE THING: IN MY REVIEW BASICALLY WHAT I SAID WAS, THE GET-UPS, THE CHEESE FACTOR, IF YOU WILL. BUT THE THING IS, YOU COULD’VE JUST SPED UP ELVIS SONGS, BUT I THINK IT MAKES IT SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING THAT [YOU ADD OLD-SCHOOL HARDCORE PUNK SONGS INTO THE TUNES] LIKE THAT WHOLE “CODE BLUE” TAKE ON “BLUE SUEDE SHOES.”
GEORGE: It’s a lot of fun coming up with different ideas. We’ve all been in punk bands forever. Being Elvis fans and punk fans and trying to mesh the two really has been a lot of fun.
I WAS WONDERING HOW YOU GUYS NARROW IT DOWN, THERE ARE SO MANY SONGS TO CHOOSE FROM.
GEORGE: It’s one of those things where we throw things at the wall and see what sticks. We go through a lot of music and some of it doesn’t work at all. [Laughs] And when we hit something that’s just gold, we know.
LIKE “BLUE SUEDE SHOES,” DID YOU KNOW RIGHT AWAY IT HAD TO BE DONE THAT WAY?
GEORGE: We just had so many things going on. The first one we did was “That’s All Right Mama,” with “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and from there they just came to us really quick. So yeah, that was definitely something that was thought out and put together for that reason. It just totally fit and was right.
ALSO, THOUGH, I MENTIONED THAT FIRST SHOW, WHAT YEAR WAS THAT?
ERIC: January 2007. We did three practices and went out and did the show. I rented that Elvis costume I’m wearing on the cover and it was too small and wouldn’t fit. I couldn’t get it to close ‘cause I’m kind of a fat guy. It wouldn’t zip up all the way, so I played the show with my stomach completely hanging out. Not on purpose, but people loved it; they thought it was part of the act. [Laughter] It was really just my gut being so huge it wouldn’t fit under the zipper.
GEORGE: And the thing that’s really amazing is we played that first show in January and we recorded the record in March, so literally two months we were in the studio. Everything just has gone so quick.
…WHY DO YOU THINK THERE’S BEEN SUCH A GREAT RESPONSE?
ERIC: I think Elvis is universal and the whole punk-rock take on something familiar, so people see the familiarity of Elvis and it just sparks their curiosity and they take it further. They look at our picture too. [Laughter] And it makes them want to look a little deeper. “What are these retards doing?”
YEAH, I HAVE TO SAY, I LISTENED TO THE RECORD, WATCHED THE DVD, BUT I STILL HAVEN’T SNIFFED THAT STICKER [A SCRATCH-N-SNIFF OVER AN ASSHOLE]. I’M KINDA SCARED.
ERIC: Do it! I promise you it’ll smell like a rose. I promise you.
[LAUGHS] THEN ALSO, MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE BAND – EVERYONE IN IT NOW THE SAME AS WHEN YOU STARTED?
GEORGE: All of us have played in separate bands but we’ve all played together for years and we’re all friends. It was a funny idea and, like he said, it just snowballed. We all get along, we all have a GREAT time doing it, the shows are amazing. We have the full Elvis show and punk rock and all of it, so it’s just really fun.
ERIC: We can talk more about that beautiful man-butt on the cover of the record. That IS a good-looking ass.
GEORGE: The black forest.
ERIC: It’s like an orangutan got set loose.
[UNCONTROLLED LAUGHTER] I THINK THIS MIGHT NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.
[Laughter] ERIC: Everybody likes a monkey.UM…YEAH…I…
ERIC: My butt left you speechless, admit it.IT DID, IT DID. I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO GO FROM HERE. [LAUGHTER] IS THERE ANY NUDITY LIVE?
ERIC: Why, yes, sometimes. That’s funny you say that ‘cause if we play bars, yes, I’ll get gross. I’ll stuff shit up my ass. I’m not kidding. People throw dollars, I’ll shove ‘em up my ass and poop ‘em out. But if we play an all-ages show, I’m not gonna do anything. Some of the guys have kids. Number one, we’ll be thrown in jail. [Laughs] Or number two, it’s gonna get me beat up or [I’ll] offend somebody. I don’t wanna do that. But if we play 21-and-over show, I’ll give you the full monty-and-a-half.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IN EUROPE?
ERIC: Honestly, I don’t know. The booking agent over there said the response has been great, we’re getting really good shows. They’re either gonna love us or be a bunch of Elvis – like everybody’s gonna look like Elvis and they’re gonna kill me.
GEORGE: I think it’s gonna be great because I really think they’ve never seen anything like this, where we come in with the costumes and the full show. If they’re going to the show, they kinda already know what to expect. So I think there’s gonna be a lot of beer and a lot of fun.
THAT’S ALWAYS GOOD. I KNOW YOU ALL HAVE OTHER BANDS AND OTHER OBLIGATIONS, BUT DO YOU SEE YOURSELVES EVER GETTING TO THE EAST COAST FOR A COUPLE SHOWS?
ERIC: Yeah. I want this to become the main band. We’re all in other bands, but the other bands have taken a backseat to this project. This is steamrolling so much I want us to tour. I’d like to see this band touring half the year. And getting to the East Coast is definitely something we wanna do, Canada as well. We’ve gotten as far as Texas, NY’s really only another 20 hours.
SO HOW DID SXSW GO?
ERIC: That’s funny. [The guy] who’s our booking agent now, he did this big SXSW showcase with all these other bands on TKO Records and Hellcat, THE NEKROMANTIX, HORRORPOPS. And they wanted us to close out the show. We had NO idea how the show would go over, nobody had heard of us, and everybody stayed and it just was insane. And we ended up getting a booking agent out of the whole thing. It was actually something I had to almost talk the other guys in the band into doing. Everybody was a little nervous: “How are we gonna go over? It’s a long drive just for a couple shows. What are you doing to us?” We went out there and had the best time. That’s one thing about this band: we all love to travel together, we have a good time being stuck in the van together, but that’s not the issue. We’re still a new band, so we’re still wondering how people will like us. We haven’t been chased out of a room yet…
SO THERE’S BEEN NO BAD RESPONSE EVER?
ERIC: No, that’s not true. There’s something on YouTube. [Laughs] One of the guys posted one of our videos on YouTube and some Elvis impersonator from England wrote everything was great until the asshole came onstage, referring to me. [Laughs] So I wrote him back, “Well, screw you, buddy. We’re going to Europe, what are you doing just stuck on your little island?” Now I’m in a battle with an Elvis impersonator in England. Maybe he’ll come to some of the shows and wanna fight. [Laughter] Some of the Elvis purists don’t like us. We played at a bar and some drunk woman came up to me and said, “I love Elvis and I hate you.”
GEORGE: On the other hand what’s weird is we’ve played bars where I’ve seen kids upfront dancing and these older generation people on the far side of the bar and as soon as we’re done playing they’re all down front because they love Elvis and the songs are there, so they kinda get into it. It just depends on how much you’re into Elvis and how you feel about it.
ALSO IF YOU HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR.
ERIC: Exactly. I think Elvis would’ve liked it. I think he would’ve said, “These guys are nuts. These guys are retarded. I like these guys.” I think we would’ve shared a hoagie.
THERE WAS ONE THING ON YOUR SITE I FOUND TOTALLY HILARIOUS HOW YOU PHRASED IT: TONY, YOU SAY HE “SHARES ELVIS’S WONDERMENT OF THE FANTASY OF RELIGION.”
GEORGE: Elvis was a huge fan of gospel, singing church music and all that, and he put out several records that were huge, huge number one during his career. Tony and I are probably the biggest Elvis fans in the band. So he just took on that character and it worked out really well.I LIKE HIS HUGE CROSS. HE WEARS THAT AT THE SHOWS?
ERIC: He does, but somebody stole one of them. Which is very un-Christian if you think about it. But he got another one.ALSO GEORGE, I MUST ASK, I HATE SAYING THIS BECAUSE I SOUND STUPID, BUT WHAT IS ELVIS ’56?
GEORGE: That was like the start of his career, the rebel, basically girl-happy, crazy Elvis that all the parents hated. And it was my favorite era of Elvis; it was when his music was really causing a stir. I was looking for something and said, “Okay that’s it.” Early Elvis. I’m the young, handsome Elvis.
[LAUGHS] THEN WE HAVE THE HAS BEEN ELVIS. POOR LARRY.
GEORGE: [Laughs] The what-if Elvis. If Elvis hadn’t died, he went broke, ended up in an alley.
ABOUT THE DVD, I LIKE WHEN YOU GUYS DO THE JAZZERCISE THING.
ERIC: You know what’s funny? We were all looking at the same people dancing, we were supposed to be following the same thing, and we’re all doing such different things. None of us can dance.
GEORGE: I never thought in my career of music or punk rock that I’d ever be dancing on a video.
WHAT SONG IS THAT?
GEORGE: It’s a song that the guy that recorded our record had just done and we were actually dancing to an Elvis song. We couldn’t use it so they just put this random song. We had no idea what it was. “We have ways of making you dance.”