More than a decade ago, the divine ones of punk rock sent forth a messenger to spread the virtues of three chords, sneers and six-packs; a proverbial vessel to carry on the proud missionary tradition of the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and the Beach Boys.
Its name was the Queers, and thank the gods this band has lasted this long, for in these dark days of p-rock posturing and pretension, punk needs the Queers’ brand of back-to-basics dogma more than ever.
Not many punk bands would openly admit an affection for the Beach Boys, but New Hampshire’s favorite surly sons are not your average self-proclaimed messiahs. The Queers have no aspirations to be your personal Jesus, only a desire that you “. . . have fun and forget all the fucking bullshit in the world for 45 minutes or an hour or whatever.” A noble mission if ever we heard one.
The finest purveyors of the oft-overlooked subgenre of dumb punk are bringing the noise to Nile Theater on Saturday, October 5, as part of their Don’t Back Down Tour. The Queers’ latest LP on Lookout! Records, Don’t Back Down, finds the threesome sporting slicker production values, but contains some of the band’s best songs in years thanks in part to former Queer JJ Rassler, who co-wrote and plays guitar on several songs. Rassler also co-produced the album with Mass Giorgini (who has also produced Screeching Weasel, and cub, and is currently on tour with his own band, Squirtgun).
JJ’s semireturn to Queerdom noticeably boosts the current lineup of Joe Queer (vox, guitar), B-Face (bass) and Hugh O’Neill (drums), and the band seems to be entering its glory days. But we’ll let Joe tell you about that . . .
Revolver: Is this album the pinnacle so far for the Queers?
Joe Queer: As far as the band goes, yeah. But there were times in punk rock I enjoyed more, like in the early ’80s living out West listening to [famed punk deejay] Rodney on the ROQ, listening to [Social Distortion’s] Mommy’s Little Monster and Black Flag and the Ramones--that was a special time. But as far as the Queers, it’s never been better for us. We’re having more fun than ever before.
R: What if I said the Queers are just a Ramones rip-off band, and there are too many of those already?
|“My gas is shut off at the house, and I’m overdrawn at the bank, so I’m a sellout? . . . I’m doing what I love.”|
But, yeah, we’re trying to carry on the Ramones tradition. When the Ramones would come to town, you’d be, like, “Yeah!” because you knew you’d have fun and see all your friends, and that’s what we’re about. And like the Ramones, there’s no big message to our stuff. I don’t run around acting pompous and thinking I’m better than you ’cause I’m onstage with a guitar, or I have this burning desire to share this half-baked message with the world that I’m so much smarter than everybody else.
Y’know, you see bands like Pearl Jam and the Cranberries, and they think they’re bringin’ this big message to the world, and it’s like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and punk rock never happened, and they did happen, for me and a million other kids, so fuck them.
R: Portions of the punk media have attacked your label lately, calling Lookout! a sellout organization. What’s your response?
JQ: Yeah, Lookout! made some money ’cause the Green Day album sold, but basically, they made it doing what they love doing. They didn’t change at all--they were just lucky. Like the Queers. We’ve got an article coming out in the October 1 issue of Rolling Stone. Lookout! sent them some promo copies of the new CD and this guy who freelances for RS contacted us. We didn’t grovel in the fuckin’ dirt like MCA or Elektra or some fuckin’ big label would’ve--they came to us and asked if we’d do it and we said, “Fuck, yeah.”
We haven’t changed one fuckin’ bit. We’re playin’ the same stupid shit, fun dumb punk, that we’ve always played, so how are we sellouts? Y’know, these kids yelling “sellout” are all 16-year-old punks that had a much more privileged upbringing than any of the guys in the Queers. Fuckin’-A, man, I was lucky if I had Cheerios. I’m not gonna say I trudged with my bare feet through the fuckin’ snow to school, but all these complainers are fucking rich suburban kids. They’re, like, “Oh, if you don’t work at Dunkin’ Donuts or Taco Bell for five bucks an hour, then you’re not punk.”
Fuck that. These kids don’t tell me who’s punk. I have no marketable skills. If I wasn’t in the Queers, I’d be back in the kitchen cooking. I mean, my roommate just called, and my gas is shut off at the house, and I’m overdrawn at the bank, so I’m a sellout? Fuck you. I couldn’t care less. I’m doing what I love.
R: Any future plans for the Queers?
JQ: Y’know, we really had fun doing Don’t Back Down. JJ Rassler’s not back in the band, but he’s helping me write, he played guitar and sang on a few tracks, and it felt like the Queers again. I was just talking with Joey Ramone about possibly doing some old Queers tunes with him on vocals, and we’ve been talking to [producer] Andy Paley, who worked with the Beach Boys, about doing some stuff with him. So, y’know, it would be a buzz just to work with either of them. But we’re not letting anything but fun dictate what we do.