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  • Me First


    Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

    On their latest, Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!, the self-described “beer-hall Pussycat Dolls” of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes tackle 50 years of lady hits, from Barbara Streisand to Lady Gaga.

    We asked band mastermind/guitarist Fat Mike (also of punk legends NOFX) his thoughts on covers, why tribute bands suck and how to make Celine Dion cool.

    What’s the difference between a cover band and a tribute band?
    They’re completely different. It’s like mimes and clowns. Tribute bands try to dress up as the artist, to be them. That’s bullshit.

    So you’re a cover band.
    And we’re the best of the best. Just sayin’. Well, and Nouvelle Vague ... our perfect counterpoint. That’s it.

    What was difficult about songs by women?
    It took a long time to weed through the newer stuff: there are SO many bad songs. Britney Spears: couldn’t find one. Couldn’t find a good Pink song. Or Beyonce. A lot of modern music is dance, with no real melodies or chord progressions.

    What wouldn’t you do as a cover band?
    We would never do dance or EDM songs. Or rock songs, actually. You can’t take an AC/DC song and make it better. They nailed it.

    Do you end up having more respect for the artists you cover?
    Yeah! Barry Manilow had some really well-crafted songs. I mean, awful instrumentation, but the melodies and progressions are great. And a song like “Mandy”... how many modulations can that guy do?

    Do you enjoy the songs you cover?
    Absolutely. They’ve made me a better songwriter. And it’s made me appreciate showtunes more. Frank Lloyd ... I mean, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Ha, almost said Frank Lloyd Wright. That’s funny. Anyway, showtunes writers, those guys are something else.

    What’s the most important thing about a cover?
    The singer. Our singer, Spike, has perfect pitch. And his range is incredible. I get tired of punk bands slaughtering great songs — and I’m speaking as the singer of a punk band. Spike does the songs justice: all we have to do is be in tune.

    You usually just speed through your songs; this time out, you slowed it down.
    Spike’s weird. I think he has Asperger's. Every album he comes to the studio and refuses to do something. This time it was fast songs. Sometimes, he doesn’t want to do “ahhhs,” only “ooohs.” But that’s why this time, you’ll hear us doing a Celine Dion song like if the Dropkick Murphys had done it. Sounding like a bunch of Irish guys standing around.

    How is the Me First audience different from your day band (NOFX)?
    There’s some crossover. But at our shows, we’ll get stewardesses, people with long hair, just random people. We actually do a good job breaching the generation gap. People bring their parents.

    What’s next?
    Maybe an '80s record. Or a Beatles one. We might do one for each country we tour: Italy, France, Germany.

    So you’re going to tour again?
    Sure. No. Eh, we might. We’re all in other, um, real bands. Though it’s weird when your joke band becomes bigger than your real band.

  • Nouvelle Vague

    Seductive New Wave

    Nouvelle Vague

    Bossa nova reimaginings of New Wave hits. So good, by its third album the French band was collaborating with the songs’ originators.

    Best cover: “Dancing With Myself”

  • Jake Shimabukuro

    Uke Box Hero

    Jake Shimabukuro

    Not a cover artist per se, but this Jimmy Page of the ukulele (seriously) achieved his recent fame due to some choice remakes: “Thriller," “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Hallelujah,” etc.

    Best cover: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

  • Tragedy

    Night Fever


    Supposedly rock and disco were never meant to mix. Tell that to Tragedy, an NYC band that remakes the Bee Gees as heavy metal overlords.

    Best cover: “You Should Be Dancing”

  • 8-Bit Operators

    Nintendo Core

    8-Bit Operators

    Not a band, but a collection of artists who use the 8-bit microchip sounds of yesteryear’s Ataris and Gameboys. Tributes to Kraftwerk, The Beatles and Devo already out, Depeche Mode coming this summer.

    Best cover: “Enjoy the Silence”

  • Richard Cheese

    Lounge Lizard

    Richard Cheese

    Top 40 via Swingers. Cheese turns popular songs of all genres — from Miley Cyrus to System of a Down — into surprisingly fun lounge standards, complete with horns and hammy dialogue.

    Best cover: “Welcome to the Jungle”

  • The Blues Brothers

    No Joke

    The Blues Brothers

    You could argue how two white guys appropriated blues and soul classics for laughs. Or you could credit Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi for reminding the world of the joys of Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and Big Joe Turner. Just steer clear of their post-1982 (when Belushi died) offerings.

    Best cover: "Soul Man"

  • El Vez

    Mexican Elvis

    El Vez

    The quivering frontman is akin to a self-aware Vegas lounge act crossed with some serious Latin flavor ... and a bit of Che Guevara political savvy. Oh, and many, many costume changes.

    Best cover: “Mexican Radio”

  • Replicants

    Alternative Throwbacks


    This sadly obscure mix of '90s bands both great (Tool) and revered (Failure, pictured here) only released one album, but it’s damn near perfect, a cornucopia of '70s and '80s hits re-imagined for the alt-rock generation. Steely Dan never sounded this good.

    Best cover: "Dirty Work"

  • Black Crystal Wolf Kids

    Indie Fun

    Black Crystal Wolf Kids

    Some rather goofy-looking LA guys and gal doing rather seriously good indie covers (The Killers, Arcade Fire, Florence and the Machine, etc.). 

    Best cover: "Seven Nation Army"

  • Apocalyptica

    And a few more....

    Black F*g
    What if Fred Schneider channeled Henry Rollins? It’d sound ... fabulous. Best cover: “Six Pack/In the Navy”

    Finnish cello and drums quartet (pictured) covering the metal gamut, from Pantera to (obviously) Metallica. Best cover: "One"

    Jah Division
    Spacey reggae grooves, via the ghost of Ian Curtis. Best cover: “Dub Will Tear Us Apart”

    This Colombian band reps Depeche Mode with toy instruments, found objects and actual kids. 
    Best cover: “Everything Counts”