Don’t feel like paying hundreds of dollars to see U2 at Carter Finley later this year? No worries. For a few dollars you can catch Chapel Hill’s I Was Totally Destroying It portraying U2, tribute-band-style, at Tir na Nog this Friday, June 19. OK, so it won’t be the “real” U2, but with the club atmosphere, it’ll probably be the most exciting and intimate U2’s music has sounded in a long time. Unfortunately it also means you probably won’t hear anything off their upcoming “The Beached Margin/Done Waiting 12” which will be available by digital download on July 28.
1. What, exactly, were you guys totally destroying?
Curtis: I destroyed a pretty epic roast beef sandwich a little earlier tonight.
James: Assumptions. Assumptions about the nature of pop music and its potential role as an ethos of indie rock. Or, “it” as it were.
Joe: At the Schoolkids Records store in Raleigh they have a divider for I Was Totally Destroying It in the main CD racks. If you move all the discs and look at the bottom of the divider, someone (presumably a clerk) wrote “and by ‘it’ they mean short band names”. I always thought that was really funny.
John: Self-esteems, our reputations, crafts service tables?
Rachel: I don’t have to destroy. I make things disappear.
2. Are you going to pick a U2 “era” for the show, or play music from
throughout their entire career?
Curtis: We’re playing music from throughout their career, including a couple of B-Sides that a lot of people arent too familiar with. We didn’t really get the chance to learn anything off of their latest cd, however. But there are definitely some pretty sweet songs on that album, too.
James: I insisted that if we do this we spend a lot of time on songs from Joshua Tree and earlier. I’m not ashamed to say that The Joshua Tree was the catalyst for my love of playing music.
Joe: We’ll be playing songs from pretty much every era, but no songs from the newest record.
John: I was tallying the songs by era a couple of days ago- it’s something like 18 songs from the 80’s, 4 songs from the 90’s, and 3 songs from the 00’s. This wasn’t entirely intentional, but it seems to be mostly what people want to hear. A lot of people say they hate U2, but often what they mean is they hate current U2- our set is pretty heavy with the really early stuff, and that definitely seems to be the era even the cynics can get into a bit. My personal favorite era is “Achtung Baby”/“Zooropa”, but that stuff is a little more about the mood of the recordings and has so many backing tracks and strange effects- it seemed a little more visceral and immediate to just tap into the power of the first few albums instead. Most people would rather bounce along to “Out Of Control” than hear us try to mimic the drum loops on “Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car”. At least for now…
Rachel: We’re doing the hits, some deep cuts, and fan favorites. There is a little something for everybody.
3. How is John appropriately inflating his ego in order to portray Bono?
Curtis: Its amazing how some ugly sunglasses and a leather jacket can make you Bono-ish in appearance AND attitude!
James: It aint about ego, it’s about getting the macphisto makeup right. Note. Shoe polish doesn’t work as makeup, even in a pinch. It just ruins towels.
Joe: He bought some dumb looking wraparound shades and a leather jacket.
John: Hmm, I can just hear how everyone else is answering this question right now (“John needs to INFLATE his ego to be like Bono???”). But alas, I have found that donning a dumb leather jacket and even dumber shades works as sort of a defense mechanism- it puts me in the character a little more- it’s something to hide behind, which in turn lets the stage persona come out. We’ll see. One thing I fail miserably at is attempting an Irish accent in between songs. There will be none of that. But sometimes I do think I “get” Bono more than a lot of people. I don’t feel like he needs a good punch in the face like, say, Rachel does. I know the spoiled millionaire rock stars don’t need me defending them, but I just think none of us can possibly understand what these guys lives have been like. Since before they were legal adults it’s been the four of them- by the time they were in their early 20’s they were bigger than 98% of bands in the world will EVER get, and by their mid 20’s they were the biggest band in the world, and have stayed there ever since. So for Bono to seem unlike someone very down-to-earth is to be expected- his entire life has been in the stratosphere! All that said, he’s also one of the most self-depricating and self-aware celebrities I’ve ever seen, and I find it quite charming. I’ve got your back, Bono.
Rachel: No answer
4. IWTDI did a great job as My Bloody Valentine at Raleigh Undercover.
If you guys were to decide to actually make a living as a tribute
band, which band would you pick?
Curtis: Well, since I’m not personally the biggest fan of doing cover sets, I’d probably choose Ratt. People only care about that one song they wrote anyways, so it would be a pretty short set.
James: I think U2 or The Cure pretty much make the most sense. BTW John can do the Robert Smith look with a creepy level of authenticity. Ultimately, I think it would be more fun to pay tribute to an era or a genre rather than a band.
Joe: None of my favorite bands really could ever warrant having their own cover band. But I sure wouldn’t mind being in an R.E.M. tribute band.
John: MBV vs U2- to make a living off of? Well, I guess I’d choose U2 simply for a bigger breadth of work to choose from, there’s more to keep us entertained with. I’m a person who likes a challenge- the MBV material is so fantastic but astoundingly easy to pull off- we all had a laugh the first night we learned those songs because they already sounded ready to go! The U2 stuff has taken us an INTENSE 5 months, and we’re still working right up to the wire. Real listeners know differently, but I’ve heard people complain about U2 just doing the same thing over and over again for their whole career. I can think of few more inaccurate statements, and learning all these songs has proven that to me even more. Most songwriters have go-to keys, go-to scales, go-to melodies, a certain formula. That’s fine- I love bands like The Sea and Cake who pretty much do the same melody for 10 songs on every record for the past 10 years. That’s pretty standard in rock songwriting. But the scope of U2’s evolution is just nuts. We’ve really struggled to find a formula that can help us learn their material easier. I played in some other cover bands years ago- from NOFX to Weezer to Foo Fighters to Hot Water Music- when you’ve learn a couple of those bands songs, the rest will come easy. But U2- melodically, musically- RARELY do the same thing twice. AT ALL. So it provides a challenge for us- once I think I’ve got Bono’s intervals down, he throws me another curve ball.
Rachel: I’d like to be a Kate Bush tribute artist because I already do a pretty good impression of her.
5.“I’m Broke and So Is Everything I Own” (off the new LP) is the best song title I’ve
heard in a long time. What’s the story behind this? And please tell me
you guys totally abandoned genre on this song and made it a
cry-in-your-beer country song.
Curtis: Well, its not country, but it definitely sounds a little different than most of our songs. I’ll let the person who wrote the lyrics explain the meaning, though.
James: Sounds like a buncha whining from a snot nosed kid to me. Waaaaah, life is hard. Girl, you don’t even KNOW suffering! It doesn’t deserve to be country. Country is reserved for real hurt. Dog dying, woman leaving you, beer getting warm, that sort of thing.
Joe: That song was written and recorded before I was in the band, so I’m afraid I can’t help on this one.
John: That’s a Rachel title. I think it’s safe to say she was having a bad day. That song is essentially about how she hates everything, and there’s a healthy dose of shit-talking in there as well. I can’t say we went country-ballad-style on it, but I’d like to think it definitely does break genre for us a bit. It’s one of our most “out there” songs- there’s no chorus and half the song is a dischordant, noisy guitar solo that’s actually buried under even more noise. We haven’t played it in a really long time, I was always a bit unsure about it, but I’ve heard that a lot of people were into it, so I think it might make a comeback soon.
Rachel: I wrote “I’m Broke and So Is Everything I Own” my first year in college when I was a music major. I had NO money in the bank, my debit card was being used as a bookmark, and a chain on my bike had been broken for weeks and I couldn’t fix it. I felt stranded, and the only thing that made my situation a little less horrible was that on the weekends I would come to Chapel Hill to have band practice and play shows in the Triangle. But I guess the song is about how none of these shows were a saving grace to me. They didn’t motivate me to go on some scene crusade and spew idealism everywhere. I can’t lie to you and say that I love everything about music in this area and say that that’s what validates my existence. My car’s muffler is still fucking broken and it sounds like a jet engine when I accelerate; music doesn’t fix that…even though I wish it would.