Few men care to admit it when they've got a case of pubic lice. Not only is the nasty affliction itchy and uncomfortable, but talking about it can put a serious kink in one's chances of getting laid. Having bugs in your shorts may be an off-limits topic for most, but few absurdities seem out of order for the Briefs. Night after night, the four hyperactive punks announce from the stage in unison, "I've got a new case of crabs." City after city is host to this mayhem, and all to pay the bills that put the funky, oversized shades on their faces and little striped ties around their necks. Crabs are just one of many cheeky confessions on the Seattle band's 2000 debut, Hit After Hit, an album that also covers such subjects as killing Bob Seger ("Silver Bullet"), weapon-wielding exes ("Knife"), and getting fleas near a garbage can ("I'm a Raccoon").
The Briefs are the latest members of a punk-rock strain that has doodled extra lines into the Ramones handbook. But they also add a bit of the Brits -- the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols -- even affecting British accents on the mike. They drive '60s pop hooks over fuzzy walls of guitar that are knocked down as quickly as they're erected, cranking out clipped punk nuggets faster than it takes most 14-year-olds to start a mosh pit, all the while keeping the vibe light and bouncy as they amp up the humor.
Although the band has been getting a nice little buzz lately, it's finally able to show that industry talk isn't always cheap; this summer it signed with Interscope -- home to Garbage, Queens of the Stone Age, and Limp Bizkit. The band has now crossed over from being the indie DIY band to one of the big boys, but don't expect these guys to be dropping their shorts for the suits anytime soon. Speaking from their practice space in Seattle, drummer Chris Brief, bassist Lance Romance, and guitarists Steve E. Nix and Daniel J. Travanti say they're still holding the controls on their animated punk. "If we put out a record that sucks, it's not gonna be because we're on a major label, it's gonna be because we want it to suck," says Travanti. The Briefs' contract still allows the band to release singles on independent labels, and they're not gonna stand for righteous punks slinging the "sellout" mud. "People who think that you shouldn't be able to eat and live and still be able to play music are hippies as far as any of us are concerned," says Chris. "I don't know whose idea it was to merge the hippie and the punk rock, but that's the wrong idea."
For those hoping to add the new Briefs album to holiday lists, don't get your panties moist just yet. This is a band that named itself "the Briefs" because there were only three songs on the set list for its first gig. There's gonna be a little wait for the second album, as the band is still thinking up ideas for songs. "We're sort of running out of ideas. Do you have any ideas?" jokes Romance. "We sort of did all our life experiences on that one." In the background, the other Briefs discuss their ideas. "Warts are funny." "Herpes?" "Everyone gets a good laugh out of those," admits Travanti, "a good nervous laugh."
With their fast tempos and smart-ass attitude, the Briefs also owe their sound to the past two decades of skate soundtracks. As kids, Chris Brief, Nix, and Travanti got into punk through skateboarding (Romance says he just listened to punk because his parents hated it). With a history of kick flips and ollies and an old-school record collection, the Briefs and skate punk are a solid match, and the band is excited about being asked to play Thrasher's "Skater of the Year" party at the Fillmore. "I've been reading Thrasher forever. I used to steal a copy every month," Chris Brief remembers fondly.
In fact, the band is so excited about getting back to its roots that it's gonna throw Chris Brief out as a challenger to the lucky boarder who takes the Thrasher crown. "Whoever wins the skater-of-the-year contest," jokes Nix, "we'll take them on after the show. We will beat the skater of the year."
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