Fred Armisen's Fake Bands (And Their Real Songs) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Fred Armisen's Fake Bands (And Their Real Songs)

Play associated audio

A lot of obscure bands want to reach a national audience, and they send their records to NPR. Unfortunately, there's a lot of forgettable stuff in the mix, and recently the staff of All Things Considered received the kind of CD it would usually toss.

It's got a pair of singles by two bands — The Blue Jean Committee, which came out of the 1970s Massachusetts folk scene; and The Fingerlings, a British post-disco/synth band of art-school graduates. Both sound desperately tiresome.

But before chucking the disc, the show's producers noticed a familiar name on it: Fred Armisen.

An alum of Saturday Night Live, co-star of IFC's Portlandia, and, starting this Monday, bandleader on Late Night with Seth Meyers, is a musical chameleon of sorts. The bands on this release are fictional, but the songs are real: written by Armisen for sketches on SNL and now available as a series of 7" vinyl singles from the indie label Drag City.

The Fingerlings first appeared on SNL in 2011: Fred Armisen, Dana Carvey and their band, complete with new-wave wigs and trench coats, take the stage at a bar full of increasingly impatient Packers fans as the Super Bowl kicks off on the TV behind them. The skit is funny, but not necessarily because of the song, which is missing the arch punchlines common to song parodists like "Weird Al" Yankovic and Flight of the Conchords. Instead, the comedy emerges from the weird, uncomfortable tension that comes from the band being totally earnest.

"At the risk of sounding like I have fake humility, I'm just not good at putting jokes in songs," Armisen says. "There are people who are really good that. For me, it's just been more about the texture of it all."

On the new singles, that texture has to stand on its own: These are studio versions, with no angry football fans or awkward audience reactions to give them context. And Armisen's gone the whole distance, with serious-sounding press releases and legit-looking cover art (the latter of which was created by artist Damon Locks, with whom Armisen was in a real band in the 1990s, the post-hardcore outfit Trenchmouth).

Armisen's name does appear on the records for the purposes of songwriting credit. He says, however that he wishes there was a way to make their origins even more covert.

"I just like the idea of local music heroes: Those bands that were on the cusp of becoming nationally famous, but just stayed sort of regional," he says. "So in a way, it would make sense that the person buying the record has never heard of them — because only people in their town have heard of them."

The first single, featuring the Blue Jean Committee and The Fingerlings, is out now, with another due in March.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Beyond The Bestsellers: Nancy Pearl Recommends 'Under The Radar' Reads

NPR's go-to books guru has sent host Steve Inskeep a stack of books — titles she thinks deserve more attention than they've been getting. Here are her fiction picks, to kick off your summer reading.
NPR

Adios, Trans Fats: FDA Poised To Phase Out Artery-Clogging Fat

Any day now, the FDA could announce a final rule aimed at removing much of the remaining trans fats out of the food supply. It could amount to a near ban on the fats, which wreak cardiovascular havoc.
NPR

Irish Voters Decide Whether To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Polls show the "yes" vote is stronger in the conservative, predominately Catholic country. But public opinion surveys could be masking a "shy no vote," observers say.
NPR

Mechanical Turk Workers: Secret Cogs In The Internet Marketplace

There are hundreds of thousands of people doing stuff to your Internet experience that you may think is the work of an algorithm. They're working from home doing tiny tasks computers can't quite do.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.