Readers, this may not be hip of us to admit, but we increasingly enjoy watching bands perform that are actually fun. And fun is the primary goal of Atomic Pajama Party (this is a band, after all, that sells Atomic Pajama Party thongs and whose last gig was an actual "pajama party" at Barnyard Beer). The band has just launched a Kickstarter campaign so they can record an album that puts the fun on wax, so please go here and kick in a few bucks to help them reach their modest goal.
We spoke with APP ringleader and longtime LFK musician Tim Morrell in a wide-ranging interview that ends up covering about a decade of the local music scene and closes with a promise that, for a mere $200, the band will be happy to immortalize Chip's boner in a song (Chip: "Totally worth it!").
Chip: Your mission statement is “to make rock music danceable again,” a noble goal! But it’s soooo fucking hard to make the apathetic scenesters in this town dance! Are you having much luck? Or do you mostly play for old geezers who aren’t worried about looking cool all the time?
Tim: I do a pretty good job of making myself look like the biggest fool in the room so that people feel more comfortable loosening up a bit. We honestly haven’t seen much of the scenester crowd at our shows so we haven’t had to deal much with the shoegazer mentality. We’ve tried to target the college more than anything and that crowd is a bit more comfortable with going out dancing. Frankly it’s almost hard not to at least move around a bit when you are at our shows listening to our music, and we rock out some well-placed covers to help get people moving such as "Jungle Boogie," "Get Down Tonight," and the newest addition "Oops I Did It Again." We put so much energy into our set, we jump around, we play our songs on the edge of being too fast. We just do everything we possibly can to make sure we are having a good time and I think it’s contagious. Most people going out are only looking to have a good time, so when you have an act on stage making fools out of themselves, taking you by the hand to lead you to that good time, it’s a bit hard to resist. It’s a lot harder getting people to give this band a shot in the first place, considering rockers (myself included) have been so against dance music ever since the disco retaliations of the 70’s. We’ve seen a couple of the silver-age audience members dancing, but the majority of the people dancing are younger, albeit probably not scenesters.
Richard: Quite a few of the “aging scenester” demographic are readers of this blog and are well-versed in LFK rock history. Tell us about your old band The Disagreements and how you got from there to the hijinks of Atomic Pajama Party.
Tim: The Disagreements started as a pretty crappy pop rock band with a wretched name in Toast! (thankfully another band with the same name wanted to keep it, so we happily changed it) and ended as a pretty decent punk rock band, all the while claiming to be a straight-up rock band. Labeling various forms of rock is confusing and hurts my brain. We played for the first time live on KJHK when Nick Spacek was hosting "Plow the Fields." We always had a fairly decent following, but I think through the duration of the band it changed from people coming out to support us to people that actually liked our music and wanted to see us play, so that was cool. We got to play with a lot of the acts around that we admired and were friendly with such as Tawni Freeland, Podstar, Jade Raven, Emma Feel, Thulium/Anything But Joey, Slurry, BeNon, TopHat. We never really “broke up” per se, but after our final drummer quit, we never got around to replacing him (although we had every intention to) and that was that. The main two people throughout, Matt Herbert and myself, were always a bit on the goofy side of things, much to the chagrin of everyone else that played in the band with us, so as we progressively took control of the band we became a bit more about entertaining ourselves and less about what we were supposed to be doing. We played Andy Morton’s (of Danger Bob fame) birthday show in our underwear, played songs with our instruments behind our heads, jumped around a lot, even used strobes and a bubble machine at our shows. Hell, half the time I was known as the guy who would play with his pants around his ankles. Turned out entertaining ourselves entertained the audience quite a bit too.
Between The Disagreements and Atomic Pajama Party, I did a lot of songwriting that I was never happy with, filled in for a couple of bands for one off gigs, but didn’t really find anything I wanted to continue doing. I wanted to be on stage again, so at some point I had to ask myself, “What is it I want out of my music?” The overpowering answer was fun. I actually sat down and wrote out the various things I would like to do, and what I ended up with was “Pop vocals, big metal guitars, underwhelming melodic bass lines, dance beats, raw rock songs, and punk rock energy.” I also scribbled down in big letters at the bottom of the page, “Stop worrying about if you are ripping someone off or not, chances are that you are!” In random conversation I mentioned this to the guy I was working with who just happened to be a guitar player and he said he was in. We tried working with a couple of different drummers but it turned out really hard to explain to a drummer what type of beats we were actually looking for, especially because we weren’t using just club dance beats, but a variety of popular dance beats from the last century including funk, swing, disco, rockabilly, etc. We recorded our demos with me programming all of the beats into my computer and used those for recruitment. They turned out a lot better than we could have hoped. Not only did the first drummer we audition want the job and was perfect for it, we were able to use those demos to promote the band and create a bit of a buzz before we were even ready to play a show.
Chip: I know you played an actual pajama-party at Barnyard Beer on Stop Day. How did that go? And what’s the origin of the band’s name?
Tim: I don’t know that I’ll ever leave a show being completely satisfied, I’ll always wish there were more people there or even that we hadn’t messed something up, but really I was very happy with the show. Barnyard Beer is a fantastic place. We love what they’ve done there; they are great guys to work with, their self-brewed beer was fantastic, and it’s a nice set-up. However, it is a bit off the beaten trail and does not have a high visibility so it’s an extra challenge to get people there. All in all, we had a great audience--many of whom were sporting some cool pajamas--fantastic sound, had a helluva time playing, people danced, and we got to witness someone dancing with an Atomic Pajama Party thong on their head. You can’t really beat that.
As far as the band name goes, I probably overthought it as well. I wanted a three-part name that sounded like it should match together (but not quite) for two reasons. The first was to make it easier to avoid trademarks and specifically other bands with the same name. The second reason had to do with a conversation I had overheard a long time ago. After Eric Melin had joined Ultimate Fakebook they had played with the idea of dropping the Ultimate from their name. Byron Huhmann of TV fifty ended up talking them out of it because with it they have a great rock chant with the three letters UFB. I guess that stuck with me. Maybe we can get people chanting APP at our shows. As far as what three words, we chose Party first to help promote the fun party atmosphere we are trying to project. We chose Pajama second after playing with such words as Vampire (thought it sounded too goth/industrial/Twilighty) and Disco because we like the idea of a Pajama Party. We wanted to make the beginning word something to refer to the energy of the music. We thought about Electric, but I decided that made it sound too much like UFB’s first album Electric Kissing Parties. It probably took us three weeks of going through words such as Amped, Nuclear, Jolt, and a whole other bunch of energy related words before I even thought of Atomic. Once the word came to mind we thought it was perfect.
Richard: You’ve currently got a Kickstarter campaign going. Tell us about the album you envision making?
Tim: I really envision trying to pull off a Foo Fighters-esque album that is full of singles but really more cohesive as an album. I’ve been working on DJing the flow of the album to make song-to-song transitions a bit more similar to how you’d hear it in a club versus what you’d hear on a rock album, we’ll see how that works. We don’t want the over-produced sound you get on dance records. It’ll definitely be a rock album. I’m sure you can see we are tearing up a very fine line here. It’ll include everything we demoed out before because those need to be recorded with a real drummer, plus our concert staples and at least one song no one outside of the band has heard before. We’ll always keep at least a couple of surprises back. Who knows, you may even hear a waltz on the album. Really, we are looking to capture the fun, energetic passion that infuses our live shows. I’m thinking of naming the album something that sounds like it’s been badly translated from Japanese, like Happy Tiger Dance Time. Our logo looks like it would fit into anime, so why not?
Chip: Your song titles such as “Bump and Grind” and “Jiggle in your Pants” totally make me want to get laid [listen here ]. Are there a lot of sexy chicks at Atomic Pajama Party shows? Also, leave us with a blurb that convinces our readers that they absolutely MUST contribute to your Kickstarter fund. Also, If I donate $100, will you write a song called “Chip’s Boner Song” for me?
Tim: Those make you want to get laid? Hell, you haven’t even heard "Bang Buddy" or "All Night Long!" We actually wrote those songs as a tongue-in-cheek homage to what currently plays on pop radio. In fact, in our initial round of songwriting the rule was that every song had to be about sex, drinking, dancing, or partying. Preferably all of the above.
As far as sexy chicks at the shows go, we are a danceable act that promotes a party environment, lots of fun, getting primped up in your pajamas, and our best piece of merch is our Atomic Pajama Party thongs. Why wouldn’t we have a lot of sexy chicks at our shows? Seriously, why won’t they come? Really, we’ve had some cuties there, but there’s always room for more.
Why MUST you contribute to our Kickstarter campaign? Atomic Pajama Party is that nice perfect-length wooden backscratcher that precisely tackles that itch right in the middle of your back that no amount of twisting and contorting your body will make you able to reach with your own arms and is on that curve that makes it practically impossible to fully scratch rubbing against a door frame. We fill that niche that you never really knew needed filling, but now that you’ve had a taste of its possibilities you never want to go without. We are the hope that represents all ideals of mankind; would you really want to inhabit this world without hope? Don’t you already feel a little bit emptier inside without an Atomic Pajama Party album already made? Wouldn’t you like to feel whole? How could you not want to be at least a small part of contributing to the band and album that could save mankind? Besides which, our modesty is pretty admirable on its own.
Here's a T-shirt, but where's the thong??