Dave Gatchell just wanted to do his part. While his band, Selby Tigers, was hanging out in Cocoa Beach, Fla., last December, taking a break from the Minnesota snow, drummer Gatchell decided to help out with the recounting process. Not that he spent hours looking at engorged, irritated, perturbed or just plain pissed chads; nothing as boring as that. He had plans to be that all-important swing vote.
“I put in eight votes [while we were there],” Gatchell jokes. “I tried to put in a few more, but they wouldn’t let me.” True patriotism in action. But it’s fitting. The St. Paul-based quartet doesn’t have much respect for authority, politics, parents, teachers, Georges (Lucas, Dubya or Boy) the work-a-day world, the suburbs—basically everything. They’re all snot—the kids who would go to the pep rally only to toss water balloons at the team captain, the group that would throw enough sarcastic jabs in rapid-fire succession to leave most of their victims a ball of dejected goo.
The group’s debut record, Charm City (Hopeless Records), comes off the same way. The disc has more irony and witty one-liners than a pack of fully-caffeinated and angst-ridden Saturday Night Live writers. Example: “Droids.” Sure, anyone who’s played guitar for more than a week might scoff at the base riffage, and true Star Wars geeks will shout sacrilege; but when vocalist-guitarist Arzu Gokcen shrieks out, “I’m not the droid you’re looking for,” it’s hard not to laugh.
And as soon as the Tigers’ ode to don’t-walk signals, “Sidewalk,” flares up, you can’t help but want to run out into traffic. It’s hard to think of anyone else who has worked the words “ergonomic high chair” into a song (“In Bed”). The whole thing is disguised in a Trojan Horse of simple, fun and bouncy punk-pop that owes more to the turn-and-burn spirit of the ’70s than the poopy-soaked stuff from SoCal. Nothing fancy, just straight-ahead rock in its most basic and irreverent form. Guitars rarely go beyond power chords and basic plucking. Though none of the Tigers will ever be trying out for the Metropolitan Opera, each member takes a shot at the mic, often two or three of them trading lines during a song. Mixed all together, the result might not sound as cheeky Supergrass or as alt-intellectual as Stephen Malkmus, but Gatchell says the band’s sarcastic wit and elementary approach have allowed the Tigers to do something few in the indie underground have been able to truly pull off: float between genres.
“Because we go with a lot of different things, we can play anywhere,” Gatchell says. “We can play with some hardcore band and kinda get by. We can play with a straight rock band and kinda get by. The only thing we don’t work with is emo. I don’t know why the emo kids don’t get it. They just stare at us. That makes you feel a little weird.”
Weird glares aside, the Tigers don’t have much to complain about. The group is living the indie-rock dream. In just three years the band went from just another batch of punkers trying to get the drunk guy in the corner to stop yelling at them, to a record deal with the California-based punk haven Hopeless and a full tour schedule. Reviews have been good. The band has been slowly building a loyal fanbase. They have started to crack college radio. And Charm City is in virtually every record store around the country—well, all except one. Gatchell says his mom and dad went into a Twin Cities Best Buy to look for their son’s album. It wasn’t there. That’s when things got ugly.
“My dad had the district manager cornered, saying, ‘You’re a Minneapolis-based company, and my son’s in a Minneapolis-based band, and you don’t even stock his CD. What’s wrong with you?’ I couldn’t believe it,” Gatchell says. “But I guess it’s always nice to have your parents looking out for you.”
Yet Gatchell knows that even if mom and dad are out there checking up on things for you, it’s still hard to get by. Most of the members have to pick up odd jobs between tours—Gatchell does graphic design; Gokcen hosts karaoke nights for a living. Simple luxuries like hotel rooms and showers are sometimes hard to come by while on the road. And today’s T-shirt cash is tomorrow’s gas and drive-through. Gatchell is more than aware of it all, and he has no illusions that the Selby Tigers are going to suddenly sell 10 million records, get personal e-mails from Carson Daly and pull down a Grammy or two. This is just fun.
“You get out of it how much you put in,” Gatchell says. “Sometimes it pays off. Most of the time it doesn’t. You just expect it. But the second you start thinking about that, you just have to remind yourself that you’re not at work. That will usually take care of any problems you might have. I saw my first punk band when I was in seventh grade and that pushed me over the edge. I was hooked. I know this is what I have to do.”
The Donnas, Bratmobile and Selby Tigers. DV8, 155 S. West Temple (539-8400), Thursday March 29, 8 p.m.