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30 years in, The Supersuckers still turned on by rock 'n' roll

Three Chords and the Truth

Kyle Petersen Sep 12, 2018 4:00 AM

There's something about the thrill of rock 'n' roll that feels inherently short-lived, as if the desperation or passion or desire of the moment must necessarily pass or become diminished over time.

That's true of the best Supersuckers songs, which tend to ride raunchy rockabilly rhythms at punk-rock speeds with near-metal snarls. Add to that the kind of satirically insouciant lyrics that lead singer Eddie Spaghetti tends to deliver over top these riffs extolling the virtues of all manner of sins and vices, and there's a similar feeling. It seems that, for all of the humor and sharpness and joy of these sounds and tunes, that they would be destined for a certain period of sophomoric glory before a transition to more mature and earnest pastures.

And yet here the Supersuckers are, three decades removed from the sweaty garage in Tucson, Ariz., where they first formed.

"I guess I'm kind of surprised at how good we still are," Spaghetti shrugs when asked about the band's big milestone. "Most bands that have been doing it as long as we have, you know, have sucked for many, many years by now."

The singer and songwriter, who plays bass alongside guitarists "Metal" Marty Chandler and Dan "Thunder" Bolton, and drummer Christopher "Chango" Von Streicher, has crafted a remarkably consistent catalog over the years. The band's straight-up honky-tonk records and solo albums stand out from the crowd sonically if not in themes or lyrics. See, for instance, this lyric from "Let's Bounce" off the 2015 country record Holdin' the Bag: "Let's go all of you sissy-pants chicken-picken/ Finger-lickin', mother-humping, dick-grabbing, ass-lickin/ Corn-fed, buttermilk, hand-spanked/ Yellow-bellied lily-liver, sap-sucking son-of-bitches."

"I've always been a snarky bastard; whether I'm playing country music or rock 'n' roll, that's consistent," he says somewhat roguishly. "But the lyrics are always kind of where I think I excel. They are always a little bit better with the Supersuckers than you're going to get with your typical rock 'n' roll band."

Despite the band's hard-partying sound and impressive consistency, they were still a bit of the odd man out on the Sub Pop roster and the Seattle scene, where they spent most of the 1990s. Echoes of Social Distortion and Jason & the Scorchers were more apparent in their sound than grunge, and they tended toward more biting and aggressive songs that lessened their likeness to Mike Ness-style big anthems or Ringenberg-esque country schtick.

Spaghetti says he never felt like the band was part of the cow-punk scene of the 1980s or the alt-country swell of the late 1990s, even when the band put out their first country record in 1997.

"When we put out our first record, it was not met [with a lot of excitement]," he recalls. "Everybody thought we were taking the piss or whatever, just trying to get out of our Sub Pop deal or something like that."

He continues, "But that definitely wasn't the case. We took it very seriously. I'm just enamored with the whole craft of making up songs, and that's why I liked country music so much, because it's so simple when it's good, it's very direct and very simple and very honest. And that's the same thing as punk rock really. I mean, you know, it's three chords and the truth."

Of course, even with the opportunity to ride the brief period of commercial hope for alternative country music, the band didn't want any part of it.

"We didn't want to be a part of any sort of movement or anything," Spaghetti admits ruefully. "So, of course we immediately turned around and made The Evil Powers of Rock and Roll. We completely ducked that whole spotlight thing once again, successfully keeping our debit cards empty and our wallets depleted."

As the band gets ready for the 30th-anniversary tour, they are planning on playing many of their early Sub Pop albums in full, along with some country tunes and some of the new material from this year's Suck It. They seem largely at peace with the small cult audiences that remains for their music, if a bit mournful that the music so intrinsic to their own youth seems to be passed over by the kids of today.

"I don't know about what these kids are listening to anymore, but it's definitely not rock 'n' roll, unfortunately," Spaghetti says near the end of our interview. "It's barely even worth doing at all, really. But it still turns me on, and I still get a kick out of making it. So as long as that remains the fact, I suppose I'll just keep doing it."