Music for that deep down body thirst

by Carrie Bell
Assistant Editor
Photos by Beth Herzhaft
U. The National College Magazine
September 1996

It started as a night of card-playing and beer-drinking for four 20somethings from tempe, Ariz. It would end up being the beginnings of the road to musical fame for the Refreshments.

"There wasn't any one day when we said, 'Wow this is going to be our career. ' We got together initially to play cards three years ago, and there just happened to be some instruments lying around. It just sort of slowly snowballed into this thing," says guitarist Brian Blush.

But it hasn't been easy for the four Arizona State U. graduates to get this far. First, they started late because their paths never crossed at the school of 45,000.

"We met through the music. We wish we could say, 'Oh yeah, we met in hom ec one day. We make a mean macrame," says Blush, who'll paint anything for $99.99.

The journey from the beer-soaked desert town to the big time has been full of bars, hangovers, endless touring, hangovers, a bandmate change and hangovers. In fact, there were so many hangovers involved alcohol is cited by the band as an influence on their major-label debut, Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big & Buzzy.

"Those songs are honest portraits of the writer and the band at the time of their conception," vocalist and rhythm guitarist Roger Clyne says. "The songs are celebrations of life. To say that alcohol wasn't involved would be a lie. You can hear it, you can smell it and you can taste it in the songs."

Despite the wet times that helped the band members blossom, they've decided to cut back on their consumption.

"We were glug, glug, vroom, vroom, splash when we started this band. We got together to jam, and tow cases of beer were involved. It was always a great tie," Clyne says. "Then we moved from the basement to the clubs, and drinks were free. We found ourselves hung-over, unable to get our of bed or remember gigs and aching all over. We were on a path to alcoholism and self-destruction, so we eased off."

Sound of music

As part of the band's rite of passage to the industry, the Refreshments (who once considered names like Pop Enema and Motley Clue) had to decide on their sound. They settled on "Johnny Cash meets AC/DC." Others call it college-boy bar rock, sarcastic pop and the dreaded catchall: alternative.

"People have said we are everything from roots rock to the saviors of f--king rock itself to the most outdated band in America," Clyne says. "We never tried to cultivate a particular image. We just simply are, and we just do."

Another influence on the sound is the geography from which they came. Tempe, also home to the Meat Puppets and Gin Blossoms, adds a southwestern flair. There's a twang to the guitar, a dash of mariachi beats and a lot of rock and roll.

"There are a lot of sounds in there - Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, They Might Be Giants. We all grew up in different places, so we have tons of different personal influences," drummer P.H. (short for Perpetually Homeless) Naffah says.

"There is also this sort of hokeyness that comes with being from Arizona," says bassist Buddy Edwards, who likes men who aren't afraid to cry. "We were in bands that were more self-important before, but it's supposed to be fun. It's believable that us four guys would make this kind of music in this kind of town."

The big time

With all the changes and Mercury Records handling the business end, what else has changed? Not much, Edwards says.

"Nothing changes. We still do the same thing whether we are playing for 50 people or 800 people or 14,000 people. That happened once. We still have to play a good show. The plumber plumbs, and we play music."

And playing music- their way- was the desired outcome.

"When we started looking at the companies, we filtered out those who wanted change immediately. There were things like, 'Can you write more songs with screaming?' Next. 'Would you mind dressing like Duran Duran?' Next," Clyne says. "When we met Peter Lubin, he said, 'Do what you do, and if you fall on your face, it's your fault.'"

But the increased publicity took away some of the privacy the band once enjoyed. They tour almost nonstop, see their loved ones less, and sleep is an often-denied luxury. But they try not to complain.

"You can't complain about selling 9,000 records one week in Soundscan," Edwards says. "We think about being at home a lot. But some people drill holes in sheet metal for a living."

"I can't imagine the patience or the fortitude to work a real job," Blush says. "This is a strange, weird lifestyle. It's so good."

The guys try to remain grounded in an industry filled with egoists and temptation. They have simple goals, like having a single stay at No. 14 just like Devo's "Whip It," producing a line of Hostess products and paying rent until death.

"My biggest goal is to get on The Price Is Right," Naffah says. "We want to meet Bob Barker."

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