Dust off your dancing shoes, punk rock’s greatest supergroup cover band, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes have confirmed a run of headline shows along with their Download Festival performance.

For the uninitiated, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes consists of Lagwagon frontman Joey Cape on the guitar, Scott Shiflett (Face to Face), on the other guitar, Lagwagon drummer and Fat Wreck utility superhero Dave Raun on the skins, and are rounded out by Jay Bentley (Bad Religion) and incomparable crooner Spike Slawson (The Re-Volts and Uke-Hunt). With their Australian tour fast approaching I spoke with Spike Slawson about their much awaited return.

It is great that Me First & The Gimme Gimmes are playing in Australia starting in Adelaide on Friday and also being a big part of Download Festival.
Yes, absolutely, we’ve never been to an Australian heavy metal festival before. I’m not quite sure what to expect but I’m optimistic.

Do you enjoy playing the festivals more than club shows these days?
It is a different proposition whatever way you slice it, festivals can be a lot of fun because there’s more people and you have a captive audience, people that aren’t there to necessarily see you, so doing a good show and getting people on your side is a nice feeling. Playing a longer set to a crowd who bought tickets to see you is a nice thing but playing outside is great, a little less sweaty and sticky. What’s the weather like there? I’ve been there in the dead of summer, oh man! I don’t know how you guys do it.

What do you dig about Australian audiences?
American rock ‘n roll fire if I had to sum it up. I love English punk bands and English rock ‘n roll bands and there’s nothing like the real thing. I don’t know if it is the sun, or it’s our similar history or what it is but there is something about Australian rock ‘n roll that rings a bit familiar to my American rock ears especially when you hear bands such as The Saints, Radio Birdman and all these inbetween bands from there that don’t fit a particular genre or did fit a genre or was in the wrong time and it is cool to be in the place where all that stuff came from. One time when we were there just outside of Melbourne and we got some copies of The Junkyard from the company that is still pressing them and I’m a huge Birthday Party fan, love The Saints and Kim Salmon. Going record shopping there is kind of fun and the Central Market is one of my favourite things in Adelaide.

Clocking up twenty five years as a band do the priorities shift now? Is it more about having fun? Is making a new album high on the priority list?
Our priorities are shuffling all the time and we will have some recordings before not too long. We try to have a good time and I love playing live. I think our presentation is great and when you are able to have a costume, persona or character is a lot easier. If you’re selling tickets you have to give a show, I don’t get the whole notion of t-shirts and jeans. I guess when that was a novelty and was something but I don’t get it now. Just staring at your feet, it looks like you’re working in a warehouse. You’re putting on a show man, one of the things about a cover band is not having to write songs and refine songs, going through the process of indecision, infighting and all that kind of stuff that goes on with playing original material, we have time to dwell on how we are going to present these covers. Once they are arrangement what are going to do with those?

Are there any particular covers you are looking to give a touch up to? Is there a genre best to avoid?
I think just speaking for the present tense our priorities shuffle, ebb and flow but going back to AM rock, here it was the soundtrack to Reservoir Dogs, all the groups like that… light rock, urban contemporary of the early 70s. Our first record was mostly from that genre. I don’t feel like we explored it nearly enough.

Do you get frustrated with the way music is released now? Other interviews suggest you want the seven inch to come back and focus three or four really good tracks.
Yeah, that’s where I’m at. It is up to the record label because they have a difficult time making any money of seven inches unless it sells like crazy. We have dealt with themes quiet a bit and with themes you are locked in to certain genre and there’s only a finite number of artists and songs you can cover. Then there’s even a smaller number of songs that fit our particular idiom. It is liberating not having to meet the number ten or twelve songs to fill an LP but release songs as you like them and as you want to. It makes more sense to me if not the label. For us, the fun and the money is playing live, everything for us feeds that.

The essence of the live band is the live show, has there been any thought given to releasing a live album? Maybe live in Australia?
It feels like that is where our energy is, there’s no time for discussion it’s like 1, 2, 3, 4 and do it, no time for worrying about whether it was good. You just do it and then worry about the next one, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s less good than you would have liked but I would love to do a live record and a live video. We have thought about all kinds of different ways to do it like events, parties, wedding, funerals, communions and what have you…

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Me First & The Gimme Gimmes on the following dates. Tickets from SBM Touring