Girls Against Boys rock the Echo Lounge for an appreciative crowd of sweater wearing kids
Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2002
Updated: Saturday, October 10, 2009 11:10
One would expect the backstage of a rock club to be something straight out of the movies: girls in tight pants and revealing tops, rock stars all glammed up, champagne bottles, drugs, and plenty of glitz and glamour. But when I went backstage in the Echo
Lounge with the boys in Girls Against Boys on Tuesday March 19, there was none of that.
Instead, just a small assortment of fruits, a hummus platter, soft drinks, bottled water, chips, and maybe one or two bottles of wine. There was no entourage, no scantily dressed girls; there were only band members sitting on old, beat-up couches with a horrible animal print decor.
I joined Eli Janney (keyboard, vocals), Scott McCloud (vocals, guitar), and Alexis Fleisig (drums) on one of those beat-up couches. The only one missing was bassist Johnny Temple. The band is pretty laid back, and I learned quickly during the course of the interview that Eli is the talkative sarcastic one, Scott is the insightful one, and Alexis is the tough and upbeat one. I jumped right into the questions and first asked how the band got their name. Scott answered that a friend of theirs felt that there should be a band called Girls Against Boys because “that’s the way it is.”
“There just had to be a band named that, so we took that responsibility for ourselves” according to Eli. I took this opportunity to ask if it was really Eli who started the band. “That’s right, he’s responsible for everything!” yells Alexis. “It’s your fault!” adds Scott.
After the laughter subsided, I learned that the band started out as a studio project with Eli, Scott, and some other guy named Brendan, but it didn’t really start in earnest until they started playing live, in 1991.
This time around, they’re on tour with New York band The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and Lookout Record’s The Pattern. This, however, is only an initial tour before their sixth full-length release, You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See, comes out on May 14. After this release, their Jade Tree debut, a more extensive tour will follow.
According to Scott, this album is “definitely more stripped-down rock.” He says that there are similarities between this album and their previous ones. “It sounds like a Girls Against Boys record. It’s a mixture of our earlier stuff and a few elements of the last record.” And on a scale of one to ten, Eli calls out, “Eleven! It’s rockin’. Totally great man, totally!”
While the boys say their favorite thing about touring is playing, they complain that they hate everything else. Eli explains, “Let’s see: not getting any sleep, not eating very well…bathrooms are a big problem. You never find a clean bathroom that you would love to spend any moment of time in, while on the road…I could go on and on.”
I ask where their favorite place to play is and Eli sarcastically responds “Hmm, on-stage.” But they each quickly got the hint and yelled that Atlanta is their favorite place. “The Masquerade. Oh no! I didn’t say that!” jokes Alexis. I guess word gets around.
The interview is stopped briefly while the boys go do sound checks. Only Eli and Alexis return. Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s is in the room now looking for something to munch on. I made the mistake of asking what bands the boys are currently listening to. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s!” yells Eli enthusiastically. Karen joins in, “That’s just because I’m here,” but Alex acts surprised, “No! Oh, hey Karen, I didn’t see that you were here.”
Eli jumps back in, “Let’s see…where to begin. Listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, and the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, Clinic, The Pattern, The Standards, a band from New York called Stereobait. Let’s see, who else can I plug? Enon. They have a new album coming out. It’s really f**king good.”
But money isn’t all that’s on their minds. They had a lot to say about the state of music today. Alexis, especially, feels that the consolidation of radio is what makes things so hard. “Radio is a horrible situation, where it’s like two major companies that control everything.”
It makes America a totally uninteresting place, because when we drive from D.C. to Atlanta to Austin to wherever, we hear the same stupid song on every radio station because they’re all owned by the same company.”
The band itself is not played on the radio much and rarely on MTV either, but they still maintain a large following and are quite popular.
“I’m not surprised that we’re one out of a thousand bands at our level and bigger that don’t get any attention from those two mediums. Rock radio is pretty much owned by two companies and MTV is all owned by one company. So there are three companies that control all the music in America and they have a very narrow view of what is marketable.
“It’s so tightly controlled and so expensive to be in that world that they can’t afford to break out of that world. Occasionally MTV will play whatever, like the White Stripes or something, but that’s just so they can be cool. They have to keep concentrating on bands that make a lot of money. So it’s a huge opportunity for bands that only sell a million records.”
Eli takes over, “Well, I think in reality, as far as music culture goes, MTV and radio are really chasing, not leading. They’re the ones who are trying to figure out what’s new, what’s happening. It’s already been happening for awhile on a much smaller scale and then they try to figure out how they can market it.”
The opening band really needs no mention, since most people missed them anyway, but to be fair, it was local band Drill Team.
It wasn’t until the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s took the stage that people began to pay attention. Actually, it was more like they were suddenly hit by a jackhammer and afterwards they weren’t the same. Karen O has the kind of stage charisma that makes both men and women alike love her.
Onstage she dances, jumps, shakes her hands and her hips. She took drinks from her squirt bottle and then squirts her chest with it, letting the water slide off. After the catcalls subside, she just does a spin and shakes her hips some more, making the audience fall in love with her even more.
The best part, besides the songs, is how much fun she is having. Throughout the set, Karen is laughing, smiling and not taking herself seriously at all, which makes everyone else feel so at ease.
It was like watching your best friend perform. The band, actually, started out as a joke, Karen informed me backstage, but after a while, they couldn’t deny the fact that they were gaining a following and notoriety.
The Pattern takes the stage next and there seem to be so many of them. The whole stage fills with young men dressed in thrift store threads, armed only with their instruments. In total, there are five, but combined they have the presence of ten.
They begin without much warning and end quite the same way. Their upbeat peppy sound, that is similar to other Lookout record bands, is heightened by a ‘70s garage rock feel.
The only problem with the band is the lead singer’s performance. He had this weird obsession with sucking his thumb in a childlike, immature way.
I had no idea what that was all about. He would clap enthusiastically with those same hands and then they would make their way down to his crotch to show the girls, or perhaps the men, in the audience just where his package is located.
Not quite a la Michael Jackson, but definitely inappropriate. I think he was trying to be sexy and it just wasn’t working for him.
In the course of time it takes the Pattern to get their artillery off the stage and for Girls Against Boys to take over, the Echo Lounge fills with sound thirsty GVSB fans who have been waiting four years for this. High expectations soak the air, and the band does not disappoint.
They play plenty of favorites like “Kill the Sex Player” and my favorite, “Bullet Proof Cupid” and throw in some new songs off their upcoming effort.
The new songs are well received by the audience who jumps up and down with glee that they have this opportunity to see the band perform.
Everything falls into place, from the lighting, the sound and the crowd’s appreciation. When the band comes back for their encore, they play a few more songs to an enthused audience just happy the band made their way back to Atlanta after all this time.