After several years of working the crowds with popular ’80s rock hits, New Wave favorites, and fist-raising, anthemic renditions, Charleston cover band Weird Science officially called it a day last January.
Right off the bat, four-fifths of the Science — guitarist/vocalist Jason Gantt; multi-instrumentalist, headband expert, and comedian Jason Cooper; bassist Chris McLernon; and drummer/singer John Befumo — bounced back into the local club circuit (from Tonik to the Windjammer and beyond) under the name “Playlist” and brought the party action with a fresh new set of ’80s and ’90s hits.
McClernon, a credible veteran of several professional rock bands (and one phony one — the house band for the weekly “Hair-e-oke” heavy metal karaoke show at Cumberland’s), took a few moments to tell the latest tale:
CITY PAPER: Is it true that Weird Science reigned as Charleston’s “very best ’80s rock/new wave cover band” for five years?
CHRIS MCCLERNON: That’s what we heard. And, of course, the deafening din of the appreciative and appreciated crowds at the Weird Science shows seemed to confirm it.
CP: When and why did Weird Science officially call it quits and change the name?
CM: In Jan. 2007. Basically, it was time to climb a new mountain. Weird Science had hit its peak. Also, dealing with Danny Elfman and his litigious Siege Tower filled with salivating lawyers will put anyone off of their lunch.
CP: The rapport between Jason Gantt and Jason Cooper reminds some fans of a few famous rock duos — Keith Richards and Ron Wood, Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen, Seals & Crofts, Peter & Gordon, the list goes on … how did this come to be?
CM: You forgot Tufnel and St. Hubbins, mate. It was a natural. You have two guys named Jason in the front, both wielding axes, and neither of them are a Voorhees. So we had to give the people what they want.
CP: How does the Playlist set list most differ from the old Weird Science set list? Some reports suggest things are more “rockin’” somehow.
CM: ‘Tis more rocking. A little more modern, too. Whilst everyone loves their ’80s, we were itching to play stuff that was somewhere outside of the leg-warmer and pastel section of our CD collections. Now, you’re as likely to hear the flannel of “Teen Spirit” as you are the red-leather pants of “Working for the Weekend.”
CP: Is there a different approach to rockin’ King Street as opposed to rockin’ the Isle of Palms?
CM: We think there is. The audience tends to request more rock stuff on the IOP as opposed to pop downtown, so we gladly oblige. Our guess is it’s the elevation.
CP: Is there a fresh, new generation of band fans, or is it a mix of old farts who’ve followed Weird Science and new kids who haven’t a clue?
CM: It’s a mix. Some are new farts. Some are old kids. The diehards are there, singing along like the maniacs we love them to be. Newer fans are popping up at each show, especially since we ask them to send us what’s on their playlists via Myspace. Then we just might learn it. We’ve done that with a few newer tunes already and the list is growing.
CP: Why the name? “Weird Science” referred to a movie title and an Oingo Boingo song. What does “Playlist refer to? Maybe it should be “Play Liszt,” in reference to Franz Liszt, the famous Hungarian composer/pianist …could Cooper handle it on the keys?
CM: It’s a one-word name and easy to remember. Reference? ’Cause everyone has a Playlist and it’s always interesting to hear what’s on it. As for Franz, Cooper can handle most things Hungarian, we’re embarrassed to say. Here’s some trivia: we actually named ourselves after the Goya painting “Playa del Listes.” True. All of this is true, as a matter of fact.
CP: The McLernon/Befumo rhythm section plays it pretty straight and solid, with occasional flashes of brilliance and drama — would you compare the dynamic between the drums and bass more to that of Entwistle & Moon, McVie & Fleetwood, or Anthony & Van Halen — and why?
CM: Gotta say Anthony & Van Halen. Anthony Hopkins, really. Why? The only way to drown out the sound of those damn lambs is to rock!
CP: As veterans of the cover band/sweatband circuit, what advice would you give up-and-coming bands who are trying to get their feet caught in the door?
CM: Get a rehearsal space. Practice. Identify the grooves that match the tunes you’re playing — you might find a groove that fits your band better than the original performance — and that’s not a bad thing. Sing well. Play well. If you can’t do these bits naturally, practice your butt off because these elements matter. You will improve, your crowd will respond. If you’re an “originals only” band — write. Then write some more. Then write even more. Then gig.
CP: Exactly what is it about Bon Jovi songs that drive local bargoers fucking insane with excitement? Or, for that matter, “Blister in the Sun” by the Violent Femmes and “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone? Charlestonians go nuts when they hear that stuff.
CM: God knows. People forgot Bon Jovi was the definition of poseur. But, man, they love and respect him now. Undeniably, it’s a great song. “Blister” is about wanking and everybody can relate to that … in the privacy of their own homes and not at our gigs, thank you very much. We are, however, puzzled as to why Wendy’s would use that song in a commercial. Is that how Dave Thomas would want people relating to the meat products that Wendy’s sells? Unpossible! What’s next? Iggy Pop’s heroin anthem “Lust for Life” on a Disney commercial? Oh, wait … “867-5309?” ‘Cause there’s always someone at the gig named Jenny, baby.