More than a bit strange that Devo divos the Punk Group and Kleveland’s longtime rawk heroine Stephanie Smith would choose to hold a joint release party for their new albums—the bands sound nothing alike and are notoriously prickly about other musicians—so WW asked the bands to interview one another. As told to Jay Horton’s Pabst-drenched microcassette recorder the back table of Club 21
Stephanie Smith, Kleveland frontwoman: Is this thing on? How does this work? [clicking noises]
Allen Hunter, Kleveland bassist: I’ll hang on to the talking stick. [Recorder shuts off.]
Smith: Hi, the Punk Group! Round One!
Brian Applegate, the Punk Group’s “sex object”: You have an album coming out...
Smith: It’s called Harder.
Tony Cameron, the Punk Group’s “model”: Harderthan what?
Applegate: Like, a Viagra statement?
Smith: Not necessarily about size, just…everyone has a certain idea of how you are: telling you to be this, telling you to be that, telling you to be harder!
Cameron: It’s funny because our album’s called Softer. [Recorder shuts off.]
Smith: Stephanie from Kleveland, here. The name of your album is actually Sex, Drum Machines and Rock ’n’ roll. How does it compare to your others?
Cameron: It’s a progression, as production and everything else has gotten better, we found more resources to make fun of, and it’s a continuation of what we’re doing. The world needs jokers, and we’re supplying that. We’re filling the void.
Smith: Are there videos? The “Fat Girls” video is genius. I love it! Who came up with the concept? Do animators come to you?
Applegate: Some of my friends are graphic animators...unfortunately, I think that’s the song we’re going to be known for.
Cameron: Against our will.
Applegate: That’s our one-hit wonder? That’s the song that we’re going to be known for? “Fat Girls on Bicycles”? Really?
Smith: This goes back to the whole reason we’re doing the CD-release show together.... You guys have a particular style that you stay true to, I have a particular style I stay true to, neither of which has been the mainstream of Portland.
Applegate: In Portland, the majority of bands—especially in the Northwest, but it’s spread everywhere else—are either indie or manufactured pop-rock, a bunch of bullshit that…you ask somebody who comes out of a show what made them excited, nobody could give a solid answer because they don’t know themselves. We know a lot of people that are in these shitty bands so, even though they’re nice guys, I don’t want to out them and say their bands fucking suck.
Hunter: Stephanie, as Kleveland, has spent years doing this fucking balls-to-the-wall I-don’t-care kicking-ass-and-taking-names dirtbag rock ’n’ roll. You guys are doing what you guys are doing…you’ve got this electronic, clever, funny-but-danceable poppy synth-rock but the sensibility is totally punk. It’s not like you’re wearing safety pins and blah blah blah, but you are who you are, you’re fun, you’re good to dance to, you make people think, you challenge people’s ideas….
There’s been this homogenization of the music industry to the lowest common denominator for beardo sensitive fag rock—everybody tries to do the same fucking thing. For seven or eight years as Kleveland, for you guys, with seven or eight years as the Punk Group, you’ve been sticking to your guns and doing what what you wanna do and fuck everybody else. So, for us to be on the same bill, releasing our CDs together, it’s a sort of perfect pairing.