Sounds like: The coolest nerds in school cutting calculus to write pop songs.
For fans of: Big Star, Game Theory, Elvis Costello, the Kinks, Devo, the Cars.
Eric Ramon has already done the whole "rock stardom" thing. Back in the late '70s, he was part of the Los Angeles pop-rock scene, writing songs and playing rhythm guitar for the Continental Miniatures. The band signed to London Records, and for three weeks in spring 1978, its cover of Dusty Springfield's "Stay Awhile" hung on to a spot on the Billboard Top 100. But London wanted them to do disco. "We said, âWe canât do it!ââ Ramon says. âAnd they said OK, so we didnât.â
That was curtains for the Continentals. But three years ago, Ramon saw Beyond Veronica, a similarly inspired Portland guitar-pop outfit, for which Kurt Steinke also played drums. It served as an introduction to Portland's pop scene, and the kick Ramon—who works as a statistician by day—needed to start a band again.
The Cool Whips' songs are tightly composed, full of novel chords, strategically placed organ stab, high harmonies and guitar counter-melodies. But the band's most distinguishing feature might be the often tongue-in-cheek lyrics. "Come on babe, don't filibuster/Don't be such a little tease/Tickle me with a feather duster, please," runs the chorus to the opening track of new album Goodie, a tune appropriately titled "Tickle Me With a Feather Duster." Ramon says he simply can't write overtly serious songs. "I've tried writing political songs, and they come out really afflicted," he says. "When I was younger, I wrote more overtly funny stuff. But it doesn't last. It's a joke, and then you've heard the joke. I like the idea of things being good and funny. Life is serious, but itâs also pretty funny.â
SEE IT: The Cool Whips play Secret Society, 116 NE Russell St., with the Verner Pantons and Kinked, on Friday, Jan. 9. 9 pm. $7. 21+.