C'mon Monique: Save Ferris goes ska-dang

When you come from the land of No Doubt and Reel Big Fish, you've got a reputation to maintain

By Nick Krewen

Orange Country ska puppets Save Ferris spent the weekend in the real  heart of Mexico, not one of those crummy turista  border towns frequently featured in those boring coming-of-age films, and "T-Bone Willy" Williams is still sailing on Cloud Nine.

"Oh my God! It was so cool" exclaims the trombone-bleating Williams, still in a state of post-encore ecstasy as he raves about a gig at Mexico City's Hard Rock Cafe that was src -- Shoehorned Real Close: 1400 people at a gig that comfortably fits 800.

"I guess the fire code thing doesn't exist down there," says T-Bone, the master of understatement who'll be invading CPI June 12.

"But oh my God! It was one of those things where we didn't know what to expect, because not too many bands get a chance to go down there. It was pretty crazy! At one point, people were tearing down barriers, passing them over their heads, and stacking them in a corner. They were crazy!"

Well, you try to sit still when some of the most infectious ska to soar out of Southern California hits you straight in the mush. Especially when you have a fox like Monique Powell doin' her best Gwen Stefani and a bunch of hyper polecats like guitarist Brian Mashburn, bassist Bill Uechi, drummer Evan Kilbourne and the deadly horn combo of alto saxaphonist Eric Zamora, trumpeter Josť Castellanos and the already affable T-Bone exhaling fire from their recent album It Means Everything.

Any hopes of our Mexican brethren putting up any resistance seemed dashed from the get-go. And as T-Bone so pointedly mentions, when you come from the land of No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, The Skeletones, etc, etc, you've got a reputation to maintain.

"We're fortunate that the area we come from in Orange County has had a real long-standing underground ska-and-punk scene since the early '80s," says senor Williams. "It's always been here, so we all kind of grew up in it going to shows, watching local bands and being in local bands. We've been doing this for a long time and just having fun."

That's how Save Ferris -- a pinched catch phrase from Ferris Bueller's Day Off , an earlier Matthew Broderick film not quite as reptilian as his latest lizard fiasco -- revved up its engines in the first place. Everyone knew everyone else, and when Mashburn's , Uechi's, Castellanos' and Zamora's Los Pantelones bit the dust, Save Ferris was the phoenix that rose from its ashes.

Larry lead singer "Mo" Powell, drummer Marc Harismendy and former Knuckle Brothers' trombonist Williams were recruited a few months later, followed by the all-important self-titled independent CD. Save Ferris -- the album -- sold 12,000 copies and after playing a Grammy Showcase event in late '96, record company weasels came a-sniffin.'

Amazing, isn't it, how selling a few million CDs like No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom suddenly opens the ears, eyes, and other closed orifices of your A&R exec?

"I think anytime a band takes a genre and does something new with it that draws attention, then of course it's going to bring attention to other bands," admits Williams. "I was there at No Doubt's first show when they played a backyard party in 1986. They did all Specials covers."

No doubt that Save Ferris, as well as The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Goldfinger, Smash Mouth -- and what the hell, the revived Specials themselves -- are grateful for No Doubt's new limos and mansions. No doubt that Save Ferris is also thankful that one-hit wonders Dexy's Midnight Runners chose "C'mon Eileen" to be their sole claim to fame.

"We really don't do covers," admits T-Bone. "It was one of those things where we were playing a lot of shows around L.A. and headlining sizable venues. We thought it would be fun to throw something in there that people would recognize. So we made up a list of 120 of our favorite songs of the '80s, including stuff by the Cure and Stray Cats.

"Monique was the one who went the extra mile for `C'mon Eileen.' She had the sheet music, the lyrics and really wanted to do it. We just wanted to make it one of our own."

Fusing it with a rock 'n roll spine and throwing in some lesbian overtones certainly did the trick, but now incumbent danger approaches: Will "C'mon Eileen" hand the Ferrises the Dexy curse and submit them to the annals of the one-hit has-beens?

"God, I hope not," says Williams. "I hope people will like our other stuff."

God knows they should. It Means Everything  offers the dynamic skip'n' jump of "The World Is New;" the full-bodied swing of "Goodbye" and the catchiest ode to "Spam" since Monty Python chased the Vikings out of the bed 'n breakfast.

Hopping on board the Warped tour June 30 in Phoenix to battle it out with CIV, MXPX and The Aquabats among others for ska supremacy shouldn't hurt either.

What else do you wanna know about Save Ferris?

Williams says the guys treat Powell like a sister, and have to worry about beating her to the bathroom in the morning; that chief songwriter Mashburn and saxaphonist Zamora are lactose tolerant; and that Williams himself can eat ten tacos at a single sitting.

Of course, T-Bone and the rest of Save Ferris would prefer the whole enchilada.




1996 -- Save Ferris

1997 -- It Means Everything


©1998, 2000 Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink


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