All-Male Cover Band Spearz Talks BritneyJuly 28, 2011
A band of five male self-proclaimed gay “hipster douchebags” cover Britney songs as a tribute to the pop star because it’s fun! In a new interview, the band dishes why they love Britney so much, and hope to meet her one day.
Here’s their newly released video for “Slave 4 U:”
The A.V. Club: So, why Britney?
Micah Mackert: Well, because she’s a huge pop star, as you might know. Britney Spears’ songs are like the most tightly crafted, little pop jewels [laughs] written by the most competent pop writers in the world. It seems easy for people who are not gigantic musicians to completely neglect mainstream music and even have a virulent animosity against it. But I feel like it’s really important for people to pay close attention to what the most people are listening to. It makes sense to understand how media consumption is working in your country or in your world—aside from the fact that it’s just really catchy.
Neil Zumwalde: The idea was probably conceived between me and Leo [Vondracek], on a car ride. We thought: “What would be the most fun thing to do?” And it was either go to Six Flags [Great America, outside] Chicago, or start a Britney Spears cover band, and this one was way cheaper. [Laughs.] It’s fun because we get to play with a lot of different elements of gender bending with these tunes. And, yeah, everyone knows that it’s funny that five dudes are playing Britney tunes. … We also thought, okay, she’s had 34 singles that have made it to the top 100. So she has this enormous catalog that spans 12 years now, and really it’s enough time to start a tribute band.
AVC: Did anyone go to her show a couple of weeks ago?
NZ: Do you have any idea how expensive those tickets are? $102 for balcony seats is a bit ridiculous.
Leo Vondracek: We all wanted to go! It’s way cheaper to see us.
MM: We’re hoping she’s going to come to one of our shows. I think it will happen. She’ll meet us backstage. It will be fun.
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NZ: And then we’ll get it on video, and it will be like the follow-up to Chaotic, her short-lived television show. It was called Britney And Kevin: Chaotic.
AVC: Oh, yeah. And it was filmed sort of like it was a bad *****?
NZ: Yeah! Precisely.
AVC: What do you think it is about Britney? Do you think it’s actually her, or is it just this machine, or brand?
LV: It’s both.
NZ: But people give her both too much and too little credit. I mean, the poor girl has seen some ****, but she just does not have the vocabulary to express it.
LV: She’s got this huge brand, but it’s interesting when you see her personal, interesting side come through. Like on Chaotic. [Sometimes in her music] you can totally see what she’s been in charge of. You can really pick it out. There’s that one that [bandmate Mat Kerney] showed us after she had a baby, and it was just totally weird. It was just not **** at all. And she paid for it herself, I think.
MM: She’s obviously an ideal celebrity in the sense that she’s what tabloids are made of. She’s perfect for it. She has marriage and *** scandals. She dates background dancers. She’s dated paparazzi.
LV: Didn’t she date her bodyguard too?
MM: She’s also perfect to make a franchise out of because, if you watch interviews with her, say you watch a half hour, you can still exit the interview thinking, “I have no idea who this person is at all.”
LV: We all have a different relationship with Britney.
AVC: How’s that?
MM: I like her last few albums much more than her earlier stuff. They’re brilliantly produced, brilliantly crafted pop songs. And I’m interested in big celebrities’ personas in general.
NZ: Britney probably helped me shift from considering myself an indie musician to just a musician. I like mainstream music a lot, more than indie music, for the most part. There was a big shift for me with Blackout. In 2006 to 2007 was when mainstream music became more interesting than indie music for me. Before that, independent music was interesting, experimental, but it kind of fell into this groove. But with mainstream music, like Britney Spears and Gnarls Barkley, that all shifted, I think.
MM: Well and that’s when you started getting really easily identifiable, similar indie music.
NZ: Yeah, pretty much just earth-toned shirts and Fender amps. There are, of course, counterexamples. But suddenly you have all of these experimental producers at the forefront of mainstream music. Britney albums can have all of these strange, shiny undercurrents that are really interesting. Once I became older and less judgmental, I look back and I just say, “Wow, these are written really well.” So, for me, it was that, and her becoming a gay icon, being a diva. Which is where Spearz may be going, moving more towards covering divas and maybe less just Britney. Also, we’re doing this just because it’s the absolute most fun thing we could do.
AVC: It has marketability to it, too.
NZ: Right, it allows people to like the sounds for what they are too—it helps when they’re played by local musicians who are just a bunch of hipster douchebags like us. [Laughs.]