As the Summer Of Rad draws to a close, here is a band that epitomizes the past few months of UK good times. Fair Ohs equal FUN. Matt Flag, Joe Ryan and Eddy Frankel are super posi dudes who combine hardcore and highlife to bring the party pain. You may have heard their recent sunshine jam “Summer Lake” on these fair pages. Here is another called “Almost Island.” I spoke to Fair Ohs about Benga music, recording songs on dictaphones and the dudest of dudes, Chevy Chase.
Download: Thee Fair Ohs, “Almost Island”
Since I last spoke to you guys you’ve dropped the Thee from the beginning of your name and transformed from rad explosive-hardcore party dudes into rad afro-hardcore party dudes.
Joe: Edi started bringing in some of the afro ideas that had come from the influence of the Benga music he loves. When we started jamming it as a band, it turned out that it was a really comfortable sound for us all and it sounded really good. The idea of the band from the start was to have a “posi” vibe and the new stuff feels pretty positive. We are all from noisy music backgrounds so although we have more party tunes in our set we’ll still be laying into our instruments.
Matt: As Joe said, we tried something new as it was getting boring and not such a challenge to kick out some garage songs, and the THEE was a reference to my absolute love for the man Billy Childish but when you see THEE FAIR OHS it’s pretty similar to THEE OH SEES who are an equally amazing band, it’s best not to be known as the other band who like old garage punk records and noise with Thee in the name.
I think it’s fair to say you all love Paul Simon. What makes him so awesome?
Joe: I think that the way he enriched mainstream music with the Graceland album by bringing in world music influences is pretty cool; and also just the fact that he writes really good music that makes you smile.
Matt: I always think of long drives with my dad listening to it loud in the car, loving the “bone-digger” line and doing my appropriation of an African dance in my seat. Plus he has Chevy Chase in his video, great choices all round.
Is it true Chevy Chase was the first drummer in Steely Dan?
Joe: It is! Apparently it was a college band between Chase, Fagen and Becker called The Leather Canary that went on to become Steely Dan when he left. Also, Chevy Chase is supposed to have perfect pitch.
Matt: National Lampoons Vacation, Christmas Vacation and European Vacation are three of the best films ever made, but how can you mess with a line up of Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis and John Hughes???
You guys seem to have an interesting range of influences. All the Benga stuff that you can hear on the new songs, and the insert to your Our Days On The Pacific Rim cassette features a picture of John Coltrane.
Joe: The fact that we all listen to different stuff (and also that we disagree on some music too) hopefully makes our songs more interesting rather than if we all only listened to the same style of music. I think that we’re all on a bit of a Kenny Loggins tip at the moment. I am looping these albums currently: George Michael Older, Tito Puente Music Mania, Donald Fagen Nightfly, SOS Band Just The Way You Like It.
Matt: I’m new to the Benga stuff but just like anything, it’s still all really exciting to listen to, as Graceland and some Ladysmith Black Mambazo was as far as my education spanned before this year. The picture of John Coltrane was my choice as I did the insert, as he was too talented for words and was a handsome devil to boot!
You guys are on a real tropical tip at the moment. Have you been drinking a lot of Lilt?
Joe: It’s Coca Cola all the way!
Matt: Summer jams are fun to write/play and we have never been a serious / po-faced band anyway, so sunny, smiley music fits our characters better. In our practice room it’s eternal summer all year round (no air con)!
Is it right you recorded your song for the GG Allin 7-inch on a dictaphone?
Matt: We originally recorded it on a 4-track at a practice room which sounded pretty good, but we had made a really slow version of the song “Automatic” which I thought was rad and sounded like Spacemen 3 but Eddy kept on listening to it thinking it sounded like a bad Black Sabbath riff, so we went back to the fast version, and Male Bonding had told us they only used a minidisc player, so we thought our dictaphone would be good enough. I think it is, although i suspect that those cheeky Male Bonding boys meddled with their tracks after, we didn’t, it’s our fault!
Joe: Pretty much. We got into the punk spirit of things. Had a few drinks, spent under an hour learning and recording the track and played it pretty sloppily.
Matt, your name honours Black Flag. What is your favourite Black Flag moment?
Matt: The first time I heard First Four Years was one of the best moments of my life. I had got it the same week as I had got the first Korn album, so around ’94, and it was obvious which direction I was gonna head in. Like most of my friends I probably got into Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Melvins etc from reading Nirvana interviews and following family trees. Kurt Cobain would always say that Rollins era Black Flag was too macho for him, and I agree the early stuff with Keith Morris / Dez Cadena is better, but Rollins held his own, “My War” in particular, pure genius. Either way, they were my punk epiphany.
How are things at your label, Suplex Cassettes?
Matt: Things are grand, I have the third, fourth and fifth releases ready to drop any day, tapes are done, just waiting for a much delayed artwork (sorry people) to come back from the printers. We have so far done An Emergency and Fair Ohs with Teen Sheikhs, Spectrals and Light Sleepers coming next. I have loads of plans and ideas for new tapes and I have two international bands who I may be working with in the new year, one of them hopefully being The Beaters from San Diego, so I aim to have regular output of tapes being released from here on out.
What’s dude culture?
Matt: Some of us “dudes” like to post funny “dude” posts on a blog that Conan from Graffiti Island set up with regular topics being pizza, skating, b-movies, punk rock, things that are rad and more pizza. We are children of the ’80s, what can I say!