Philly psych-rock foursome Drink Up Buttercup—mainly known around town for raucous, freaky-fun live shows that usually involve the swapping of instruments, the bashing of trashcans, the hurling of mannequin parts and spirited audience sing-a-longs—become “recording artists” next week with the release of their phenomenal debut album Born and Thrown on a Hook, produced by Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man, etc.). This week, DUB is down in Austin, Texas, for SXSW, where they’ll be “hitting it hard, Terminator-style, and showing people we’re not just another band you’ve seen in some backyard or basement,” says bassist Ben Money. We chatted with Money about the new album, playing live and punching people in the face (metaphorically speaking, of course).
Congrats on the new album. You guys are gonna be huge, maybe.
“Dude, I hope. We’re excited. We put our heart and soul into this record for sure. We wanted it to be its own entity, away from the live show, since we have a lot of articles written about our live show and how energetic we are onstage. We wanted the energy to come across without it sounding like a live album.”
How did you link up with Bill Moriarty?
“We knew we wanted to work with someone in Philly, and his name just kept coming up.”
So you were familiar with his work with Dr. Dog and Man Man?
“Oh yeah. I love Man Man and Dr. Dog and his work with them, but I feel like we’re a different entity from both of them and we wanted to remain separate from them. But yeah, Bill basically said to us, 'Listen, I know you don’t have any money and you need an album. I will make this album with you.' He was really passionate about the songs. He was doing it all on spec—we didn’t have any money, we didn’t have nothin’. Just a genuine love for the songs. So yeah, not until we signed [to Yep Roc Records] were we able to give him a payment back as gratitude. But he just wanted to make it happen. That’s why it was such a great experience.”
That was a pretty unique idea putting live performance videos of every one of the songs from the new album online [one per week leading up to the release date]. I especially liked the one where you played “Lovers Play Dead” at the retirement home. Pretty ballsy.
“Yeah, that was insane. When we were coming up with concepts we thought of doing one at an old folks home, and our drummer, Mike T., his grandma goes to that retirement home. So we were like, 'What if it was this really cool, creepy, dark experience where we were playing this creepy song for these old people?' And they were having this thing called the Valentine’s Day Sweetheart Ball and we figured it would be a mixer with a bunch of horny old guys being like, 'Hey gals!' We were like, 'This is gonna be great!' and we ran into the retirement home with our hands in the air, like, fist-pumping, and then we went into that room with like 75 people in wheelchairs just staring straight ahead and we were like 'Ohhhh my god.' I remember being, like, 'Well, we asked for dark!' But everyone was nice all around, and pretty attentive.”
Kind of a captive audience, huh?
“Yeah, but they seemed to really like it. And if I can say something—people don’t visit their grandparents enough in those damn homes. When you go there you see these people and they were just kinda wishing it was their grandkids that were there. So we kicked it with Mike’s grandma for a while and we had some of that Valentine’s Day punch.”
Generally speaking, tell me about the 10 minutes before you guys go onstage and the 10 minutes immediately after you come offstage.
“Ten minutes before: Cigarettes, shots, I personally need to stretch out my left knee cause I’ve got a bad left knee.”
“I was a union carpenter when I started in this band, and between that and playing the shows like we do, I just blew my leg out. I fell off scaffolding on my first month of work. So I do a knee stretch, chain-smoke some cigarettes, [singer-guitarist] Jim [Harvey] usually does a shot, I probably do a hit or two off my pipe. And, oh, everyone needs to go take a piss. Because we used to have this thing where we’d be onstage and all set up and [multi-instrumentalist] Farzad [Houshiarnejad] would just walk offstage. We’d be right about to hit our first note and we’d look over and Farzad would be gone, and then he’d be running back to the stage zipping up.”
You could just have buckets at the back of the stage?
“Well, we’re trying to avoid that, too. Ten minutes afterward is literally a free-for-all for the front doors to get some fresh air and probably another cigarette. And then more shots.”
What’s the one thing that must be provided for you backstage?
“We always joke about that. Typically we’re so low on cash and we can’t afford anything for the band, and we were recently told to make a rider and we were like, 'Can we ask for a trashcan?' And they were like, 'Uh, yeah, sure.' So we’re like, 'A metal trashcan?' 'Yeah.'”
Like our restaurant scene, Philadelphia’s music community is in the midst of a renaissance. The regeneration was on abundant display during SXSW, where, no matter where you went, a band from Philly was on the tip of someone’s tongue, in front of their eyes or ringing in their ears. Even Bill Murray’s.
Time for a big Bang breakthrough?