An interview with drummer Steve Sherlock
by Scott Hefflon
Your first single, “Van Halen,” is all over the radio and I was curious, what’s it like to have a play by play account of your experience buying Van Halen albums heard (repeatedly) by millions?
Parry (vocals/guitar) writes most of the lyrics on the spot about things he was just thinking or talking about. He sang us those lyrics during rehearsal, and said he’d go back and write real lyrics later. Charlie (bass) said that it was brilliant and we should totally keep it. It was kind of an accidental song.
All the songs have an off-the-cuff sort of feel. But now that it’s in heavy rotation, do you wish you’d said more on a specific aspect or not said so much on another?
No, not at all. It’s a good song and it makes a good first single because it gets the people’s attention. Especially now with all the hype about Extreme’s Gary Cherone being Van Halen’s new vocalist. At first we thought the point of the song was ruined because the whole thing is about Sammy Hagar replacing David Lee Roth, but now Sammy Hagar is being replaced by this other guy. We figured, “Oh, no. Now we’ve got to go back and change the chorus to ‘Is this what you wanted, Gary Cherone?’ But it wouldn’t have been the same.
We haven’t learned to hate Gary enough yet. Sammy is the one responsible for killing Van Halen.
And we’re already used to David Lee Roth not being in the band, so it really doesn’t matter who is. It’s over. It’s also a bit dated. A lot of kids at our shows are like, “Who’s David Lee Roth?”
How old are you guys?
I’m 27, Parry’s 29, and Charlie is 25.
Thanks for doing a song for us old-timers that look back fondly upon such distant days as 1984. Your next single, “Sorry,” targets a younger audience.
Yeah, it’s all about masturbation, taking acid, and drinking Bacardi. While a lot of kids are against drinking and drugs, masturbation is universal. “Sorry” was supposed to be our first single, but “Van Halen” started to get radio-play, so we went with that.
How did “Van Halen” first get on the radio?
When our record first came out on My Records, it was being distributed by Fat. One of the guys, Pete, who worked for the distribution company decided to walk a copy over to one of the directors of Live 105. We were on the New Music Challenge where they pit two new songs up against each other, and then they go to the phones to see who wins. We won five nights in a row, and on the fifth night, we beat White Zombie and made it to the Hall of Fame. After a week you’re not considered new anymore.
Do you mind talking about the lyrics?
Well, Parry’s the one to ask about the lyrics, because a lot of times I’ll say something, and then he’ll say something completely different, but he’s at FAO Schwartz right now getting ready for the show tonight. I tend to talk more anyway, kinda like Lars, the drummer of Metallica.
Does Nerf Herder have an overall philosophy on life, Nerfisms if you will, or is the philosophy that there isn’t one?
We never set out to be a band to say something. Everything is really in a whirlwind right now too. Parry has a little bit more of a plan, but it’s not really intentional, it just seems to happen. Like when we play in different towns, he’ll be very clued into what’s going on there. He’ll add some lyrics about a deli nearby or something, like getting a pastrami on white bread, and he’ll start yelling, “White bread?! Are you crazy?” The crowd really gets into it. It’s not that he takes up new causes and goes into long raps about them, he just adds small references of local flavor. As far as a real motto goes, we just try to work with the audience so they leave with smiles on their faces.
What if you’re not feeling funny some night?
Parry loves to entertain, and I think he’s very good at it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Parry in such a bad mood that it affected his ability to perform. One time I was really bummed out and angry, I couldn’t even see the drums in front of my face, and after the show, Charlie said I’d been hitting my drums really hard all night. If Parry get angry, I think it just makes him play harder. We don’t really worry about how we feel before the show, usually it comes down to the response of the crowd. If we have a tough crowd, it can be very discouraging. We’ve never left the stage or anything like that, but we’ve played through our set and just moved on.
Heckling the band is evidently considered audience participation in certain, less civilized cultures.
Punk kids in certain cities are really hard on us because we don’t have mohawks and we wear polo shirts.
“Golf Shirt” mentions listening to Rush and feathering your hair back…
What other bands have you been in?
I was in a band called Lost Kittens that spawned quite a few people who’re still around. The singer was Luke Ternie, who now sings for Silverjet. They’re on Virgin now, and their album should be out any day. Also from that band is Chris Shiflett, who’s now in No Use For A Name and 22 Jacks.
Who have you toured with, by the way?
We just played a few shows with The Bloodhound Gang. Those guys are really, really cool. Have you seen their video? It’s great.
I haven’t seen it, but they came to one of our parties a while ago and set the office on fire with non-dairy creamer.
That’s them. They’re awesome. We’re talking to them about doing some more shows together.
How’d you get hooked up with Arista?
They were impressed that an indie band could get added to so many radio stations. They’ve known about us a year before our record came out on My. An A&R guy had an eight song demo, but there was no action taken. When the album came out, they flew out to a showcase in Hollywood, and everything just blew up. Then they flew us to New York, picked us up in a limousine, put us up in a hotel, and really showed us a good time. Arista doesn’t have much in the way of alternative rock, and their enthusiasm has amazing. They were excited about us, where other labels were interested, but were too busy to give us any kind of attention. Arista is most known for Whitney Houston, Kenny G, and Barry Manilow, so they seemed really interested in getting a rock band in there.
Has the album been changed at all?
It’s been remastered and sounds a lot brighter.
Any lyric sheets this time?
No. And by the way, “Golf Shirt” says, “No tats, no piercings, no hats, no grunge beards baby yeah” before you even ask. And we took out the Journey lyrics at the beginning of “Easy Mark.” Parry always talked about doing a Journey cover, but he worked some of their lyrics in instead. But he had to take them out. All that small town girl stuff is now about, um, I’ve only heard it a couple of times, panning the gold flakes out of Goldschläger shot by shot, and something about tater tots.