Formed in Santa Barbara in 1994, the rock band known as Nerf Herder first went mainstream in 1996 with the topical radio hit “Van Halen.” Around the same time as “Van Halen” had made an impact on alternative radio, Nerf Herder contributed the theme song to the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Aside from a short hiatus from 2003 through 2005, Nerf Herder has never stopped making music, and the group most recent studio album was 2016’s Rockingham.
Although Nerf Herder took eight years between Nerf Herder IV and the aforementioned Rockingham, its members have remained busy with a variety of projects. Singer Parry Gripp released an album of fake jingles, 2005’s For Those About To Stop, We Salute You, which led Gripp to become an in-demand composer for commercials and television shows; he won a Daytime Emmy earlier this year. Bassist Ben Pringle has played in Weezer off-shoot the Rentals and now writes for Duckegg Theatre Co., a U.K. musical theater troupe. Guitarist and keyboardist Linus of Hollywood has a new solo album in the works, Cabin Life, and writes music for the Nickelodeon series School of Rock. Drummer Steve Sherlock, well, Steve the Cougar can be followed on Twitter via @TheSherlock.
In recent years, Nerf Herder has become an in-demand live act for Comic-Con and similar events, which brings them to Brooklyn’s Bell House on October 5. Part of Nerf Herder’s first trip to the Northeastern U.S. in 15 years, this particular New York concert will feature support from accordion hero Corn Mo. To learn more about Nerf Herder’s past, present, and future, I had the pleasure of speaking with Parry and Linus. More info on the gig can be found at www.nerfherder.com.
When Nerf Herder first started, there were not very many pop culture-savvy bands out there. Do you recall the turning point as to when it started to be cool to be “nerdy”?
Parry Gripp: Yeah! It really changed. When we started, it seemed like a lot of people didn’t know that Nerf Herder was a Star Wars reference. It was kind of uncool to be into that stuff, which kind of turned into our schtick. I remember when we first started a photographer looked at us and said, “Oh, I get it. You guys are trying to look like nerds!” And we were like, “uh, yeah, that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.” I think that what has happened to pop culture is that the Internet allowed everyone who was into this stuff to finally have a voice, and it turned out to be a lot of people. When I joined Twitter, almost all of the references to “Nerf Herder” were about our band. Then Family Guy had their Star Wars episode, which used “Nerf Herder.” All of the sudden Twitter blew up with people using Nerf Herder as a Star Wars reference, and it has stayed that way since then.
On the original version of the self-titled Nerf Herder album, the lyrics in the verses of “Easy Mark” were directly lifted from “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which in the past 10 years has become one of the top songs of all time. Were you surprised by the comeback of that song?
Parry Gripp: Well, we were trying to make fun of stuff that we thought was old and corny, and that song really seemed corny and overly-dramatic to me back then. Now, of course, I love it, as does everybody else. In conclusion, irony is dead.
Your For Those About to Shop album was ahead of its time, in my opinion. Did it lead to more scoring projects?
Parry Gripp: Well, “Do You Like Waffles?” from that album became a very popular kids song and I got a ton of work from that. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t be doing music at all right now if it wasn’t for that song. Doing the Hoops&Yoyo record for Hallmark, and all of the Wawa Hoagiefest songs, were definitely a result of that album.
— Nerf Herder (@NerfHerder_band) August 24, 2017
Most Nerf Herder songs are guitar-based, yet most of the songs you write for YouTube videos seem to be keyboard-based. Is that done consciously?
Parry Gripp: I try to not doing anything consciously! I guess I always think of Nerf Herder song as one that we can play as a band, so guitars just make sense. My YouTube stuff is more just me goofing around with sounds I think are interesting and funny. A few months ago I was thinking of doing a Nerf Herder song with all keytars instead of guitars. Thank you for reminding me — we’ve gotta do that!
Do you have a favorite song to perform live?
Parry Gripp: Probably “Nosering Girl,” because I really get to goof around and make stuff up. Steve usually does a drum solo during that song and people cheer for him and it’s fun for me to watch. And lately, we’ve been doing this schtick where Linus is playing a shredding solo in the beginning and I stop him sort of mid-solo, kind of like “hey man, save it for your Yngwie Malmsteen tribute band.” It always makes me laugh. I always like playing “Vivian,” because it’s easy and rocking and I can remember the words.
Linus of Hollywood: I really like playing “Pervert.” It’s fast and fun and the lyrics still make me laugh every time.
Nerf Herder gig in New York aside, what is coming up for you?
Parry Gripp: We have a couple of new songs that we just recorded. One is called “Gary And The Princess,” which is for Allie Goertz’s famous dog compilation. The other song is an obscure untitled acoustic track from the original My EP that we re-recorded as a band. Those will both be out very soon. Other than that Nerf Herder has got nothing. For my solo stuff, I am going to start up my “Song Of The Week” again in October. I’ve got a ton of songs! All I need are three or four more “Raining Tacos” and I can retire.
— Nerf Herder (@NerfHerder_band) August 11, 2017
The debut albums of Size 14 and Nerf Herder were similar to one another in terms of content, which I assume was a coincidence. Do you remember when you first found out about Nerf Herder?
Linus of Hollywood: Yeah a bit of a coincidence, I think we were just influenced by the same music. I was definitely influenced heavily by Weezer and the whole scene that was happening in California at that time and they were a part of that. I can’t remember how I first heard about them but I assume I saw them on 120 Minutes or something. I bought their first album and have been a fan ever since. Now I get to be a fan on-stage and these guys have pretty much become a second family to me.
Your music as a solo artist generally doesn’t have the humor that is found in the songs you co-write for other artists, yet everyone knows you to be funny. Do you make a conscious effort to keep pop culture and jokes out of your music?
Linus of Hollywood: When I make my solo music, it’s heavily influenced by 60s and 70s pop artists and I do my best to keep those “classic” standards. I definitely try and stay away from time-stamped pop culture references. Humor has been creeping into my newer work, but yeah, it’s a little bit more serious than some of my other projects. I’ve always liked fun/funny music — and always will — but sometimes it’s nice to be a little serious.
When was the last time you performed live in New York?
Linus of Hollywood: It’s been awhile! I was there in 2010 performing with my former band Palmdale at the Mercury Lounge.
SIS 1st E.P.収録”あなたに電話しない夜”作曲のLINUS OF HOLLYWOOD JAPAN TOURにゲスト参加させていただくことが決まりました????????
— MICO (@micozukin) August 29, 2017
I remember hearing about the possibility of you producing a solo album for Parry a few years back. Any truth to those rumors?
Linus of Hollywood: I don’t think so…I have a terrible memory but that doesn’t ring a bell. Parry doesn’t need me to produce anyway, the guy is a freakin’ genius!
Parry Gripp: I was definitely talking to Linus about producing my solo record. Two songs that I released as Songs Of The Week, “The Girl At The Video Game Store” and the Linus-written “Jackie Johnson,” were going to be for that. There are some other unfinished songs floating around as well. I think that Nerf Herder started up again before we could get to it. Linus is a great producer!
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Parry Gripp: I joined a masters swimming program last year so I’ve been in the pool a lot. I swam in high school, so it’s great to get back to it. Also, I have a kids’ book coming out from National Geographic Kids called Some Bunny Loves Me. It’s very silly and is mostly just pictures of cute animals.
Linus of Hollywood: I like to do outdoorsy stuff like hiking and running. I’ve been on a vinyl kick lately so I like going record shopping. I also like hanging out with my wife and dogs. They’re pretty great.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
Parry Gripp: Whatever you are trying to do, do a lot of it! Also, don’t listen to advice.
Linus of Hollywood: Don’t stop believing and hold on to that feeling.
[Featured Image by Steve Sherlock]