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TALK: The Presidents of the U.S.A.

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In the 90’s, most bands originating from the Pacific Northwest were known for their somber sound and style. That changed when The Presidents of the United States of America arrived on the scene. Their hilarious songs and music videos proved that Seattle, indeed, had a sense of humor. Following their self-proclaimed “Led Zeppelin years,” the Presidents briefly broke up, although by the time they got back together a few years later, their break up seemed more like an abbreviated hiatus.

(left to right: Newest President, Andrew McKeag, and incumbent, Jason Finn)

Last month, The Presidents of the United States of America released their brand new album, These Are The Good Times People. For anyone who lost track of the power-trio near the end of the alternative 90’s, rest assured that the Presidents are still touring, still putting out albums, and still putting on a fun live show. The only difference now is that Andrew McKeag has filled in for original guitarist, Dave Dederer, and their once roll-polly drummer, Jason Finn, is rolly-polly no more.

Jim Shearer: Because there are some music fans that think you dropped off the map at the end of the 90’s, do you ever get upset when people do not realize that the Presidents of the United States of America have been consistently putting out albums?

Jason Finn: We are more or less at peace. Because we took a long break, we have no one to blame but ourselves. This break was so long that we actually called it a “break-up,” even though in the back of our minds we were not really “broken up.” We were just trying to get a little time off, which turned into, you know, four years off, which was nice. We got really well rested.

But yes, if there is the perception that we were gone for a long time–sure–it is even accurate. Plus, when we were first out there, we were inexplicably just gigantic (laughs). We were like Led Zeppelin or something. Which is not really where we fit comfortably.

Jim: The thing I always liked about The Presidents of the United States of America, you guys were always a fun band.

Jason: Not any more.

Jim: (laughs) Oh no.

Jason: We took the fun out.

Andrew: We are sad now. Very sad.

Jason: Back in the mid 90’s when we were like Led Zeppelin, we were surrounded by, I don’t know, bands that we were being told all the time, were grumpy or grungy or whatever. We were supposed to be some sort of reaction to that.

Andrew: This is before we started wearing black though. So I don’t know. You can see how things have come full circle.

Jim: I was a college student in the 90’s and whenever I meet the youngsters of today I always tell them that the 90’s were a good time for music. Is that just me? Or am I romanticzing that era?

Andrew: Probably both.

Jason: Anyone who doesn’t look back on their college years as a great time for music, did something wrong. I mean it is a great age to listen to tons of music.

Jim: Andrew, you said “both”?

Andrew: Yes, because you are always a sucker for your own nostalgia and you are always going to wind up loving that time. It was a good time, but it wasn’t the best time–that is now.

Jim: Jason, was it a good time?

Jason: What I remember was really fun. There are some hazy spots that I don’t remember as clearly as I would like to, but I think that we are certainly in fun times now musically. Also, I think that it would have been really fun to have MySpace pages back then. Would it not have? I mean, what would Nirvana’s MySpace have looked like? When they were doing their first tour, opening for Dinosaur Jr., they would have been blogging every day, “Oh my God we sold 300 t-shirts at the–“

Jim: How has touring changed for you over the years? This morning you were jogging at the crack of dawn. Were you always doing that?

Jason: No, no. I think if you were to see any sort of picture of me from the mid-90’s you would be able to pretty correctly predict that I had not run anywhere–that day, or that week, or anything. Personally, I run like 30 miles a week, but it’s just to keep from smoking–but yes–we take better care of ourselves.


(left: Peaches–a blessing or curse?)

Jim: Let’s talk about the blessing and the curse of “Lump” and “Peaches”.

Andrew: All blessing.

Jason: That is a wonderful problem to have. The entire planet knows these two things about you, and you know, we tour around and we will go to some town that has a nice little 1,000-seat place and it will be packed with fans of ours that sort of get it and understand our whole thing. But there is always maybe two-thirds of them that are, like, “Hey ‘Lump’ and ‘Peaches’.”

Andrew: We know if we don’t play one of those it is going to be chanted for the encore.

Jim: Have you ever not played one of those songs?

Jason: Why would you? I mean, that would just be mean and showing off.

Jim: A picture that I always remember is the Presidents of the United States of America in Seattle Super Sonic uniforms.

Jason: Our Led Zeppelin years were the mid-90’s when the Sonics were a powerhouse–we had some good years. In ’96 the Sonics went to the finals and got beat by one of the best teams ever, that Bulls team that lost like six games or something. We were in full swing, touring the world then, and we had our Sonics gear that the team was sending us–fresh Kemp and Payton jerseys all the time.

Andrew: Chris also wrote a theme song for Squatch [Sonics’ mascot].


Jim: What’s your favorite Sonics uniform? The cartoonish, block-lettered uniforms from the 90’s? Or the classic green jersey with the white arch?

Andrew: White arch.

Jason: I like the classic green uni with the gold-block, college-style lettering, which maybe like a Jack Sikma or a Fred Brown [wore]. I sat next to Fred Brown at a baseball game a couple of years ago and I almost barfed I was so excited. I spent the whole game just going, “Downtown Freddie Brown!”

(left: Jack Sikma in Jason’s all-time favorite Seattle Supersonics uniform)

Jim: Finally, 2008 is an election year, what is on the plate for The Presidents of the United States of America?

Andrew: Touring and more touring and selling records.

Jason: And yes, some of that touring will be probably be Rock the Vote.

Andrew: It seems like we have an obvious tie-in there.

Jason: There you go. I would encourage people to try this URL. I am kind of a techie– I think you will find an intriguing campaign in full swing. You can also try, but, I think is what you are after at this moment.

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

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Wedding Planners

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Disaster Hut

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Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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