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POP BEAT / LORRAINE ALI

Muffs: Putting Fun Back in Punk

July 22, 1993|LORRAINE ALI

The Muffs claim they aren't very concerned with fame and fortune at the moment, thanks. Indeed, their noisy blend of pure, elated power punk sounds too happy to fit into the profitable world of grunge; certainly, it never grazes mainstream acceptability. Even so, the L.A.-based band is gaining recognition and album sales, resurrecting and adding to a style born back when punk wasn't afraid of having fun.

"I always liked really heavy guitar music but didn't like the long-winded songs that went with it," says Muff singer, guitarist and songwriter Kim Shattuck. "And I always liked pop songs but was driven nuts because the guitars were so wimpy sounding. So I decided put the two together. That's how the Muffs started."

Rhythm guitarist Melanie Vammen describes the Muffs' sound as "chaotic and trashy . . . loud walls of guitars with pop melodies and vocals coming through. We're energetic, unexpected and crazy."

The quartet's first single, "Lucky Guy" from their self-titled debut album, has made the College Music Journal's Top 10 and has been added to alternative playlists across the country.

"I just wrote 10 new songs over the weekend," Shattuck said with a laugh. "Sometimes I'll go without writing for a while and I'll start to be driven nuts. I start doubting my writing ability. So I'll sit down and a dozen songs will pop out. It's fun." The band will play an all-ages show at 8 1/2 in Fullerton tonight and will be headlining with the Didjits on an upcoming tour of punk clubs before taking off to Europe for a seven-week tour.

The Muffs came together 2 1/2 years ago after Vammen and Shattuck, who both grew up in Orange County, decided to break away from the Pandoras, a band Shattuck had been in for almost five years. Shattuck inducted boyfriend Ronnie Barnett to play bass and found drummer Criss Crass through some friends from the underground band Red Kross.

The Muffs played their first show only weeks after forming, at the now defunct Shamrock bar in Hollywood. In March of '91, "an A&R guy came to the Coconut Teaser to check out a band we were playing with, called Trash Can School," Vammen recalls. "We had a single which we gave to him. He called us later and asked if we were interested in doing some demos. Six months later, we signed with Warner Bros.

"It happened really fast and was so easy. I think it's because we didn't care if we got signed or anything."

Vammen says she and Shattuck share musical influences. "I was always into '60s punk bands like the Sonics and '70s power pop bands like the Plimsouls. I worship Big Star and think Alex Chilton is like god of the world. The Rolling Stones, the Buzzcocks, the Ramones. All the typical punk pop bands."

*

Shattuck said she wasn't exactly stirred or influenced by the music she heard growing up in Orange County. "I grew up around religious and elevator music. I didn't know any better, so I just thought music was kind of bland. So I didn't listen to much as kid.

"Also, it was in the '70s so there was a lot of really pompous, bad rock out there. It was only later that I found out there was good '70s rock like the Raspberries and the Flaming Groovies. I found that out through reissues. I always gravitated toward the '60s music more, though, like the Kinks, the Who and the Beatles, of course. Later I got into the Plimsouls and Sex Pistols, you know, melodic stuff. Most people don't see the Pistols as melodic, but they are."

Shattuck was 17 when she decided she wanted to play in a band. It was "when the Go-Go's came around. I thought, if they can do it, I can do it too. Maybe I could do it better. I just started practicing and making up songs."

Five years later, she joined the Pandoras. "I told them I knew how to play bass and I didn't. I went out and bought one to try out with and decided I could probably use a bass somewhere else in my life if it didn't work out."

* The Muffs play tonight at 8 1/2, 1641 N. Placentia Ave., Fullerton. Doors open at 7. All ages. $5. (714) 323-8683.

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