After playing a "final" farewell show in March 2004, Manhattan power-pop trio Ultimate Fakebook reunited for a friend's birthday party in December 2008. The years since have seen the band make an annual tradition of getting back onstage and running through the hits to crowds of friends and fans, in addition to digitally releasing a collection of B-sides and rarities in 2010.
This Saturday, Ultimate Fakebook takes the stage once more at RecordBar. We spoke with guitarist and vocalist Bill McShane and drummer Eric Melin about the strange nature of being a band that plays so infrequently.
The Pitch: What's it like to be a band that plays
only once a year, and all material written over a decade ago?
: Well, for us, it's very easy actually! It's nothing but fun. There's absolutely no weirdness whatsoever. We are all still really great friends, and so getting back together to do a show and have a party with our friends and fans is a huge treat. Every reunion show we've done has been a blast, and I think it's due to the fact that our collective UFB batteries build up energy all year, and then it just explodes onstage. Which is the kind of thing you're looking for, or else why even do it? We do it for ourselves to have a great time and because we feel so lucky and honored that we have fans that still care.
: That's a good question. Well, we don't really consider ourselves a band anymore, I guess. You know what I mean? We played together for so long - no, that's not true. We played together so often. I've been in the Dead Girls longer than both of the other bands I was in before that, but we did so much touring, and played so often, that those songs are burned into my brain.
And when Bill comes to town, it's like, "If Bill's there, why not play the songs, since it requires little to no effort on our part to remember them?" When I hang out with Bill, it's always fun, and the thing we used to do together the most was play, so why not have fun and play a show?
The first UFB reunion was back in December 2008, for a friend's birthday show, followed by the JayDoc benefit show a couple of months later. What kept it from being a one-off thing?
: When we broke up, there was a little bit of a feeling of unfinished business, and those first two reunions provided an amazing and much needed amount of closure for us as well as the fans. The birthday party was our tribute to our friend, and the JayDoc show was our big UFB, pull-out-all-the-stops-style official reunion party. So, I guess, to really answer your question, it's because it's totally addicting.
: The simple answer is that people ask. I don't think that we've ever set up a show once. What happens is, people come to us, and we just say yes. Jim Crego and Hilary Watts came to us and said, "Jim's coming to town. You guys want to play?" And, usually, that's how it works - somebody will just contact us and say, "Do you want to play?"
The easiest thing to say is that we still enjoy seeing each other and we still enjoy playing the songs, and we love seeing old friends.
When do you find time to practice before these shows?
: If and when we practice, it is usually the night before the show, practicing in the Dead Girls' basement practice space in Lawrence. But sometimes we just raw dog it - and don't even practice. For instance: when we played SXSW in Austin [this] year, we just all showed up - got up onstage and rocked the fuck out. It was awesome.
But our situation is a little different. I mean, we all are pretty good players, and these songs are in our DNA from touring nonstop, for five years straight. Actually, though, this time we are planning a few not-as-often-played UFB songs.
: This time, we're stretching out a little bit because, frankly, we just played in March, and between March and December, I don't want to play all those hits again. I want to do something a little bit different. It's easy for me, man. I'm the drummer. It's muscle memory. I sit down at the kit, and my arms and legs move like they used to, albeit a little bit slower probably.