It's another cold Seattle evening, but here we are, eating pizza and drinking Cook's "champagne" in an excellent backyard hot tub in the Central District, so close to the Grocery Outlet you can practically taste all the discontinued flavors of Pop-Tarts they have hidden in there.
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Joining me (in what is basically just taking a group bath) is 66 percent of the band Wimps: singer/guitarist Rachel Ratner and bassist Matt Nyce. Drummer Dave Ramm FaceTimed in from Portland via a laptop when our efforts to project his face onto an outdoor movie screen did not pan out. As we sit in the tub, Ramm eats a slice of pizza in solidarity and even brings his laptop around to show us four seconds of an adorable white dog. The reason for Ramm's hot-tub absence is that he's living and attending grad school in Portland, but it doesn't seem to be much of an issue. "He's driven up every weekend except two in the past year he's been in school," Ratner laughs. "I think we're going to Portland for the next practice."
Wimps got started a year or so ago when other bands and projects slowed down or dissolved. Their collective résumé is impressive: Butts, Partman Parthorse, the Intelligence, Scraps, Broken Knives, the Pulses, Universe People, Meth Teeth, Consignment, Electric Blanket, and maybe Dildo Breath (I'm not going to google that to fact-check it). Nyce and Ratner first played together briefly in a band called Ear Dumbs. "We had one show at the Comet," says Ratner. "And we played 'Proud Mary' the whole time," Nyce adds. "The guy from Fleet Foxes said it was really good."
When I asked about the origin of their band name, Ratner explains, "We tried for months and months to come up with a name—everything we tried was real polarizing; one person would love it, and another person would hate it. I wanted 'Wet Cardboard,' and there was talk of 'Cum Waiters.'" Once they settled on Wimps, "We looked it up on the internet, and luckily there were only about seven other bands called Wimps," says Nyce. "Dave e-mailed the Wimps from Olympia, and they gave us their blessing."
Wimps recently signed to End of Time Records, a new label started by Sarah Moody of Hardly Art; their first LP, Repeat, is also the label's debut release. The 12 perfectly cynical songs go quickly (many don't last far past the two-minute mark), and there's not a dud among them. It's irresistible sweet 'n' sour punk—extremely catchy, but also deadpan and a little morose. The lyrics might demand you stop having fun, but the hooks would argue otherwise. But that's what I like best about Wimps (besides their willingness to meet me in early March in their bathing suits at a stranger's house)—they're not beating around the bush. Clever lyrics wink at the sad, the depressing, and the ridiculous. And really, who hasn't felt like quitting their job? Who hasn't felt their life get a bit Xerox-y? Oh, and we must never forget the lyric, "It's that time of the month/Where you shut up."
This Saturday, the night before Saint Patrick's Day, Wimps are playing with my band Tacocat at the Penumbra Beer Bash (settle down, it's a Stranger event, so the conflict of interest is that there isn't one—I got to ask neat bands to play, and now we are all playing together! You should come!), a local beer-and-bands party that promises to be an oasis in the war zone of Kiss Me I'm Frat Dads and Boob Me I'm Alcohol Poisonings that weekend. I figured now was a good time to ask Wimps the hard-hitting questions, before they tried any funny business at the show.
So are you really wimps?
Ratner: Once, in junior high, I got shoved entirely into a locker.
Nyce: How long did it take you to get out? Like an hour? Two hours?
Ratner: They put me in and then they let me out, I was in and out.
Nyce: Oh, so they were friends of yours.
Ratner: They were not my friends [laughs].
Ramm: They sound like really nice people.
How much can you bench?
Nyce: I have no idea. But I can do 30 push-ups.
Ratner: I can do five girl push-ups.
Do you have any favorite action movies?
Nyce: Is Hostel an action movie?
Ratner: I like Terminator 2.
Ramm: The Blues Brothers.
Nyce: Is The Human Centipede an action movie?
AHHH, The Human Centipede is definitely NOT for wimps.
Ratner: I don't really watch a lot of action movies because I feel like my life is like an action movie, so why would I need even more action, you know?
Nyce: Oh, we saw the new Die Hard as a band.
Ramm: It was a Wimps outing. A Wimps outing to Die Hard.
Which Law & Order is your favorite?
Ratner: The one with Vincent D'Onofrio.
Correct answer. Law & Order: CI is the best.
Ratner: He's always leaning.
Have Wimps been on tour yet?
Ratner: We've been on two short tours, down to California and back. They were super-fun—exceeded expectations.
Nyce: One was a 10-day tour. That's pretty good, right? We stayed in four mansions on the first tour. What I would classify as mansions.
Do you have a tour van?
Ratner: No, but I just bought a Volvo station wagon. Tour Volvo.
Have you thought about hanging testicles off the back of it?
Ratner: If I could get a pair. IF SOMEONE IN THIS BAND HAD A PAIR.
How about naked-lady mud flaps?
Nyce: I like writing in the dust: "2013 High School Volleyball Trip." I've done that about three or four times, and it's just guy after guy driving by staring at us with their tongues out.
If you were to get a neck tat, what would it be?
Ramm: Jane's Addiction all the way.
Nyce: "Unhirable" in Old English. "Personal Problems" in Old English.
Which is the toughest band you're playing with on the 16th?
Ratner: Well, we can definitely take the Pleasureboaters.
Nyce: Definitely not the Catheters. Didn't they cancel a show because they had a stomachache?
[Ramm's sock suddenly appears on the screen. It's a little dirty, but not all that menacing.]
Do Wimps love Extreme Doritos?
Ratner: I'm allergic to corn.
That is SO wimpy!
Nyce: They're selling Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell tomorrow. Have you seen those tacos that are wrapped in the regular Doritos shell? Well, they're selling the Cool Ranch flavor.
That is the hottest tip I've ever heard. Anything else real tough you want to tell me about?
Nyce: They used to have this show on FX called Toughman—regular people signed up to fight each other. I saw it live, in Yakima, at the SunDome, which is like the Kingdome, but miniature. They had the "Let's get ready to rumble" guy and everything. But they had to stop selling beer because everyone got too drunk. It was probably eight years ago.
Ratner: I took boxing at Cappy's. I'm a pugilist.
Nyce: What's a pugilist?
Ratner: A boxer.
Wait, what does pugilist mean?
Ratner: It's a fancy word for boxer. Pugilist just means boxer.
Nyce: Dave, remember when you beat up that old lady on the subway?
Ramm: I've never done anything tough.
Ratner: We have to stop being so honest in this interview.