Whatever Happened To The Presidents Of the United States of America & The Kurt Cobain Connection

The Presidents Of the United States of America

Whatever Happened to The President Of the United States of America

Today on Rock N’ Roll True Stories with the elction day being today they take a look at the Seattle trio Presidents Of the United States of America and whatever happened to them. Check out the full story below!

What’s going on my fellow rock n’ rollers. Don’t forget to hit the bell notification icon to be notified everytime i put out a new video on my channel. With the US presidential election today, i thought the most appropriate thing for me to do was to cover Seattle band The band Presidents of the United States of America. To a lot of people they are a bit like garlic…either you love them or you really, really hate them. Some would call their music an insult to real musicianship. Or they might say their lyrics lack depth. So, what caught the world’s attention about this band? Stay tuned to find out.

Vocalist and bassist Chris Ballew (bahlou) would meet guitarist Dave Dederer (Dee-der-er) in junior high while they were both attending a preppy school named Bush .They wouldn’t form a band until years later after the pair attended college, returned to Seattle and jammed for the first time at a Bush alumni function.. Ballew had previously played in a punk-busker band named Egg who wrote a lot of songs that would eventually morph into Presidents songs most notably the track Naked and Famous.

Chris Ballew (bahlou) would even live with alternative rock artist Beck in the early 90’s in Los Angeles. and would play live shows with him as an a multi-instrumentalist. It would be those gigs that helped shape his belief about live performances as he would tell Spin Magazine in 1996


I disliked the tone of the band. I like to reach out and take care of the audience and Beck was not interested in taking care of the audience at that point. So that didn’t work for me” he’d saay

Lacking a drummer the duo initially played several shows in late 1993 under the monicker the The Lo Fi’s, The Dynamic Duo and Pure Frosting before landing on the name “The Presidents of the United States of America.” It was after finally settling on a name the duo became a trio in December of 1993 when they added drummer Jason Finn. Finn for his part was also playing in another band named Love Battery who was already signed to recording label Atlas records. He would leave Love Battery in 1995 and he also played drums for another two big seattle bands including the fastbacks and skinyard..

 

In early 1994 The trio recorded a ten-song cassette named Froggystyle,in just one day. They would sell the record at live shows and  Finn was selling cassette tapes from behind the bar at the Comet where he worked.

Unlike a lot of band’s from Seattle who used their difficult life experiences to shape their sound and music, Presidents weren’t full of angst as Bahlou would tell SPin Magazine in 1996 “I Don’t Really Have Much To Say. I’ve Had a Really Good Life. I’ve Had the Room and Space and Freedom to Be Imaginative. I haven’t had anyone close to me die. I haven’t had any real hard times so I feel more productive to dwell on good things” he’d say.

.The band’s music was heavily influenced by bands like Boston, Nazareth, Cheap Trick, The Beatles and E.L.O while also harking back to the famous Seattle band’s of the 60’s includingThe Sonics, The Faboulous Wailers and The Kingsmen. Presidents music was also notable because Ballew and Dederer would play a basitar and guitbass, which are regular, six-string guitars with special modifications: For example Ballew’s instrument has two bass strings (with which he would play bass parts on), and Dederer/McKeag’s instrument has three guitar strings (used to play guitar parts). The original idea came from Morphine frontman Mark Sandman, with whom Ballew had previously collaborated with.

 

Presidents would be pretty much the antithesis of the so-called Seattle sound which was synonymous for being dark, moody and gloomy. The band’s music was much happier in comparison. Deederer would tell Spin Magazine in 1996 that the Seattle sound was misunderstood saying “The grunge thing is a total anomaly” claiming seattle is more closer to louie louie than i hate myself and i want to die. The Presidents insist that their brand of power-pop has always had a presence in Seattle even if it was ignored by the media. While many people think of Sub-Pop records when Seattle comes ot mind, in fact there was another record label which was even older in the City named PopLlama which has been around 4 years longer. PopLlama would put out the band’s self titled debut album in 1995. Presidents would eventually sign to Columbia the same year who would reissue their debut record later on in 1995. The band’s debut album would be certified triple platinum in America thanks to the singles Lump“, “Peaches“, and “Kitty“, 

 

he band’s songs were definitely light hearted compare to their seattle contemporaries with songs like 

“Naked and Famous” is a biting commentary on the superficiality of Los Angeles. “Kitty” is a savagely funny tribute to feline codependency while songs like  “Stranger” was inspired by the classified personal ads from the Seattle weekly newspaper the Stranger.

The band’s most famous song, Peaches, has often been speculated about. Chris Ballew says the song is about The girl he had a crush on, who had a peach tree in her yard. He sat under it and waited for her to get home so that he could tell her that he  liked her. This woman was named Mary Lou Lord, who dated Kurt Cobain before he met and married Courtney Love and Nirvana blew up. 

The band seemed to attract a wide variety of people much to the surprise of the band with he band’s drummer who told  the Miami New Times in 1996 Seattle we played bars mostly, so our crowds were late-twenties people. We didn’t even think kids would buy our record,We figured kids would think, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna get laid if I own this record.’ But then MTV started playing us all the time, so I guess that made us cool.”

The Band was even asked to be on Saturday Night Live in 1995 but is just happened to be Ballew’s wedding night and they declined the invitation but they did perform in front of Mount Rushmore for an MTV taping.  

 

The following year the band would release their follow album titled 2, which would go gold but fell short of the sales of the band’s debut album From 1995 to 1997 the band toured heavily to support their first two records and In 1997 the band recorded a cover of the Buggles track ‘video killed the radio star” for the adam sandler movie the wedding singer. While things were looking up for the band,  The long time on the road took a toll on its members more speciicaly frontman Chris Ballew and by the end of the year the group called it quits for the first time.  Ballew had his first child, and he wanted to spend more time at home with the frontman telling the Seattle Times “I wasn’t feeling the magic anymore,”.” I wanted a different life where I didn’t have to go out on the road to make music anymore.”

The band played a farewell concert in January of 1998 to say goodbye to their fans while also donating proceeds from the show to charity. A few months after breaking up the band’s label would issue another album, a compilation record called Pure Frosting which featured two cover songs that had previously been used in the movie wedding singer and their cover of Cleavland Rocks for the Drew Carry Show.  

Each member went their own way and pursued other musical projects with Dave Dederer unsuccessfully auditioning for Weezer.

1998 also saw the members of Presidents reconvene and team up with Seattle rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot of Baby Got Back fame to form a short lived group called Subset. While they would record some songs together and tour, the project ended in 2000 over musical differences.  The same year the band members would reunite using the monicker the Quitters since their old label Columbia Records owned the rights to the band’s name. The band soon discovered another band already had dibs on the name The Quitters so they were able to buy back control of their name from Columbia and they released “Freaked Out And Small which flew under the radar only selling about 25,000 copies. The album would be released on label Musicblitz which was a small label that quickly went belly up. The band opted not to tour extensively or do much promotion for the album.

The band once again called it quits for a few years before reforming again in late 2002 and forming their own indie label and releasing their 4th album titled “Love Everybody”, was released on their own label “PUSA inc” in 2004. The label also gained the rights from Sony to their debut album and re-released Freaked Out and Small with various bonus tracks the same year. After discovering how difficult it is to manage a record label the band scrapped their business venture.

The band would go on to release several more albums while also losing guitarist Dave Dederer. He would be replaced by fellow Seattle musician Andrew McKaeg. Dederer would go on to work for Amazon.

You maybe wondering wit ha name like The Presidents of the United States of America, has the band spoken out politically. Yes they have, starting in 1994 they have played benefit shows and raised money for a variety of democratic party candidates including bill clinton, bernie sanders and countless others. 

And by November of 2016 which also happened to coincide with the last Presidential election in the united states the band announced they were once again done with frontman Chris Ballew putting out a statement claiming “You may have noticed that PUSA has been quiet since the summer of 2015 and here is why…” he wrote. “We are no longer functioning as a band. Call it what you will but we have quietly retired from the PUSA business since we are OLD PEOPLE NOW! 😉

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He added: “Never say never” is a good motto in these cases however we wanted to let you all officially know what is up so you don’t have to fret or wonder. Thanks for all the singing and clapping and happy times and WE LOVE YOU!”

Ballew later updated the post to say: “It is not REALLY that we are OLD…it is just time to move on is all…creative interests change and mutate and I am just trying to follow my instincts and do what thrills me most and part of that is about moving on.