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The Roofies have perfected the fine art of not taking themselves seriously

Wednesday, May 24 2000
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Updating Frankie and Annette beach blanket shindigs for the less naive youth of today, demented San Francisco party rockers the Roofies don't shy from incendiary themes and loaded language. Fronted by manic Gidget-gone-to-hell Jibz Cameron, the Roofies twist and frug through a topical minefield, devilishly smirking all the way. Consider the title track of their new CD, Blame It on the Roofies, an update of "Blame It on the Bossa Nova," minus the euphemisms:

Blame it on the roofies
It was them I think
Blame it on the roofies
That he slipped in my drink
Oh the evening was going so awful slow
Until I was date-raped, and didn't even know
Oh roofies, that crazy pill

"It's definitely not something I think is hilarious or anything," says Cameron of their Rohypnol rave-up's core thesis, "but I think it is darkly funny that there are all those songs about where kids came from. It's like, 'When our kids ask how they came about, tell them blame it on the bossa nova.' That's so sugary and funny. I just like to think of it as 'Blame it on those seven drinks I had, and then we fucked, and then you had to marry me because I got pregnant.'

"Pretty much every girl I know has had some shitty experience happen to her," she adds, "and it's really just a way to talk about it: Everybody knows it happens, so why don't we acknowledge it? Instead of saying, 'I'm so hurt and damaged for the rest of my life,' you can overcome it by making it something you can laugh at. I'm OK with that."

Live Roofies performances are festive affairs. While the vivacious Cameron, equal parts Sandra Bernhard and Belinda Carlisle, is a strong frontperson with her animated antics and '60s party dresses, there's plenty else on the Roofies stage to divert attention -- every band member plays a role in the onstage fiesta. Currently, the Roofies number eight-ish: Cameron, organist/guitarist Andy Oglesby, guitarist Brent Coffin, bassist Eli Crews, drummer Jamie Peterson, and backup singers Saara Traister, Diana Hayes, and Beth Lisick (though Lisick announced at the interview for this story she was leaving the band and would only be available as an emergency backup). In the past, the band had a trumpet-playing drummer, and while several drummers and backup singers have come through the Roofies' revolving door in the last three-plus years, five original members are still going strong.

"We all really wanted to play this kind of music," Cameron says. "We have so much fun with it, and it just got bigger and bigger. There are so many elements that you can add to it, the cheese factor is so unlimited. 'Let's get a backup singer. Let's get three backup singers.' There's endless possibilities."

The Roofies germinated during an Oregonian car ride. Crews and original Roofies drummer Oran Canfield, on tour with San Francisco's Optimist International, were visiting their friends Cameron and Traister, who were living in Ashland at the time. "We were in the car listening to the Supremes," Cameron remembers, "and I said, 'Let's start an R&B band.'" After Cameron and Traister relocated to San Francisco, the four started bringing others on board. When it was discovered that boyfriend-of-a-friend Andy Oglesby owned a Farfisa, he was recruited instantaneously, despite his not knowing how to play. "It had the right sound," he recalls. "Very cheeseball." The band's first gig was a 1997 Casanova Christmas party, and everyone agrees it was pretty raw.

When asked if it all started off as a goof, guitarist Coffin says, "Probably no more than any other band. We started off basically just totally ripping off a bunch of obscure '60s shit and then gradually writing originals in that style, trying to maintain that flavor." Adds Oglesby: "It wasn't a lark in that no one knew what they were doing, but I think most people were in other projects that they were pretty serious about. This was really more about fun, and just doing obscure covers, but it's turned into something where we can actually write songs together pretty easily."

The Roofies still fill out their set with covers of obscurities such as the Davie Allan & the Arrows chestnut "Granny Goose." The revving riff on one of their first originals, "Frankie the Shoe Fucker," was cribbed from a hyper-obscure biker record titled Cycle Psychosis. The song details the nocturnal dirty deeds of a work-shoe fetishist, and was supposedly based on a true story. "Somebody I knew when I was in high school said they read it in the paper," claims Cameron, who manages to rhyme "boot" and "skin flute" in the song. "It was about this creepy guy who liked dirty construction worker boots." Continuing with the urban legend theme, "Mean Mean Man" is an audio-dramatization of the title character's furtive phone calls to little girls home all alone. "Mean Man" vocalist Crews is quick to note the song contains no bad words and as such could theoretically be played on the radio: "I say, 'I'm going to fork out your eyeballs and make skin soup from your supple little body,' but there are no obscenities."

But "Love Darts" probably won't be seeing airplay anytime soon: "My heart hurts, and other parts, you pierced me deep with your love darts," Cameron confesses on the tirade against being used, then dumped. Toward the end of this vengeful surf number, Cameron launches into a howling rant that starts off with, "I'd like to take your penis and put it in a vat of acid," and doesn't get any friendlier from there. "At least the song is honest," she says. "When those kinds of things happen, you feel like a jerk, because you think you're different and immune to such a cliché type of thing, the kind of thing that would happen to Annette Funicello. But I'm over that now; I feel like I've expressed myself and moved on."

"And hopefully the kids will take something positive from it," deadpans Coffin.

Cameron: "Yeah, like maybe if somebody gets their heart broken, they can take [the offending] penis and dip it in some acid."

Lisick: "It could be you'll make headlines when that happens, when they find the Roofies' song in the CD changer."

Cameron: "We're sorry in advance if that happens."

The Roofies' new CD, self-released on their own Mangina Records, was recorded at Black Eyed Pig Studios by Kyle Statham of Fuck. "I think I can speak for everyone that we're totally thrilled with our experience with him," says Oglesby. "He has a really nice studio," adds Traister. "You can play video games upstairs, and he has a cooler, and a sock monkey that you can play with." At this point, Lisick alleges that Coffin kept doing vulgar things with the sock monkey. In his defense, Coffin protests that he was only following Cameron's lead -- sock monkey see, sock monkey do. On the new CD is "Helados," about the guys who push those little ice cream carts around the Mission; "Monsters" chronicles the torment inflicted by Cameron's personal gremlins; "Bitch" catalogs the many species of witches-with-a-B that stalk the Earth ("We all contributed to that one," notes Crews); and "Fleshy Surprise" is somewhat self-explanatory. Then there's "Assorcism," with its chorus of, "I know I'm white but the beat's all right" -- what is that about, exactly?

"It's about possession," Cameron ventures. "Like the whole idea that the kids shouldn't move their pelvises around, because it's too sexy, but then you get infected with the music, and just have to let it out because you're possessed."

"I thought it was about diarrhea," laughs Lisick. Bowel movements or enemas are also postulated as central topics. "It is an enema," Cameron argues, "it's like a release of all your crap, man." At this point, Crews notes that even though Roofies songs might have serious underlying themes, they're underlying for a reason: The band would rather have fun with it. "We've never analyzed our music like this before," adds Coffin. "It just kind of happens."

"I think about it when I write the stuff, of course, but I don't feel like I want to talk about it with everybody," Cameron explains. "It's not like: 'You guys, I wanna write a song about my inner demons, and it's going to be called "Monsters," and it's all about how your inner self blah blah blah.' I think everyone would barf on me if I did that, and kick me out of the band."

About The Author

Mike Rowell

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