Just so you know; yup, Medved singer/guitarist Ben Hunter
writes for Askew Reviews. However, Ben and I had never met until we did this
interview. It was only after this interview that he began contributing to the
zine. So there... you kiss ass conspiracy theorists! My love for The Medveds only increased
after seeing them live. Not only are they great sounding, but they are a bunch
of nice guys. They are just out to have a good time and play some good music.
Watching Adam sing is also a treat. He is full of energy and doesn’t let the
confines of a small stage hinder him at all. The band is also releasing their
first cd. I have listened to the rough cut, and it is great! After promising
Mean Russell Taft a 12-pack and some cheap pornography, I interviewed The
Medveds.– denis sheehan (photo from the band's website)
The Medveds were introduced to me about two years ago when Ron Lacer of Fan
Attic Records sent me a few of their 7”s to review. After listening to the
records a few times, I was really perplexed. I loved the music, but I had NO
idea how to review it. It was punk, but unlike any punk I had ever heard. The
vocals consisted of Adam’s melodic, strong voice and Ben’s growling, half in
the bag sound. Strangely, the two very different singing styles blended
perfectly together and the rest of the band just made things better. Only after
reviewing the two 7”s, did Ben enlighten me to the term “Nautical Punk.”
That is a perfect description of the music The Medveds play. Just imagine
staggering into a seaside punk bar at the end of the dock and seeing Popeye and
Bruno brawling to the sounds of the band. Get the picture?
Left to right
"Mean" Russell Taff – Manager (not pictured)
Ben Hunter- guitar/vocals
Adam Thorsell- vocals
Eric Altieri- drums
Larry Ramona- bass
Jeremy Brady- lead guitar
Please give a brief history of the Medveds. Where you came from, how long
you've been together, etc...
"Mean" Russell Taff: This current group of assholes got together
in 1995. The Medveds originally began back in 1986 as a joke band, not much
has changed, in Cleveland, Ohio. Ben was the only member from that time who is
still in the group today. Larry joined in 1987, Adam in 1992 and Eric and
Jeremy rounded out the current line-up in 1995. There are probably about 8
people who could call themselves "former Medveds," but I doubt any
of them would publicly own up to it.
Ben, what brought you to Boston from Ohio?
Ben: I came to Boston in 1986 to go to college. I've lived here mostly ever
since, but I did move to Columbus, New York and had a brief, disastrous yet
fun stint in England. Larry and I went to high school together, and he
eventually moved here in 1990. He was also involved in the UK fiasco.
Feel like letting us in on your’s and Larry’s UK experience?
Ben: The story of our attempt to live in England and/or Wales would take
about 10 days to fully explain, but I'll try to give you a rough breakdown. In
1991 Larry and I sold most of our belongings and bought tickets to England
with then intention of staying there as long as possible. We had friends in
Wales who we could stay with for awhile, so we figured we could at least start
there. I had about $400 total to my name at the time and Larry had about $30.
When we were going through customs initially, I gave Larry half my money so
we'd both have an even chance of getting in. Larry made it through no problem.
My guy was a real bastard though, and almost didn't let me in. Then he limited
my stay to 6 months, but in the end I only used one of them. Once through
customs, we had to hitch out to Wales and almost were killed by an insane,
wreckless Spanish driver who picked us up. From there we hung around awhile in
Cardiff, but we couldn't find a job anywhere for the likes of us. Luckily our
Cardiff friends knew some people in London we could hook up with. We hitched
back out and stayed with one couple for about 3 days until we somehow, someway
spooked them and they kicked us out. We desperately called our pal Jon back in
Wales and he hooked us up with another friend of his in London named Steve.
Now the only reason Steve, who was a snappy young businessman, decided to have
us at his place was because he'd gotten a hold of a prank phone call tape that
Larry and I had made while living off an accident settlement in Columbus, OH a
few years before. Steve and his friends loved the pranks we'd done and when we
got there they were quoting them left and right. It was funny as hell to hear
them imitate us in their British accents. Anyhow, we searched for jobs
everywhere, but the only offer we got was at a rough looking leather gay bar.
We weren't really into that, though. Then we met a guy in the subway who
claimed to be an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who was in
London to advise Scotland Yard on weapons. He had a real grudge against
English people but seemed to like us because we were American. Before we
parted ways he'd given us a way to fake work ID numbers and also enough money
so we could get lunch at an all you can eat for $2.50 restaurant. It turned
out that the fake ID number scam really did work because we eventually found
jobs that accepted them. At this point, however, we had to leave because we
were completely broke and the jobs we'd just found entering figures into a
computer type-thing wouldn't be able to pay us for 3 weeks. At that point, we
decided to use our round-trip ticket back. We hitched back out to Wales to say
goodbye to our friends there, then hitched back to London. At this point we
seriously had no money. None. There's a lot more to it, but that's sort of an
How did the rest of the gang hook up with Ben and Larry?
Ben: We met Adam through a roommate of our’s after we got back from
England. Her name was Sabrina and Adam was going out with her at the time.
We'd known Jeremy since around '90 or '91, but he eventually moved away to New
York. He came back in '95 and joined the band then. We got Eric by putting up
a flyer that said we need a drummer.
What is a Medved and how did you come up with that name?
Ben: Medved actually means "bear" in Russian, but we didn't learn
that until years after the band started. We just received an e-mail from a guy
in Russia who somehow stumbled upon our webpage and was very interested in
hearing what we sounded like. He titled the e-mail "From the land of
Medved" and went on to ask for a CD, saying he'd review it in some
underground Russian 'zines and send us copies of the reviews. I'm not sure how
we'll understand what he writes about us, but what the hell. Anyhow, we got
the name by ripping a random page out of the phonebook, taping it to a small
child and then throwing a dart at it. The dart landed on the name Keith Medved.
It seemed like an appropriate name at the time.
Since the vocals are shared between Adam and Ben, are the lyrics written to
suit the different voice styles, or does all that work out naturally?
Adam: It works out naturally.
Ben: Truthfully, Adam, who has a great voice, should be singing all the
time. Sometimes I write stuff that I'd really like to sing, so I make myself
the lead vocalist on certain occasions. When the other guys write material,
they wisely designate Adam as the primary singer.
As the Medveds, where have your travels taken you?
Adam: Boston, Boston Harbor, Cambridge, Lowell, Allston and Somerville.
Ben: We went to New York once. It sucked.
What sucked about the trip to New York?
Ben: We were booked at a place called The Pyramid Club in New York. The
booking agent told us we'd be headlining at midnight. I guess this should have
raised a red flag if she's having a Boston band no one's ever heard of
headline a Saturday night. We rented a van for all our stuff and another car
to hold some friends who wanted to come with us. When we got to the club, we
found out that they were clearing it out between each band. I have no idea
why. By the time we got our stuff in there, the place was empty. Luckily, we
have some friends in New York, some of whom we stayed with that night, and we
brought about 25 people to see us. Everyone, including the non-band members
who came with us and were helping load our equipment, had to pay $8 to see us.
After a half hour they kicked us off the stage and told us to get out because
the place doubles as a late night gay dance club. As we were being hustled
out, the booker handed me $15 and said that we should do this again sometime.
After a heated debate, I was able to talk her up to $25. We went out
afterwards and had a good time, but I wouldn't recommend playing there to
How do you keep the band going?
"Mean" Russell Taff: Guns, pussy, hot rods and beer.
Is there a beer of choice for The Medveds?
Ben: The beer of choice for us generally is whatever's on sale. A liquor
store just opened up within 5 feet of our practice space, so it's kind of
given us an extra incentive to practice these days.
The Medveds are described as the inventors of "Nautical
Punk." What is nautical punk and do you think it's an accurate statement?
Ben: Since we laid the term on ourselves, we're pretty comfortable with it.
We picture Nautical Punk as being something Popeye would enjoy- the kind of
music that makes you swing your arms back and forth from side to side. One of
our more nautical songs is called "Mercy Fuck," and we decided it
should be former Cleveland Indian Matt Williams' unofficial theme song; not
because of the lyrical content but more due to the fact that he seems to walk
to the rhythm of that song. He also kind of looks like Popeye.
Are you an Indians’ fan? If so, what did you think of the Red Sox
spanking them 3 straight and knocking them out of last year’s playoffs?
Ben: Larry and I are huge Tribe fans, Adam and Jeremy, but especially Adam,
love the Red Sox. I don't think Eric could care less about either. Obviously,
it sucked for me when the Indians completely fell apart in the playoffs last
year. I have to give the Red Sox credit for playing very well, but Goddamn,
Indians pitchers gave up like 27 runs in the last 27 innings or something? For
me it's usually natural to wish ill on a team that knocks mine out, but I have
to admit I was rooting for the Sox to beat the Yankees. I think it's once
again going to come down to the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees as AL Champs. I
don't think anybody in the West can compete, especially with TX losing some of
their best players. Anyways, I am very happy that the baseball season has
Concerning "Aging Failures," who did the freaky cover art of the
two dudes scrapping and is there something to the title?
Ben: Larry did the cover art. Larry didn't draw those fighting guys we're
using as the cover- he found an old picture and fixed it up for our purposes.
He's done that with all our covers, except "Gilded Cock," our first
single, which he did draw himself. He also did all the artwork and layout for
the "Hepcats Took My Baby" compilation CD, which was a CD of a bunch
of bands that used to play at the Kirkland Cafe.
Adam: Larry does all our artwork.
Ben: He does want people to know that they should use violence responsibly,
though -cue NBC music and flash that "The More You Know" icon. As
far as the title, since 4/5 of us are on the wrong side of 30 and have very
little to show for it, the title seemed sadly appropriate.
The CD includes some previous releases. Will it also include new songs as
Ben: 8 of the 25 tracks haven't been released before. The rest have only
come out on vinyl or on CD compilations, so this is our first official CD. We
didn't re-record any of the older stuff, but Eric did beef up some of the
earlier songs that had been recorded on 16-track with his computer, and he
added a couple little extras to a few of the songs as well.
On the inside of “My Mom Smoked My Stash,” there is a picture of a kid
wearing a vest and plaid shirt, who is that dude and does he know about your
usage of his image?
Ben: The guy shown on the inside of "My Mom Smoked My Stash" is
named Don Hall. Larry and I went to high school with him. I think he was 20 in
the 11th grade. Anyway, we got to know him because he rode the same school bus
as us. One day he seemed really down, and when we asked him what was wrong, he
said, "My mom smoked my stash." A year or two after I moved away, I
came back to visit and noticed that the city knocked down his house. I have no
idea where he went or what became of him, so I'd imagine that he doesn't know
he's been featured in a record cover. On a side note, I noticed a few weeks
ago that there was a quote on the front page of the Sunday Globe attributed to
"Poet Donald Hall." We like to think he's the same person.
Have any feminists ever given you flack over the song "She Won't Shave
Ben: I'd imagine since not too many people have heard us in the first
place, very few of those have been militant feminists. So far we've gotten no
complaints, but one reviewer did describe the song as "Dumb Guy
Rock." Oddly enough, I think that song contains some of our most creative
rhymes and intelligent lyrics, and I can say that because I didn't write it,
Jeremy wrote it. And fuck 'em if they can't take a joke.
Were there any real life experiences that influenced the song "BC
Ben: BC Headache Powder is the finest aspirin you can buy. It's aspirin and
caffeine crushed together in powder form. Since your body doesn't have to
break it down, it gets into your system much faster than normal aspirin. It
comes wrapped in these little wax paper rectangles that look very illicit, but
I think this only adds to the mystique. The primary downside to BC is that it
tastes like hell. I've been taking it so long and so often now that it doesn't
work as well for me as it used to, but I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to you
beginners. It's quite popular in the South, but one of the only places you can
get it around here is at the Osco on Brighton Ave. in Allston.
How did “Mean” Russell, eh-hem, Mr. Taff get his name?
Ben: He has a cousin whose name is also Russ. His cousin is a hell of a lot
nicer than he is though. To distinguish the two, we started calling him
"Mean" Russ and his cousin "Nice" Russ.