By John Eshelman
The sophomore slump; it’s the worst fear of any new artist working on their second project. It’s one thing to burst on the scene and announce your presence with authority; it’s quite another to follow up that announcement with another that says, “I’m here to stay, I’m not going anywhere.” This was the problem facing The Mama’s Boyz, a cover/rock/pop band composed of Dusty “The Clap” Mones, “Sweet” Lou Gabel, and Grayson “Moose Johnson” Connors. Following up the rousing success of their breakout-hit single, a cover of Stacy’s Mom by one hit wonder Fountains of Wayne, was not going to be easy. The first time around, the brash lyrics and unashamedly unrefined vocals of “Fuck You Jon Sargent” made the song a hit with the class, and with Professor Charry. The Mama’s Boyz took a song that had been covered time and again and put a new and original spin on it, making it their own. Now all they had to do was do it again.
For their second single, “Dusty’s Problem”, the Mama’s Boyz decided to cover “Basket case”, a pop punk anthem by Green Day from the mid 1990’s. While quite popular in its day, I have no doubt that “Basket case” is a song that everyone in the class has heard many more times than they would care to remember. Again, the Boyz accepted the challenge of putting a new and original twist on a played out song. “Dusty’s Problem” chronicles the affairs of a Wesleyan student who engages in unprotected sex with “some drunk random girl [he] met at DKE.” The next day, however, the protagonist sees the error in his ways. Due to a burning sensation during urination and spots on his genitalia, the protagonist infers that he has contracted an STD. He later mentions that this is the third time he has contracted an STD in this way, and concedes that “My life’s such a bore, Cause I just wanna score”, insinuating that his promiscuous sexual practices are not fulfilling. In the end the protagonist decides that it is best for him to “move on” and start leading a healthier lifestyle. The lyrics are quite humorous, and also describe a situation that has undoubtedly happened to far too many of the band’s loyal listeners.
When I arrived at Lowrise E2, the residence of Lou and Grayson, the atmosphere was laid back and relaxed. The band was lounging on the couch listening to Dusty play his guitar. This was startling to me because On “Fuck You Jon Sargent”, the Boyz sang, but played none of their own instruments. Right away I was impressed; they were trying something new, taking a risk. Dusty immediately mentioned that he had not played much guitar, but joked that he was probably going to become the next Jimi Hendrix. “I picked up the guitar for about a week a year ago, but didn’t take it very seriously” he said. “I didn’t have any lessons or anything like that, self taught.” To his credit, he was much better than I would have expected. Also impressive was the fact that he played the song by ear, much like Devin Miles in the hit movie Drumline. He said he had been practicing for “about an hour” before I got there. Unfortunately, his decision to practice worked to his disadvantage and left his fingers bloodied and almost useless. He tried numerous times to play through the pain, using an array of band-aids, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Finally, after 2 hours of agony, he gave up and the band called their close friend Hans Hsu, an accomplished guitarist from the band Catastrophic Events. Hans effortlessly laid down the track in about fifteen minutes, and reenergized the group. “I never realized how much talent you need just to play simple power chords on the guitar” exclaimed Dusty, “I definitely gained a new respect for people who play their own instruments.”
After Hans gave the Boyz a shot of life, it was time to lay down the vocals. Lou Gabel, the lead singer, led off with energy and passion. He had been in the choir in middle school, and was a surprisingly talented vocalist. Grayson and Dusty helped with the background vocals. There were a few bumps along the way, but after about an hour the group thought they were done. However, soon after playing the final version, Grayson discovered that a slight alteration in the guitar sound on Garage Band could make the guitar playing sound a lot more like the original Green Day version. The only down side to making this change was that they would have to redo all of the vocals. Obviously, none of the group members were too happy about this, but they sucked it up and gave it another go. On the first take after the guitar part was altered, the group seemed to finally come together as one. Lou led off flawlessly, and the background vocals seemed to come in at exactly the right time. On the final chorus, all the band members sang together, loud and proud. The energy in the room was magical; at that very moment they seemed to blossom from a bunch of friends into a true band. “I can’t wait to brag to my kids that I was in a band in college!” exclaimed Grayson. All in all, despite some rough patches, The Mama’s Boyz wrote some clever lyrics, recorded a catchy tune, and were able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.