Kim Shattuck and the rest of The Muffs know when they’re not wanted.
After the veteran Los Angeles-based punk-rock trio finished its third Reprise album (“Happy Birthday to Me”) in 1997, the label gave them the cold shoulder and told Shattuck, in essence, don’t expect any publicity support for the album.
“Only if it did well on its own were they going to even try,” the singer-guitarist said recently. “They even gave us the option of putting the album out some other way, but we were like, ‘Oh, we just want it to come out.’ Consequently, they didn’t try. They used even meaner words.
“When it came out, we were really excited about it and did a really good tour. The album did well, but it was mostly because of the loyal fans and not any new converts. After that, we hoped they’d drop us and not treat us like Mary’s Danish or something, be stuck on the label forever and have to break up. We weren’t going to break up no matter what. Fuck that. I was hinting to them, ‘Please drop us.’ Finally, it was a mutual parting of ways, but at the same time you do feel slightly rejected. Boo-hoo.”
Shattuck, bassist Ronnie Barnett and drummer Roy McDonald didn’t get mad or try to get even. They just went about their business of creating more crunchy, bare-bones punk rock, just as they did when they formed in January 1991.
“Despite being canned from Reprise, my motives for being in a band are pretty much the same: to express myself,” Shattuck said. “I really, really like doing this, and I really don’t care who hears it, in a way. You have to not worry about the business side of it and not really care, though it’s disconcerting to have people say, ‘You should’ve been bigger.’ It’s like, ‘Why?’ I’m still making the same records I would’ve made either way, so it doesn’t really matter.”
Undaunted, The Muffs have resurfaced with their fourth album, “Alert Today Alive Tomorrow,” on Honest Don’s, a power-pop subsidiary of punk-rock imprint Fat Wreck Chords.
It’s their most commercial-sounding effort to date, from The Who-like refrains of “I Wish That I Could Be You” to the instrumental “Jack Champagne.”
“Basically, the lyrics are angry toward myself this time,” Shattuck said. “I got it out of my system and I feel so much better now. I was just having a bunch of weird feelings, craziness, and it came out in the lyrics. I think I’m okay now. I’m not going to slice my throat or anything.”
“Alert Today Alive Tomorrow” also was easily their most cost-effective.
“I just hope it gets out there better than our past records,” Shattuck said. “We made the most poppy-sounding record on an indie and we made our rough-sounding records on a major label. We spent more money on the major to make a more shitty-sounding record, then we get less money and make a poppier, more commercial-sounding record on an indie. We’re just rebels, and that was all doing it naturally, without thought, no premeditation at all.”
BWF (before we forget): If you’ve never heard of The Muffs, perhaps this will refresh your memory – They did a version of Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America” for the “Clueless” film soundtrack; they appeared in the premiere episode of the “Clueless” TV series; Shattuck had a small role in the movie “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion,” and the band appeared in the Robin Williams-Billy Crystal film “Father’s Day.” … Catch up with The Muffs on the Web @ www.honestdons.com.