WHAT'S IN A BLOODY NAME, PUNK? by David Gobeil Taylor
(Vue Weekly, 7/98, somewhere in Canada?)

When I was a young, fresh-faced cub reporter, I'd always ask bands how they pickd their names. As I grew more experienced, the band names got less and less interesting and the anecdotes got more and more outrageously false, so I stopped.

But for some reason I asked guitarist Max Huber of San Francisco's Swingin' Utters--and, of course, got a totally inane, if refreshingly honest, answer.

"There's no meaning to it," he said. "I usually come up with a really good lie, but I'm saving them for later. Besides, I wasn't in the band then;

but as I understand it, our singer (Johnny Bonnel) was drunk, and there was this cow. . . no, sorry, that's one of the lies.

Actually, some friend came up with the name 'Johnny Peebucks & the Swingin' Utters.' I hated the name; it was too long and too silly. But now that it's shorter I don't mind; it works because it's not like other band names."

The Utters (Huber, Bonnel, guitarist Darius Koski, drummer Greg McEntee and bassist Spike Slawson) have a lot of influences, their major one being '70s British punk.

But we're not talking 3-chord, violent guitar-bass-drum noise here--that's '80s punk. Their recently released album on Fat Wreck Chords, Five Lessons Learned, throws pianos, organs, violins, accordions and mandolins into the mix.

"Punk music in the'70s was closer to '50s rock 'n' roll than '80s punk," says Huber. "We're not a particularly fast band. We take a lot from the Pogues, for example, and they've got a very folky sound with lots of instruments. Actually, the Pogues are probably the only band that we'd all agree is an influence."

After joining the Vans Warped Tour in Toronto, the Swingin' Utters will be pairing with 22 Jacks for a mini-Canadian tour before heading off to their fourth trip to Europe.


"One of the primary reasons to be in a band is because it's a vehicle to travel the world," said Huber. "On that level it's a blast. I love touring Europe--for one thing, there's a lot less violence at the concerts, even in England. In the States there are tons of fights. It's a whole other culture in Europe."

(Huber and I went on to muse about European-American cultural differences; we finally chalked it up to TV)

Five Lessons Learned is the Utters' second release with Fat (after '96's A Juvenile Product Of The Working Class), and featured such notable guest musicians as Social Distortion's John Maurer and Degeneration's Howie Pyro. Their first disc, Streets of San Francisco, was released through New Red Archives.

While I was at it, I figured I'd ask about the title of Five Lessons Learned. And yes, the response was equally, honestly inane.

"That's just the title of the first song on the record. It has something to do with the song's lyrics--I honestly don't know, because I didn't write that one. I write about half the songs, but not 'Five Lessons Learned.'

All I know is it goes well with the cover art. It's a hand, with five digits. There you go."

Fair enough.