“Why didn't we have a naked group Skype interview?” drummer Jon Fishman asked during a conference call to talk about his band Touchpants, who will be at the River Street Jazz Café on Thursday, April 18. “That should be the new policy: if you want to do a conference interview with Touchpants, it's going to be a naked group Skype interview.”
While the suggestion may seem unorthodox, it perfectly illustrates the dysfunctional family feeling that is Touchpants. Formed in 2002, the comedy-rock troupe – Fishman, guitarists/vocalists Colby Dix and Chris Friday, and bassist Aram Bedrosian – has been infesting clubs in the Northeast region with its penchant for shocking, vulgar, and downright offensive lyrics and stage banter, yet still deliver some tight rock grooves in the midst of all the craziness. The band's approach to things should certainly be taken with a grain of salt, especially considering the way it was formed.
“This has actually been going on for over a decade, for some reason,” Dix said. “For the (2002) Jazz Mandolin Project tour (which Fishman was a part of), I was doing sound, and Friday was the tour manager. We would take those little handbills and write poems to each other where we pick on any Wookie-looking tramp in the room, and they were basically 'odes' to them. We were like two giggly little schoolgirls in the back of a van, drinking while someone else is driving and passing notes back and forth to each other – when we weren't passing the Game Boy back to each other, or gay porn; either one.”
Since those days, Touchpants has recorded a few albums worth of songs and “poems” – highlights include “Penis Slap” among several other unprintable names – and, at the urging of Fishman, has been starting to play more live shows.
“It developed slowly as we basically played once a year, every year,” Friday said before Fishman quipped, “Now that we've got about 15 gigs under our belt.”
“We're really dialing it in now that we're at gig 15. The fans are really coming together,” Dix added.
Although the comedy is a major part of its live shows, Touchpants is a group of musicians who are fully capable of sounding like a rock band should, even with the offensive humor that comes as an added treat.
“Once it gets going, there's actually a good rock band behind it,” Dix said.
“In all seriousness, I like the fearlessness of the band,” Fishman continued. “We get around our instruments well enough and we listen to each other well enough… You're forced to connect with people. Sometimes it can be slow-going, but then you hit a vein and then when it's off and running. It's fun as hell.”
While the music keeps the energy of the night going, Touchpants is a band that plays its own material and is not trying to associate itself with Fishman's other band, Phish, which is part of the attraction for the famed drummer.
“In all honesty, what would be the point of me being in another band that was anything like Phish?” Fishman asked. “There would be no point to that… Try to have readers imagine it being the farthest thing from Phish, and if they think they want to go see it, they should.”
If one could get a feel for the Touchpants experience, it's no surprise that the band's shows live up to whatever (moral?) standards it has been practicing for the last decade. They drink, they offend, they insult, but most importantly, they have a fun time doing the tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps both them and the crowd in high spirits.
“We do write a set list, but it tends to deviate wildly from night to night based on the sheer amount of alcohol we intake and the crowd,” Dix said. “There's a good amount of crowd interaction where essentially we'll just kind of pick on any random female in the crowd. Regardless of what she looks like, we'll call her 'fat.'”
Having an open-mind to humor is a key ingredient for its fans, and if one needs proof, have a look at the stage setup.
“Put it this way – we're sitting on toilets on stage,” Friday said. “Put that in your article; if you want to get close to Jon, think about sitting on a toilet.”
“It's childish s—t, but it's a childish catharsis,” Fishman added. “We can just get together, have a good time, drink a little and are just idiots on f——-g stage, and every once in a while, the music is actually good.”