Can a bunch of grown men find music success covering Disney songs? Yes, they can, if they're Suburban Legends, the awesomely fun ska group that broke out at Disneyland and has just released a half-dozen covers on their new EP, Dreams Aren't Real, But These Songs Are, Vol. 1. BFTV spoke Thursday with Legends guitarist Brian Klemm about the new record and how the band's been going strong since the late 1990's.
How did Disney enter the Legends equation to begin with? "When we first started playing Disney, we didn't have that many songs in general, so we started doing little covers and people were always wanting us to record [them]," explained Brian. "I'm honored that we get to play them."
The band's racked up plenty of original songs since then, but the Disney tunes are still part of the repertoire. Does covering the songs make him hear them differently when he visits a Disney theme park? As it turns out, not so much. "There are certain things like 'This song feels like it should be faster...that's right, because we play it faster,'" he told us.
On the new EP, the guys cover a broad selection of tracks, from the theme to classic cartoon DuckTales to The Little Mermaid's well-known "Kiss The Girl." They've actually released a video for the latter, which we've included for you here so you can see just how much fun they're having with these beloved songs.
To go along with the release of the new record, Suburban Legends are hitting the road beginning January 2 for a variety of West Coast dates, including shows in California, Colorado, and Washington, to name a few stops. Is there any one that sticks out to Brian? "I am super excited about going to Portland. I get to use my band as a way to see all my family that lives around the country," he laughed, before telling us, "I'm just excited to play."
That sentence might sum up the band as a whole. If you listen to their music, or get to chat with one of them, it's clear that they love what they're doing. They've had that boundless enthusiasm for more than a decade, even as some members have come and gone, and the road has gotten bumpy a time or two. What does Brian think has enabled these guys to gel together so well for so long? "I think it's because of the organic way the band came about. We were all just friends before," he theorized. "If you get to see us live, you'll see about a thousand inside jokes happening amongst the band."
Of course, over fifteen years, there's been the occasional suggestion that they reinvent themselves or try something new. "We went through that identity crisis," Brian explained. "We signed to a really big management company. The management company, they wanted us to do a commercial album, that they could pitch to a label.
"We went and did our pop album. We did that in like 2007 [and] our management sent it out to all the labels. But then when we gave it to the fans, the fans were like, 'What the fuck is this?' If you go online and look up our reviews for Infectious, you will see just like, 'What the hell happened to this band?'"
But Brian also sees the positive in that particular misstep."Sometimes you have to go through that," he added. "It makes us stronger as a band and a unit."
So sometimes things haven't gone according to plan. Suburban Legends have dealt with pretty much everything that could be thrown at a band, professionally and personally. But they've also had their share of highs, from the countless shows they've played over the years at Downtown Disney to performing multiple times on the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, an accomplishment which held particular meaning for Brian.
"I grew up being a really big Jerry Lewis fan. Loved his movies as a kid, I'd watch them with my dad. And then fast forward [to] decades later, my management calls and says, 'Hey, do you want to do the Jerry Lewis Telethon?'" he recalled. He even got to visit the legendary performer's home. "I was in Jerry Lewis's bathroom, and I called my dad," he laughed, "and said 'I'm in Jerry Lewis's bathroom!'"
With fourteen years in the band, Brian still speaks about it like he has the coolest job in the world, and that's a pretty rare thing in a music industry where most bands don't last four years. Maybe that's why Suburban Legends are ridiculously endearing. At the end of the day, they're simply a bunch of hard-working musicians from California that can't even quite believe they get paid for this.
"Obviously, my main goal is just to be able to make a living for myself and not be the constantly struggling musician," Brian told us. "I never really pictured this being my career. I never thought it would be possible."
"There's so many bands that work so hard and they never make it out of their city," he continued. "We're very thankful that we get to do what we do."
Suburban Legends' new EP, Dreams Aren't Real, But These Songs Are, Vol. 1, is now available on iTunes. You can find out more about the band by visiting their website (suburbanlegends.com) and following them on Twitter (@suburbanlegends). Brian is also on Twitter (@Klemm_0_Tronic).