Pop punk, though a divisive characterization to some, is as precious a part of musical history as classical music or folk. The genre dates to the early 1990s, made popular by bands like Screeching Weasel, ZOiNKS! and the Queers. Again, this all depends on who you talk to. Currently there is a host of bands, including Wyoming's Teenage Bottlerocket and New Jersey's the Ergs!, who carry the banner of the golden age of pop punk.
The Ergs!, which recently reunited after a six-year absence, were recently referred to by Noisey as the "undisputed virtuosos of the pop-punk genre." The band's "frontman," singer/drummer Mikey Erg, certainly did not earn this distinction though lack of effort or practice. In addition to putting out multiple albums and singles with the Ergs! and performing in the Chris Gethard Show house band, he also has played with Worriers, the Slow Death, Star Fucking Hipsters, Measure (SA), and has just released his first solo album, Tentative Decisions, on Don Giovanni Records.
We caught up with Mikey Erg on the eve of the release of Tentative Decisions and asked him about reuniting his old band and what the term "pop punk" means to him.
Andy Thomas: Your new album is bit of a departure from the Ergs!, as it’s a little more power pop than punk. Do you agree?
Yeah, it’s definitely mid-tempo and not as trashy as the Ergs! The songwriting is the same, but I think its more classic rock and power pop. We just did the Chris Gethard reunion and have been doing some practices, so it’s funny to be doing both at the same time. Playing with the Ergs!, a different sound comes out. Once we got back together, I remember thinking, "Oh, yeah, this is what we sound like!"
It's funny how much music can change when you bring in new players, even when the structure is the same.
Totally! I mean, obviously that’s gonna happen, but it’s funny to see it in play.
What was the decision to step away from the Ergs! initially, and also why you decided to reunite?
We broke up because the guitar player (Jeff Erg) decided he didn't want to do it anymore. I think we always knew if it wasn't the three of us, then it wasn't the Ergs! So we decided we had to break up in 2010, and at that point I needed a break anyway. We had been going hard for eight years, doing a lot of touring and nonstop putting out records. It was natural for me to step away and play in other people's bands for a while. I did some solo seven-inches and other stuff, but really, I took a break from songwriting for a while. In the latter half of last year I got all these songs together for the solo record, and at the same time, we had started talking about Ergs! doing Fest last year. Then we canceled last-minute because Jeff had a baby, so it got pushed back a little bit, and we had the plan to do Gethard and then do Fest — so we just moved it up to this year.
How did the Chris Gethard job take place? Is that an old-school connection through punk rock?
Yeah, I mean, we had always seen him at shows. An old band of mine, called Kung Fu Monkeys, ended up being the house band for Chris’s stage show. It became a public-access show, and I was in the house band on and off, and then when we moved to Fusion, that became my job. We’ve known Chris for years.
Someone told me once that if you stick around long enough that the old punks start to develop a little bit of power and start to get credit for the things they’ve always done well. Is this an example of that?
Yeah, totally! I mean, when you get some power, then you can start helping your friends out. We had Beach Slang on the show a few weeks ago, and a bunch of other good bands. It’s such a cool and fun show, and our job is to laugh and play music, which is not a bad situation.
And you’re not doing anything outside of what you want to do. You’re not being forced to write jingles.
Right — it’s a perfect situation. This last season is just the way it should be.
Do you consider yourself pop punk?
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The term "pop punk" has so many different reasons and so many different styles. I’m definitely influenced by old Lookout Records bands like early Green Day and the Mr. T Experience. So I would call myself pop punk, but the good kind!
I think bands like yours are an attempt to preserve an important genre and sound that's important to a lot of people.
Thanks! Yeah, we 're trying to keep it alive!
Mikey Erg plays the Marquis Theater on Friday, July 8, 7 p.m., with the Falcon, the Copyrights, Sam Russo.