The Presidents of the United States of America, commonly referred to as The Presidents, is a twice Grammy-nominated American alternative rock band. The band formed in Seattle, USA, in 1993. The three-piece group currently comprises vocalist and "basitarist" Chris Ballew, drummer and vocalist Jason Finn with "guitbassist" and vocalist Andrew McKeag. Long time "guitbassist" and vocalist Dave Dederer departed the band in 2004, after 11 years. They have released six studio albums since forming in 1993.
Early years and rise to fame (1993–1998)
The band was formed in late 1993 by Chris Ballew (basitar and lead vocals) and Dave Dederer (guitbass and backup vocals), who met while attending The Bush School in Seattle. Initially a drummerless duo, Ballew and Dederer performed a half-dozen or so shows in 1993 as "The Lo-Fis", "The Dynamic Duo", and "Pure Frosting." Ballew eventually came upon the name "The Presidents of the United States of America." Shortly after settling on their name, Ballew and Dederer added drummer Jason Finn; the band played their first show as a trio at Seattle's Romper Room in early December 1993. At the time, Finn was also the drummer in the band Love Battery, who had recently changed record labels from Sub Pop to Atlas Records, an A&M subsidiary.
The Presidents recorded a 10-song cassette, Froggystyle, in early 1994 in one day at Laundry Room Studios. The band sold the cassette at shows in 1994. Finn also sold the cassette from behind the bar of Seattle's legendary Comet Tavern, where he bartended.
In 1994, the Presidents signed with the tiny Seattle label PopLlama Records and released their self-titled debut in the following year. The band also released a limited edition blue vinyl 7" single, "Fuck California", on C/Z Records. Columbia Records signed the band shortly thereafter and re-released the album in late July 1995. Driven by the singles "Lump," "Peaches," and "Kitty," their debut album proved to be a smash.
Critics praised PUSA's catchy, humorous, and self-deprecating songs, which were a major departure from the grunge/post-grunge sound. The album received Grammy nominations in 1996 and 1997. Though "Peaches" met the most critical success, the band credits "Lump" as their favorite single. The song's strange lyrics came from a dream that Ballew had while fighting pneumonia. The antibiotics he was taking caused an allergic reaction that produced several consecutive nights of wild and crazy dreams. The lyrics for "Peaches" were written about a crush Ballew used to have on a girl. According to him, she had a peach tree in the front of her yard, and when he finally summoned the courage to go talk to her, he stood under the tree and smashed peaches in his fist until he decided not to talk to her.
A follow-up album, II, received similar praise, but did not match the explosive commercial success that the Presidents' debut album had, though it was still certified "Gold" in the US.
Throughout 1995, 1996 and 1997, the band made worldwide tours to support their first two albums. In addition to relentless touring in the U.S. and Canada, PUSA made multiple tours of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. They also made many appearances in major print media and on radio and TV, including multiple appearances on Leno and Letterman in the U.S. A little-known fact is that the Presidents turned down an offer to perform on Saturday Night Live in the fall of 1995 because the date conflicted with Ballew's wedding.
PUSA broke up in January 1998 as Ballew quit to spend more time with his young family and explore other musical terrain. Pure Frosting, a final album composed of new songs, covers, and demos, was released in 1998. The CD also contained videos for "Lump," "Peaches," "Mach 5," and "Dune Buggy."
Pure Frosting featured two songs that had previously been used in a movie and as a television show theme. "Video Killed the Radio Star" was included on the soundtrack for The Wedding Singer, while "Cleveland Rocks" was chosen as the theme song for The Drew Carey Show. Another song on the album, "Man (Opposable Thumb)", appeared in the Nickelodeon-produced motion picture Good Burger but was not directly written or performed for the film.
PUSA also wrote the theme song for the 1998 TV movie My Date with the President's Daughter. They also performed a cover of the George of the Jungle theme song for the 1997 movie of the same name. This performance is not available on any of their albums.
Indefinite break (1998–2000)
Following the breakup, each band member devoted time to his own solo projects. Ballew was the most prolific of the three, releasing albums with The Giraffes and The Tycoons, two of his side projects. Dederer collaborated with former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan as The Gentlemen and in McKagan's perennial hard rock band, Loaded, including contributing to the album Dark Days. Dederer also played bass in the Seattle band Juke and produced songs for singer/songwriter Gerald Collier. Finn played drums for several bands, including The Nevada Bachelors, The Fastbacks and Love Battery, his original band.
The Presidents also collaborated with Sir Mix-A-Lot as Subset, a short-lived rock and hip-hop band. They had a brief tour and recorded several songs, but never released an album. The band broke up because Sir Mix-A-Lot wanted to take the band in a harder, more electronic direction, but Finn and Dederer were not interested.
Brief reformation (2000–2003)
The Presidents reunited in 2000 to release a new single, "Jupiter," on MUSICBLITZ Records. Because of the single's popularity, the label convinced the band to release a new album. Freaked Out & Small was released that year to critical praise. The band did not tour on or promote the album, which quietly sold 25,000 copies as MUSICBLITZ, an early digital music player, quickly went bankrupt.
Afterwards, the band members once again went their own ways. Ballew continued to produce and record his own work and collaborated with Tad Hutchison of The Young Fresh Fellows as The Chris and Tad Show. Also during this time, The Young Fresh Fellows recorded a song, "Good Times Rock 'N' Roll", about The Presidents, which appeared on the 2001 album Because We Hate You.
Full reformation (2004–present)
In 2004, the band once again reformed, releasing Love Everybody on their newly formed indie label PUSA Inc.. As with their previous albums, it received praise from many critics. Two singles from the album have been released through the Apple iTunes store. In late 2004, the rights to the debut album were returned to the band, who have since reissued the album through PUSA Inc. twice: once as a Ten Year Anniversary edition with extra tracks, and again in the spring of 2006 in a low-price edition.
Andrew McKeag, Seattle guitarist (formerly of Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver, Shuggie, The Black Panties and others), joined the band on guitbass in late 2004, as an occasional live-performance stand-in for Dave Dederer, who had expressed an interest in spending more time with his family. As of late 2007, however, Andrew has been touring full-time with the band for over two years, which has given rise to speculation in various music publications that he has replaced Dave for all practical purposes. Although such rumors have been repeatedly denied by the group and their management, the band's official website does prominently feature McKeag in many of its more prominent photo layouts.
In November 2007, it was announced that the band's next album would be entitled These Are the Good Times People, which was released on March 11, 2008. They did a live webcast celebrating the albums release from Easy Street records: http://app.synclive.com?show/17772
In December 2007 KEXP played the single "Bad Times."
On February 1, 2008, 107.7-The End (a Seattle radio station) played the first single from the Presidents' new album, title "Mixed Up S.O.B." The music video for the song was directed by "Weird Al" Yankovic.
Around 2006, Chris Ballew began collaborating with Seattle-based rapper Outtasite as The Feelings Hijackers. They have done local shows and have a few songs on their myspace page.
Despite their chosen name, The Presidents' music has remained largely apolitical, although the band did perform for President Bill Clinton at a 1994 Democratic Party fundraiser in Seattle. The band also supported John Kerry in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. On January 17, 2009, The Presidents released a single on the National Public Radio show Weekend America called "Moving In," detailing the journey of Barack Obama in celebration of his inauguration as president.
In 2009, Ballew is performing as Caspar Babypants family-friendly songs at King County libraries in Washington state to encourage and reinforce early literacy.
Ballew and Dederer/McKeag respectively play a basitar and guitbass, which are regular, six-string guitars with special modifications: Ballew's instrument has two bass strings (with which he plays bass parts), and Dederer/McKeag's instrument has three guitar strings (used to play guitar parts). The original idea came from Morphine frontman Mark Sandman, with whom Ballew had previously worked.
Guitars modified in this way use heavy-gauge strings for a heavier sound and are normally tuned in Drop D, though the Presidents play half a step lower in C#. For a basitar, the strings are placed in the D and A positions. Chris uses .60 gauge string tuned to C# and a .36 tuned to G# On a guitbass, the strings are placed in the A, D, and G positions. .54 gauge tuned to C#, .42 to G# and a .32 gauge tuned to C#.
- "Kitty" (1995, #13 U.S. Modern Rock)
- "Lump" (1995, #26 U.S., #15 UK, #1 U.S. Modern Rock, #7 U.S. Mainstream Rock)
- "Peaches" (1995, #29 U.S., #8 UK, #8 U.S. Modern Rock, #24 U.S. Mainstream Rock)
- "Dune Buggy" (1996, UK #15)
- "Mach 5" (1996, #29 UK, #11 U.S. Modern Rock, #24 U.S. Mainstream Rock)
- "Video Killed The Radio Star" (1998, #52 UK)
- "Some Postman" (2004, #31 U.S. Modern Rock)
Biography from Wikipedia