Joel Reader / The Plus Ones - SF Bay Area's punk fun-boys
941 Gilman Street Club - Berkeley, CA - September 1999
 
When at the 941 Gilman Street Club in Berkeley, California to see the Tilt, we happened to catch the opening band, the Plus Ones. The Plus Ones are an amusing trio of young musicians with the same fire, spirit and humor of bands from the mid-60s and early 70s. The band is reminiscent of such catchy pop groups as the Monkess ("Stepping Stone", "Last Train To Clarksville") and Herman's Hermits ("I'm Henry The IIIX", "You've Got A Lovely Daughter Mrs. Brown", "Something Good") who, while pop in style, captured an early glimpse of punk attitude and raw energy. The Plus Ones (oft spelled out as "+1") are a relatively new band who show a great hope of becoming something big once their name gets out. Their funny stage antics and banter led to us feeling that we needed to interview them and share a bit of wisdom Plus One. When meeting with singer Joel, one doesn't know what to expect when he lets loose with the wisdom of a sage and dry humor of a seasoned performer. Here we have our insightful, if subtely tongue-in-cheek conversation in which we discuss old pop groups, Teletubbies number one hit song, Hitler's unknown Saturday morning children's show, and yes, even some information about the Plus Ones themselves.

K2K: We're talking with Joel of the Plus Ones.
JR: Whoo! That's correct.

K2K: Is the name of the band the Whoo! Plus Ones or just The Plus Ones?
JR: The abbreviated name is just the Plus Ones, but if you really want to get the effect you might want to do a little "whoop!" at the end.

K2K: How long has the band been together and where are you from?
JR: Six months. We're from right here, Berkeley, California.

K2K: Why do I ask? Isn't everybody?
JR: A lot of people are. The funny thing is though, that a lot of bands like mine claim to be from Berkeley, but none of us actually live in the city of Berkeley. My two band members are both from Oakland and I live in El Cerrito. I guess you could say that we have a spiritual connection to the city of Berkeley.

K2K: How would you describe your music? Before I tell you how I describe your music.
JR: Alright. That's fair enough. I would describe it as power-pop.

K2K: Who would you compare it to?
JR: You kind of get into kind of a sticky-wick by doing that because I'm going to list off the bands that I wish we sounded like, but it doesn't necessarily mean that we do. If I had my way, ideally, I would say that we sound like the Kinks, the Buzzcocks and the Cars.

K2K: I would say, happy punk/pop. You sound like the live album [from the 1960s in Seattle] of only the four original Monkees, meets Herman's Hermits.
JR: Oh, really? Herman's Hermits are another old favorite of mine.

K2K: How old are you guys? I didn't think that you would know them.
JR: I'm 22 years old. I think that more and more these days, the actual generation that you come from has less and less to do with your cultural touchstone and what records happen to be lying around your house and what radio stations you have got on your car stereo.

K2K: Well you guys have a nice melded sound. It's nice that you guys are able to pull it off as a three-piece.
JR: It's a lot easier to be in a three-piece than any other kind of band. It's the minimum number of elements that you need and it means that you have to deal less with prickly personalities and egos and stuff like that. The three of us get along really well so we figure, why mess with a successful formula. That means that everybody has to take on as many duties as possible, which is why all three of us sing. To get a full sound, it's kind of tricky, but if you can pull it off, it's a pretty impressive accomplishment.

K2K: Would you ever consider adding more to your band?
JR: Yeah, I wouldn't turn anything down. I would especially like to have a troop of dancing women and maybe black back-up singers.

K2K: Men or women?
JR: It doesn't really matter as long their skirts are short. And 101 strings, like us and the Boston Pops. If it's within the pantheon of pop music, I want to do it.

K2K: Wow. High aspirations. What about something simple like another guitar or keyboard?
JR: You never know. Some of the places that we play are really small right now and we have trouble fitting the three of us onstage as it is. Our van isn't all that swanky and we enjoy the extra room. And, when you split $100. three ways, it goes a lot further than four or five ways. There's other considerations to be made other than artistic ones, but I wouldn't rule it out at some point in the future.

K2K: So actually, what you're saying is that you are a minimum-sized band based on the club sizes that you play and the more popular you become, then you can add the strings and the other guitar and all that.
JR: Yeah, as soon as we're at the top of the pops.

K2K: Top Of The Pops. Yeah, like in England [now referencing the British TV music show], again with high aspirations.
JR: Yeah, I'd love to be on that show. The last time I was in England, the Teletubbies had the number one song on the Top Of The Pops. So, if they can make it, so can we. I think that we're just as cute as the Teletubbies.

K2K: Teletubbies? Top song? That's pathetic. Does that make you as sad as it makes me feel?
JR: I felt more disturbed than anything else.

K2K: Do you think that they're actually a sign of Satan?
JR: I doubt it. I think that they are a sign of really ingenious marketing.

K2K: What about Barney?
JR: (thinks) That's a touch of evil.

K2K: So, Barney is evil and the Teletubbies are cute?
JR: Teletubbies are forgivable.

K2K: And you hope to attain the status that they have attained at the Top Of The Pops.
JR: Oh yeah, I think if I could make it as far as the Teletubbies did, then I would die a happy man.

K2K: Do you hope to have your own children's TV show at some point?
JR: Umm, you know, nothing short of complete and utter world domination by the Plus Ones is my final goal. So, you know, I think that a children's television show is a big part of that, of world domination. Hitler proved that. Little known fact - He was a very popular Saturday morning personality in Germany.

K2K: Really? What was the name of that?
JR: Umm.... "Wake up! With Hitler!"

K2K: How long do you guys plan to continue and what day and year do you plan to quit and break up?
JR: Well, I'm having so much fun right now that I'd have to say that we could do this for as long as people will let us. But that's always a question mark. You can only play in a rock band for so long as you can convince people to suspend in disbelief. Really it takes a lot of audacity to get up on a stage and say, "I'm interesting enough that I can entertain you for half an hour plus you have to pay me for the privilege of doing it." There's a certain attitude in order to pull that off convincingly. I think that as long as we have the wool pulled over the people's eyes and they believe that we pass for real entertainers, we'll keep doing it. We'll keep sticking it to them as long as we can.

K2K: What's the biggest place you've played so far? How many people?
JR: This is pretty big [941 Gilman Street]. It holds about 500 and there's about 400 here.

K2K: There's a lot of short people here too.
JR: A lot of small kids. They don't take up very much room. You can pack them in. You want to get the small children. We've played a couple of times here at Gilman Street. I like to think of it as sort of a home base for us. It's really nice that it exists. They are very young here though. That's good though because those are the ones with "disposable income". Their parents drop them off and that's more money for a Plus Ones t-shirt or whatnot. Then we sell enough Plus Ones t-shirts that our mothers can finally get those operations they've always wanted.

K2K: What do you guys hope to do in the next six months?
JR: Right now we've given a little bit of thought to what our future holds and I think the next step is to make a recording. We haven't gone as far as to figure out with whom we would like to make said record.

K2K: What about Bob Rock [of Metallica and Mötley Crüe fame]?
JR: Bob Rock? He sort of fell out of favor with me after [Metallica's] "Reload." There are many people who I would love to work with and he is not at the top. Ric Ocasek is more at the top of my wish list than Bob Rock. I was thinking more along the lines of what record company we're going to scam into letting us put out a Plus Ones record. Once we figure that out, I would like to think that within the next six months, we could be recording it.

K2K: Do you have any demos available?
JR: Not available. We did record one as the purpose of a calling card. We're not going to sell those at the shows. I just didn't like the idea of the first thing that people hear from us is less than 100% perfect. You know? A lot of people ask for it, so I'm hoping that that's building up some sort of interest in it as opposed to making them less and less likely to remember us as time goes by.

K2K: What about self-releasing?
JR: I prefer to let someone else do the work. Putting out a record, there's a lot of dirty work involved and I'm really lazy. That's why I joined a band in the first place. I couldn't think of anything else to do. It's not such a great living, you work really hard for not always that much reward. If I could do something more lucrative, I would, but I'm stuck doing this.

K2K: What do you guys do for day jobs?
JR: Two of us have none. One of us makes t-shirts at Cinder Block [the t-shirt company, not Tilt's lead vocalist]. I'm the laze-about.

K2K: Who is who in the band?
JR: My name is Joel Reader. I play bass and I sing. I write the songs too. Our guitarist, the cute one, Scotty Hey. Our drummer is the one and only Dan Panic. He's a very good-natured panic.

K2K: Anything else that you want to tell us about the band?
JR: Um, no, thanks for your interest, I guess. My only request is to try to remember the name of the band for a while because we're going places, so that you can say that you knew us "way back when." I hope that I don't live to eat those words.

And so, Tilt was about to go onstage as we parted ways. Keep your eyes and ears out for a very upbeat start-up band from the punk breeding grounds of Berkeley, CA.
 
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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