I first saw Van Housecoats last April Fool's Day at Dream Street. It was a comedy night, and I wanted to see the Dateless Losers and ChrisChrisChris. There was a bevy of drunk stand-up comedians onstage, rotating short stints of vitriol -- yelling, cursing, racial slurs. It wasn't funny.
Standing outside were three guys with Mohawks, wearing bathrobes -- or housecoats, as they say in the vernacular. They were smoking cigarettes and seemed ready to stomp on faces with their laced-up boots.
"What's with the punk band?" I asked one of my friends. "I don't know, but they scare me," he said.
When this group set the stage up like a living room, with a skeleton sitting in an easy chair looking at a TV, I knew it was all an act. They also had an MC in a tuxedo and a wide-brimmed hat with a big feather on it; he was at the bar every half hour for a refill.
"Kevena is our master of ceremonies; he's got a good P.A. voice," says bass player Van Ben, "plus, when he gets loaded, you never know what you're going to get." Between songs Kevena did his imitation of Bob Barker, giving out prizes like push-up bras to women in the audience.
"We want to make our shows different," says Van Ben. "We do different game show themes to interact with the crowd -- it's all about the crowd. The prizes are just bonuses...plus, who doesn't like game shows?"
Van Greg plays guitar; Van Peter is on drums.
TRICKIEST PROBLEM PLAYING LIVE?
Van Ben "Trying not to laugh."
Van Peter "Remembering how to play the songs after too many shots."
Van Ben "I got my bass from a friend for 120 bucks, plus the promise if I ever got big I would sign it and give it back to him -- to me, I just like noise, so I'll play anything."
Van Greg "An Epiphone Les Paul wannabe. Wish I could have a Gibson, but someone's going to have to pay us for me to get that."
Van Ben "Slamming my brother's nuts in a gate when we were kids running around outside naked. Boy, I still get shit from that all the time, especially from his son -- at least they still worked!"
Van Peter "Pissing in my closet when I was four or five. I was sleepwalking, and my mom woke me up screaming because I was making a real mess."
WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
Van Ben "Tool's Opiate. The best CD ever created by man; recommended for all. "
Van Peter "Modest Mouse, the Pixies, and Kidz Bop."
Van Greg "Van Housecoats."
THOUGHTS ON GIGS?
Van Ben "The bathrooms -- everywhere we play I got to take a shit before, and dang, they are godawful."
Van Peter "We've had some pretty bad gigs, but our best gig was the April Fool's Day at Dream Street. There were some great bands that played before us, and it was the first time we did the Price Is Right theme and gave out prizes. It turned out to be way more fun than I thought it would be."
Van Greg "My preference are the spinners -- while trawling, you give a much brighter light show for the fish, which grabs their attention and...what? Oh, gigs. I thought you meant, like, fishing gigs."
FAVORITE CHARACTER ON GILLIGAN'S ISLAND?
Van Ben "I would say Mary Ann. She looks all wholesome and homely, but if you got her in the sack I bet she would go Wonder Woman!"
Van Greg "Mrs. Howell -- Lovey. Older women are so much more giving and experienced. Plus, she's rich!"
Van Peter "Ginger, because I always wanted to lick her mole."
FAVORITE PLACE TO HANG OUT?
Van Greg "My house. I've got everything I need there: TV, Xbox 360, my band room, beer -- why leave?"
Van Peter "The beach on Sundays -- for Wiffleball."