Buck Stops Here

"Music is just one giant popularity contest," says Lisa Marr. "If you have any sort of lingering insecurities from high school, it can really hit you. If they don't like you, it's like you didn't get asked to the prom. But you can't just say, 'Fuck 'em' - as much as I hate 'the kids,' they're the ones who pay your way, so you've gotta make friends with those little bastards."

Los Angeles, please put your hands together for Buck. Formed early this year by vocalist-bassist Marr, drummer-vocalist Lisa G and guitarist-vocalist Pepper Berry, the trio has a fine dual flair for raucous melodies and acerbic, tongue-in-dimpled-cheek pronouncements like the one above. Buck also has a new, self-titled CD out on Long Beach's Sympathy for the Record Industry label; if you prefer your pop songs with buzzing guitars and more balls than Hollywood Star Lanes, you're gonna like it a lot.

Recorded during five hectic, sweat-drenched days in July, the 12 tracks on Buck do bear more than a passing sonic resemblance to Marr and Lisa G's former band, Cub. But while that Vancouver trio justifiably inspired a rabid if small cult following before its 1997 demise, Buck is clearly the work of a more evolved and multidimensional group. How can you beat a garage-y stomper called "Hex Me" that begins with the lines "She looks like a witch, but she tastes like chicken," or a tribute to the somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari ("Cesare Said") that's hooked around a chorus of "I feel nothing"? Throw in the cathartic rage of "Sucker," the countrified kiss-off "Dear John" and the sweetly sardonic "The Suicide Pact," and you've got one hell of a well-rounded listening experience.

"It's nice to evolve," says Marr. "Cub got to the point where it just seemed like we were repeating ourselves. A few of the songs on the record were actually going to be Cub songs, though; it was our last-ditch attempt before Cub broke up. It was, like, 'If this doesn't work, it's over' - as they say on Melrose Place."

With Cub now consigned to the past, there's hope that the band's "cuddlecore" tag will finally vanish as well. After a while, kilos of fan-sent Gummi Bears and reviews that primarily focus on your cuteness can get kinda old. "We're not that cute, actually," says Lisa G, laughing.

"People will just take a concept and run with it," adds Marr. "A child learns everything in the first three years - the media learns everything in the first six months. At first, we just said anything that came into our head, but it just comes back to bite you on the ass. Of course, it didn't help that Alternative Press ran a picture of me licking a big lollipop with my hair in a ponytail! Nobody seems to be pushing that anymore. But now that we're in L.A., I guess we have to worry about our image."

Having moved to town less than a year ago (Marr to move in with her husband, Ronnie Barnett of the Muffs; Lisa G just to get the hell away from Vancouver), the two Lisas are still coming to terms with L.A.'s car-oriented lifestyle and industry-centric music scene. "In Vancouver, it's a lot more casual," says Marr. "Nobody's really looking at you. Here, everybody's 'buzz buzz buzz, who's here, who's not here.' Also, it seems really hard to get paid here - a lot of clubs just expect you to play for free. And then, there are all these bands who never get out of town. It's like L.A.'s this weird little kingdom that you can't ever really break out of. For us, touring is really important. We always want to be on the road, if possible."

Berry, who counts Buck as his first real band (though he once did time in a Neil Diamond cover band in Arlington, Texas), thinks he can hack the rigors of the road. "After growing up in Texas," he says, "I can eat anything."

"His diet is built for tour," says Lisa G with obvious admiration. "He loves Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell - that's all he ever wants to eat." Marr isn't convinced. "I'm a little curious to see how Pepper holds up," she says. "He thinks he's invincible, but you get out there for a few weeks and get that Waffle House diarrhea . . ."

"I won't go to the Waffle House," Berry insists.

"You will, because sometimes it's going to be my pick, and it's going to be worth it to me to have diarrhea just to eat there." Marr grins and shakes her head. "Each time we tour, we start out saying, 'We're gonna exercise, we're gonna eat right!' And then it's like, 'Pull over - I need a corn dog now.' We always have high hopes, though."

High hopes and corn dogs? That's rock & roll, baby.

Buck is appearing at Spaceland on Mondays in October.

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