Interrogation: Jason Finn

by Megan Seling - March 12, 2008

So, you're in the Presidents of the United States of America.

Right. My popular, twice Grammy-nominated musical group.

Were you embarrassed by the name when Bush came into office?

That's an interesting way to ask that. I will say there was a certain jauntiness to the title when we started during the middle of the Clinton era that became this sort of somberness when the present guy got in. I dare say we wouldn't have chosen that name had we started in the Bush era.

So why haven't you played any presidential campaign events now that you're making your comeback during the biggest election in decades? You were asked to play an Obama fundraiser, no?

We were asked to play the previous Obama fundraiser at Showbox Sodo back in October. Frankly, I felt like it was a little early. I hadn't made up my mind. I like the guy, I'm in his camp now, but it was an eight-person field then, and, honestly, I wasn't ready. We were given 12 hours to decide.

But the end of this story is that for the recent event, the one at KeyArena, we actually called his people and said we could do it if they needed us. I think they were interested, but the production realities of adding a full band to a last-minute event like that were too much. We got what we deserved.

Your last four records have all been released in election years.

A journalist asked about that for the first time this morning! Wait a minute, the last four?


Oh my God! All this time I've only been thinking about the last two. But you're right, all four... that is incredible. I don't know if I want to admit to not having thought of that yet. Actually, no, I'll admit to it. I'm a jackass.

When I was in high school, I had a goldfish named Lump.

That's awesome. How old are you now?

I'm 27. I saw you guys play Bumbershoot with Sweet Water in 1995.

You were there to see Sweet Water, weren't you? And you accidentally saw us.

No, no. I knew the songs! I took my sister's copy of the first album. I'm the bratty little sister.

Chris has a theory about that, actually—about why there are so many young people at our shows, and not just here, but all over the world. His theory is that it's younger siblings stealing [the old record] from their older siblings.

I feel like our self-titled '95 record is sort of like the Violent Femmes' self-titled record—not as killer of course—but it's the record. That's my goal, to be thought of as the guys who maybe just have the record and then maybe some other records, too. The record kind of exists outside of time; it's this undated classic. I'm not saying our record is a classic, but it's more timeless than the Dishwalla record that came out in '95 or the Joan Osborne record or whatever.

So even now, it's still young people at your shows?

Yeah. People think that we're Dishwalla or Candlebox or something; we can't get them to come to the show where it's thousands of the same kids who are going to go to the next Death Cab show.

We show up somewhere—and it can be here, Europe, or wherever—and there are 1,000 people who are our fans, and there are 30,000 people who buy everything we put out there, and it's not because of Sony or some huge radio festival. These people have sought us out, and I think that's a nice thing.

We're just trying to keep it standing, in fits and starts. We're not really into being road dogs; we're too lazy. Although we actually worked quite a bit on Love Everybody—between February 2005 and 2006 we went to Europe seven times.

That's surprising, because we don't hear about it.

We don't do well in the print media. We never have.

The first year, while we were playing shows in Seattle, before the record, we became sort of organically this huge club draw—this is before your time. These crowds were really maniacally doing what we're talking about here—jumping and smiling and singing and stuff. But at the earlier shows, when the places were only two-thirds full, I remember looking out and seeing music-scene friends of mine with their arms folded like, "Jason, what are you doing with these clowns?"

And we're not even that funny! We're a rock band, we get up and play rock songs, a lot of them are about animals and frogs and stuff. Chris jumps around a lot. We do some dance moves, we do some sing-alongs... does that make us hilarious? I don't know.

I honestly don't care where people end up slotting us. The obstacle I find these days is that print media in particular just don't write anything at all. They don't even do the "I hate these guys" thing that they used to.

You'd rather we be mean? You want to be Jack Johnson?

Well, we know how to cope with that, because it's been a thing as long as we've been out there. We were thrust upon an unsuspecting world all at once in the summer of '95, and that upset a lot of people. But it's like... Creed is part of the problem. We're not part of the problem, but we get treated like it sometimes.

Because you were big in the "grunge" years?

Yeah, it's because we sold a bunch of records in the 1990s. And I apologize for that, and—my God—I would drive around and take all five million records back one by one, door to door...

If it meant you were a more legitimate band today, instead of...

Fuck no, I would not do that! [Laughs]


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