MxPx know a thing or a two about longevity and consistency. They’ve been a band for nearly two decades and have released seven full-length albums, a covers collection, four EPs, three compilations and one live album. What’s even more impressive than their prolific nature - or that they were given the key to their home city of Bremerton in 2006 - is the fact that they’ve maintained the same three members for almost the entire course of their pop punk existence. In 2009, the Washington state trio – bassist/lead vocalist Mike Herrera, guitarist Tom Wisniewski and drummer Yuri Ruley – have elected to create another covers album, the 1980s-centric On The Cover II, which comes nearly fifteen years after On The Cover. On The Cover II will be released via Tooth & Nail Records.
As to why the band chose to do another collection of MxPx renditions of favorite songs, Herrera sums it up efficiently, saying, "The fans kept chanting, 'One more covers album!'" Wisniewski concurs, admitting “Our fans have been asking us to do another cover record for almost a decade now. We've always put it on the backburner but we finally just decided that it'd be a fun thing to do.” And he’s right. On The Cover II, which was mostly recorded in Herrera's new Monkey Trench studios, buoys with the energy, fevered pacing and melodic sensibilities that MxPx have built their rock solid reputation upon since forming in 1992. While it was a fun record for the band to make, it’s even more fun for the fans. Herrera says, "We put them through this spaghetti type machine that has the punk head and MxPx written on it. When it comes out the other end, it's all ready to go!"
The album features renditions of the Dead Milkmen’s “Punk Rock Girl,” U2’s “I Will Follow,” Descendents’ “Suburban Home, The Ramones’ “My Brain is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg),” at which Ruley calls a “great song” that MxPx did a better version of “no disrespect to The Ramones!” The Go-Gos’ “Vacation,” The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” may be obvious choices for a punk rock band such as MxPx to cover, but the band is also paying homage to their influences. The album also features quirkier choices, such as Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” where Herrera harmonizes with Agent M (Tsunami Bomb/The Action Design) and Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America,” which features a bassline that was recorded in Australia. Additionally, their remaking of Poison’s “Fallen Angel” features a guest vocal from Chiodos’ Craig Owens, as well as the Descendents Stephen Egerton on the guitar solo. Other left of center covers include The Blue Hearts’ “Linda, Linda” and Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” featuring additional vocals, piano and keyboards from Bryce Avary of The Rock Summer and a guitar solo from Ethan Luck of Relient K -- all of which elevate the album’s status from fun to ambitious. If one thing is for sure, MxPx and On The Cover II bounce, making for a real treat on the ears.
Wisniewski offers some insight as to why the band chose the songs they did. “We covered ‘Punk Rock Girl’ because I have personally loved and wanted to cover this song for as long as I can remember,” he admits. “To me, ‘Punk Rock Girl’ is one of the best love songs ever written!” The band certainly does justice to the song and the spirit of what the Dead Milkmen were doing in their heyday. MxPx’s version is strong enough to revive the song in pop culture for a new generation, especially with the addition of Matt Hensley (Flogging Molly) on accordion. Wisniewski expands upon the choice to give U2’s “I Will Follow” an MxPx makeover, saying, “We all love U2. The hard part about covering a U2 song is that they're already pretty much perfect. That's why we added the little breakdown part in the bridge of this one. We wanted to put our own little stamp on a classic.” Again, the band is able to straddle the tightrope between being loyal to the original and adding MxPx flourishes to these songs to great success. Wisniewski continues, “We always try to add or augment parts of the song in an attempt to make them our own. A few good examples of this are the breakdown in ‘I Will Follow’ and the complete stripping down of the verses of ‘Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.’”
As for The Clash, Ruley called the choice a “‘no-brainer.’ Tom our guitar player sings this one, which is fitting because he’s our Mick Jones.” Wisniewski adds, “We have played this for years with me singing lead vocals and it was one of the first songs that we knew we had to put on our new cover record!”
Regarding the “not so standard” redos, Wisniewski admits that they wanted to throw in a few surprises and unexpected tunes, to help open up their fanbase to bands they may not have heard of prior. “I think the biggest surprise song on this record would be ‘Linda Linda’ by The Blue Hearts,” he admits.“They are one of the biggest Japanese punk bands ever and we wanted to do a little something special for our Japanese fans on the new cover record.” Herrera is in agreement. "I think the Queen song and the song in Japanese will be a 'surprise,' as will 'Heaven Is a Place on Earth' with Agent M on lead vocals!"
While making the music was a blast, Wisniewski claims the photo shoot was the most fun. MxPx donned 80s costumes, dressing up like Poison and trying to get The Go-Go’s photo “just right.” The band turned a normally banal process into something exciting. Herrera also claims that "the process and challenge of recording and producing someone else's songs was the best part for me."
Leave it to MxPx to turn everything they do into a lively event. The band wants the fans to enjoy this new batch of covers, but as Wisniewski says, “We will be back in the studio really soon to bang out a new record of MxPx songs!” They will also be self-releasing a live DVD called Triple Threat, which will feature three different live shows! Amen to that. Now, go pop in On the Covers II to wet your appetite for now.