Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to show a feminine side at Punkspring

by Shawn Despres

Special To The Japan Times

Punk rock’s best-known cover band, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, will be previewing material from their upcoming “Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!” album at this weekend’s Punkspring festival.

Made up of players from the popular punk and rock groups NOFX, Foo Fighters, Swingin’ Utters and Lagwagon, the playful side project began in 1995 and issued its first full-length album, “Have a Ball,” in 1997.

Since then — or at least whenever the members can find time away from their full-time jobs — the quintet has toured the world performing their high-energy takes on classic rock, pop, show tunes, R&B and country chart-toppers. Many fuzzy memories have been created over the years, but guitarist Joey Cape clearly remembers an unexpected episode from a past Japan jaunt.

“One time in Osaka, (bassist) Fat Mike stole my shoes and socks and threw them into the audience,” Cape says. “I only had one pair of shoes with me, so I played the rest of the show barefoot. The stagehands gave me a small rug to stand on. I felt like a hippy. It was like I was Dave Mathews.”

They last played in Japan in 2011 in support of their all-Japanese covers EP, “Sing in Japanese.” Cape thinks Tokyo punks The Blue Hearts’ “Linda Linda” hit will surface in The Gimmies’ Punkspring sets — perhaps along with Kai Band’s “Hero,” as well.

Fans can also expect to hear cuts from “Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!” Coming out May 13, the album has them offering raucous versions of tracks by pop’s biggest divas, such as Cher and Celine Dion.

“There are so many great songs by female artists,” Cape says. “So a collection like this just seemed like a great idea. Also, (vocalist) Spike (Slawson) likes to crossdress.”

According to Cape, the members offered up song suggestions and the band tried out the different tracks during rehearsals.

“If they don’t sound good immediately we don’t cover them,” Cape says. “We rarely spend more than 10 minutes on a song. It is very easy and somewhat unprofessional.”

Of the new album’s dozen diva-inspired numbers, which is Cape’s favorite?

“I like our version of Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ the best,” he says. “It works well because it’s a very catchy melody. Also, Boy George is the most authentic diva of them all.”

Punkspring takes place at Makuhari Messe in Chiba on March 29 (12 p.m. start; ¥8,800); Kobe World Memorial Hall on March 30 (1 p.m. start; ¥7,800); and Zepp Nagoya on March 31 and April 1 (5 p.m. start; ¥6,500 for one day, ¥10,500 for two days). Participating bands differ depending on the city. For more information, visit www.punkspring.com