At its peak in the mid-'90s, indie/alternative act Sons of Elvis appeared to be the next big thing. The New York/Cleveland band signed to a label and gained some traction, making an appearance on the nationally televised Jon Stewart Show. It also toured with big-name acts such as Bush and Alanis Morissette. After a 15-year hiatus, the group has decided to reunite for what it's calling its "last show ever." We caught up with bassist Dave Hill, guitarist Tim Parnin and drummer Pat Casa and asked them to reflect on the band's history. I've read that there was a bidding war to initially sign the band. Can you recall some of the best perks of having labels fighting to sign the group?
Hill: "War" might be a stretch as I remember it, but we got interest from a few labels. We were never offered all the drugs and hookers we had read about, though. I think we got taken out for spaghetti once, though, so that was nice. Nothing tastes better than free spaghetti.
Parnin: A few times, we had an A&R guy take us out for tapas. We originally put the album out on a very small New York label called American Empire. It was early '90s, right before the grunge rock nuclear bomb went off. We were playing New York all the time. Priority Records, which was a big rap label and a big distribution label, distributed the album and wanted to get into rock music. So we had the A&R guys taking us out to eat and all this other crap. They would say they would take us to party with models. We were in college, so you could have told us we were going to the moon, and we would have believed you.
Casa: The bidding war is still going on. It's been going on for the last 15 years.
You put out an album on Priority Records, which was best known as a hip-hop label. Who was your favorite rapper on the label?
Hill: Ice Cube was the only rapper on the label at the time that I really listened to at all. We did meet Da Lench Mob, who were part of Ice Cube's "crew" or however you say that, one day at the Priority offices in L.A. I think we might have been more excited about it than they were, as it felt like it gave us street credibility for the day or something. Our A&R guy knew Ice Cube and Eazy-E, so we'd hit him up for whatever stories he might have since we were all big N.W.A. fans.
Parnin: We asked Ice Cube to be in our video, but that was when Public Enemy had a song about how Elvis wasn't their hero. Ice Cube was ready to do the video, but he heard the name Sons of Elvis, and he wanted to keep his brand intact, so he wouldn't be in the video.
Casa: I listened to a lot of that stuff. The cool thing was that Priority started to release older stuff by Parliament/Funkadelic and the old Barry White. That was the cool part, when you get to raid their record closet.
You appeared on the Jon Stewart Show in 1995. Talk about your interaction with Stewart.
Hill: That was super-fun and exciting. Van Halen (well, Van Hagar) were going to be guests the next day, so we felt pretty special. The other guests on the show that night were Sam Elliott, the cast of Stomp! and a young actress whose name I can't remember. They gave us a dressing room full of sandwiches and candy, and it felt like anything in life was possible for a moment. I had met Jon a couple years before at a bar in the East Village, so before the taping, I walked into his dressing room and told him how that happened. I'd like to think it was pretty great for both of us. Even so, I haven't seen him since. Call me, Jon. It's time.
Parnin: Our singer John [Borland] used to bartend at Coyote Ugly, and we saw Jon Stewart there before we were on the show. He was a regular at the bar. We said we knew him already before the show. He was a little guy in a leather jacket.
Casa: I didn't talk to him much. He was in his area and we were in ours. You get two songs and that's it, so it was over pretty quick.
You played with acts such as Bush, Matthew Sweet, Alanis Morissette and Slash, among others. Who did you like best? Why?
Hill: Slash was the biggest thrill, of course, what with him being Slash and all. We had just gotten back to Cleveland after playing on the Jon Stewart Show in New York. Tad was on tour with Slash, and I had planned to go to the show anyway. Sometime that day, one of the guys in Tad got sick and [local promoter] Michael Belkin called to see if we wanted to fill in and open for Slash that night. Slash was super nice, and I was especially impressed with the fact that he bothered to introduce himself by saying "Hi, I'm Slash," even though he is Slash and we already knew that. Gilby Clarke was playing guitar with Slash that night and after the show, he offered to let me make as many sandwiches as I wanted from their backstage deli tray. As you can probably imagine, it was a magical, magical moment. I always felt like we were more of a rock band than an "alternative rock" band, so playing with Slash made more sense to me than most of the other bills.
Parnin: I wasn't really a fan of Bush's music but they were so nice and so cool, it was hard to dislike them. We were in Phoenix staying at the Red Roof Inn, and we were having a hotel party. It was us jackasses. They showed up and were so nice. You get the sense that their publicist said, "Everyone hates your music, so you gotta be nice." They were hanging out with us, having fun.
Casa: Back then, we were playing anything with a "palooza" on the end of it. There were a million "paloozas." The funnest time was when we did the original Endfest at the Geauga County Fairground. Candlebox and L7 played. It was packed. That was one of my favorites.
How the hell did Dave Hill become a comedian?
Hill: I have no idea, really. I never planned on it. I always enjoyed talking onstage in between songs when playing with bands. One day I realized I could do that without having to carry any equipment after the show, so that helped. But basically I ended up back in New York in 2003 after getting an offer to write on a TV show. There are tons of live comedy shows going on all over town, so one day a friend of mine asked if I wanted to do a spot on his show. I tried it and no one pelted me with anything, so I just kept doing it. It just kind of grew from there and — not wanting to get a "real" job or anything — I just went with it. Now I am a gigantic millionaire.
Parnin: People ask me what I think of Dave's book. I wish I didn't know him because I could give a better perspective. That's just Dave being Dave. Dave is Dave. He's always been a pisser. Sitting in the basement growing up, he would crack us up. In [the indie pop band] Uptown Sinclair, he'd tell jokes and people would be into that. I saw a stand-up show in New York recently that was so funny.
Casa: I remember the first time I met him in grade school, and he was running around the house and Prince was big at the time, so he was doing the moves. It was over and over again, and we would laugh. Now he's harnessed it and made a career out of it. In the end, he's one of the most creative guys.
Any plans to reunite again in another 15 years?
Hill: Yes. In fact, I was just working on the flier.