The world is a much different place today than it was when Touchpants released their seminal debut album Poopenis Poetry in 2006. From the recession to the Arab Spring and beyond, the reverberations from that seismic shift in comedy-rock can still be felt today. Yet while the world at large has certainly changed in many ways, so too has the band itself. 2012 saw the addition of bassist Aram Bedrosian, who joined original members Jon Fishman, Chris Friday and Colby Dix to form the current Touchpants lineup.
On several occasions during our interview, members of the band expressed their belief that Touchpants exists for no reason other than their own amusement. They reiterated the point that there is no grand purpose for their art. In the words of guitarist Colby Dix, “There’s little more to this than our own desperate need to express ourselves in a public forum in a way that we’re not allowed to at home.” Pay no attention to these modest claims (or feel free to do so), for they are the humble words of weary soldiers. Touchpants concerts are a rare occurrence—the band only convenes for their somewhat annual April 20 gig or the occasional Phish after show—but the value of the experience cannot be understated. Some may call them crass and others may call them juvenile, but historians will remember Touchpants as something else entirely.
Despite their aspirational contributions to art, philosophy and the philosophy of art, the men of Touchpants are not content to sit idly by as humanity once again finds itself peering over the precipice. The group recently returned to the studio to work on their first follow up to Poopenis Poetry, which is set to grace our earholes at some point in the near future. On top of that, they also announced a series of summer shows around a few of Phish’s upcoming tour dates. We caught up with Chris Friday, Colby Dix, Aram Bedrosian and a mysterious drummer by the name of Don Hellmann that may or may not be Phish/Pork Tornado drummer Jon Fishman (it’s Jon Fishman) to discuss the group’s forthcoming album, their clean water/economic development initiatives and so much more.
Let’s talk about the new album. What inspired you guys to put out a record now?
Colby Dix: Honestly, we put out an album—about ten years ago—of the poetry that we had written, and we’d been touring with a whole lot of songs, even at that point. But at this point, we’ve written so many more. We’ve got enough for probably two or three albums ready to go. So we felt like it was finally time to do it. We felt that about two years ago, when we first recorded these songs and then scrapped them all, mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to actually mix them. And now we’re finally at the point where we have a little bit of motivation and some time together—the right timing where things actually happened, where we get together for four days and hammer out the basics and recording of this and get it ready. But, you know, we’ve been ready to make an album for a long time. We just finally did.
Aram Bedrosian: You know, there are a lot of important issues facing the world, like the fact that most cats don’t like to go down on dudes. And we address that on the album.
Don Hellmann: Terrible, Aram, just terrible. Aram’s getting docked pay again.
Chris Friday: We pay him?
Can you guys talk a little about the recording process? Where have you guys been recording, what’s it been like?
DH: Wait, are we calling this album Straight Outta Cumpton, or did we change the title to I Came On Muhammad’s Neck?
CD: It’s going to be Straight Outta Cumpton.
DH: I wasn’t sure, because I don’t know what our interviewer’s working with.
CD: The working title is Straight Outta Cumpton. So yeah, we recorded both at Tank Recording Studio in Burlington a couple years ago, and more recently at The Barn, as was kind of posted on Facebook and beyond. Other than that, you know, we’re doing some work from home, we’re kind of mailing it in.
Will Tammy be making any guest appearances on the album?
CF: I think we should cut Aram out of the call. Tammy is not represented on the album, other than spiritually.
AB: I think you might want me here, Friday.
DH: Aram, I’m a little nervous about the beatings we’re gonna get later already. I feel like you and I have both said too much already. I’m a little afraid.
AB: I agree with you, Don. Because Friday’s gonna be really mad.
DH: Yeah, it’s a pretty tight ship.
CD: We understand your hesitation, guys, but we want you to feel like you can speak freely in this interview.
CF: This is Friday, and I think Don and Aram should shut the hell up.
AB: I just want to apologize…
DH: This is Friday, and this is really about the tender songwriting of Touchpants.
So Touchpants have played a lot of April 20 shows over the years. Why is it that you guys are so keen on celebrating Hitler’s birthday?
DH: This is Friday. The real, actual name of the band is Hitler’s Rainbow, and you’ve stumbled on to something there. We really didn’t know that anyone realized that, but you’re right on, yes. Hitler’s Rainbow.
CF: This is Don, and I am personally responsible for the entire genocide.
Which one are we talking here?
CF: All of them.
CD: Could we get back to the songs, please?
AB: This is terrible, and continue.
So obviously there’s a lot of problems facing our country today. Why does America need Touchpants?
CD: They don’t. Yeah, that’s pretty easy to answer. It’s certainly not based on necessity. Touchpants is necessary because there’s a hole in America that we need to fill. And that hole is hairy.
DH: This is Aram. America doesn’t need this, but Iran does. And so does Armenia.
AB: This is Don. I read a lot of books, and I agree.
CF: There’s no need for Touchpants. The only people that need Touchpants are Touchpants, and that’s about as true of a statement that you’re gonna get all day.
CD: That’s really true. There’s little more to this than our own desperate need to express ourselves in a public forum in a way that we’re not allowed to at home.
DH: This is Don, and god dammit I agree with that. I have to identify myself correctly, if there’s one thing that you take away from this interview. You actually got a serious statement out of us.
CD: That’s the only one.
DH: That’s it: America doesn’t need Touchpants, only the members of Touchpants need Touchpants. The rest may very well not.
CD: And they probably shouldn’t even be exposed to Touchpants, given an actual choice in the matter.
DH: That also is true.
CF: It’s like impending weather: just run in the other direction, if you’re lucky enough to be able to.
DH: Like if you hear a tornado’s coming to your town, you’re gonna go the other way. If you hear Touchpants is coming, you should probably go the other way too, even faster.
Speaking of tornados—this one’s for Jon—how are you able to balance both Touchpants and Pork Tornado? Do you find that difficult?
DH: Jon who? There’s only Don and Friday and Colby and Aram.
Okay—did you say Don?
CD: Don. Don Hellmann – heir to the Hellmann’s fortune…
Well, Don Hellmann, how do you think that the hypothetical drummer for both Touchpants and Pork Tornado would be able to balance those two projects?
CD: I’ll answer for Don. There’s not really like a whole lot of need to balance those two. It’s not like one truly offsets the other. That comparison doesn’t really compare to what you need to balance your life and to let Touchpants exist altogether. It doesn’t mean so much in terms of Pork Tornado or any other middle-of-the-road fucking cover band that’s playing right now. It’s more important to realize that Touchpants and the weight of that, in terms of that balancing, is much heavier than anything else that is necessary for us at this time. Like, it has to happen. No matter what you put on the other side of that scale. it’s not going to tip and unbalance what is the Touchpants.
DH: I’d like to remind you, as Colby has pointed out earlier, which I think is the truest statement of the day, that Touchpants is there for us to express ourselves publicly in ways that we are not allowed to at home. I think that pretty much sums it up—that’s it.
CD: So we’re pretty much done with the interview at this point.
CF: I’ll quote Don really quick: “Stick the fork in the pork.”
DH: I did say that. In all honesty, Pork Tornado is on hiatus, and Touchpants has taken the lead in my life.
CD: It was somewhere around eight years ago that we took over that priority.
DH: It’s been sort of sneaking up the whole time. It just kind of burst out, like a dick.
CF: It came and it burst.
DH: It’s an undeniable cystic growth that can no longer be ignored.
CD: This is like asking John Mayer about Jennifer Aniston, man—that’s just some old news, you know? You gotta move on.
DH: I think that’s the quote to use, actually. That’s like asking Brad Pitt about Jennifer Aniston.
CD: I know, Jennifer Aniston hasn’t put out a good movie since Leprechaun.
DH: Did the leprechaun eat her face in that movie?