Perfect Sound Forever


Photo by Peter Wochniak

Interview by Josh Medsker
(August 2012)

Paul Crowe is mild-mannered developmental psychologist by day... but, by night, he becomes... Crusty Booger! Crusty, along with his band-mates Greenie (Dave Leffel) and Sticky (Rich Reichert) make up The Boogers, a Ramones-influenced punk band from Chicago. Think of them as the anti-Barney. 1-2-3-4!

PSF: Tell me about the road to Booger-dom. What was the impetus for starting a kids band? You played in a bunch of Chicago bands before, right? What were they called?

PC: I played in a bunch of Chicago punk bands that never really amounted to anything. I was in a hardcore band called Pinheads, and we got some write-ups in Punk Planet, etc. I was in Misery Index, the Infamous. I decided to create the band shortly after my first son was born. I'm a huge fan of punk, especially old-school stuff like the Ramones & the DK's, but I knew that a lot of it wouldn't be appropriate for my kids until they were older. I started a search for "cool" kids music, found some stuff that wasn't as bad as Barney (e.g., Justin Roberts)... but could never find anything that even remotely came close to the harder music that my wife and I enjoy. The kids bands that claimed they "rocked" were all very lame. The initial songs & recordings were just for me and my family. Friends with kids heard it and kept requesting stuff, so I figured I should do an album and then it went from there. Today, we do about 30-40 shows a year and are just finishing up our third album.

PSF: How did you get to play with Dee Dee and Marky (Ramone)? Do you have any pictures of that?

PC: Unfortunately, no pictures... but I still have the fuzzy memories. We got to play with them just by dumb luck and by being a punk band in the early '90's when almost everyone in Chicago thought punk was dead. My band got to play with Dee Dee back in his Chinese Dragons day at a club called the Avalon in Chicago. I think it eventually turned into a tanning salon. Dee Dee was not at his best in those days, but it was still amazing to get to meet him and to play on the same bill. We played with Marky when he was doing Marky Ramone and the Intruders. That was at a place called the Dome Room which was part of a disco called Excalibur.

PSF: So you are a developmental psychologist, huh? Interesting! Do you go with Piaget's model of child development of adults providing tools for learning and then hands off? Or Vygotsky's interventionist approach? And going along with that... have you ever considered opening up your own "School of Rock"? (did you like that movie- as a teacher, I loved it).

PC: That’s pretty hilarious. You are the first (and only) interviewer who has mentioned either of them. I mean, Piaget is pretty famous, but Vygotsky is fairly esoteric unless you are in the field. You clearly are a teacher . And for that, I thank you. Noblest profession in the world, IMO.

So to answer your question, yep, I’ve got a PhD in Developemental Psychology. A lot of Piaget’s stuff has been discredited, but there are still some very important things in his stuff. What I love with Vygotsky is the emphasis that the broader society and culture has as much (or more) of a role in raising our youth. In this regard, I’m not dogmatic in any way... you need to see the kid and understand what will work best for them.

I’ve never considered opening a ‘School of Rock’ – someone was already doing that before the movie came it and I think it is great, especially the performance piece. Although, I think it could be improved by having kids write their own songs rather than covers. My “School of Rock" for kids are our shows and albums. You see, with these kids, many for whom it is there first rock show ever, they are inspired. We’ve only been around since ’08, but that’s long enough to see some of our young fans picking up and learning instruments– I can’t tell you how cool that feels to help bring something like that into someone’s life. Actually, as a teacher, you probably already know that feeling... it’s a great one, isn’t it?

PSF: I really like what you said about tones and sound being the building blocks of language. I remember about 10+ years ago, I was playing "Rumble" by Link Wray on the stereo, visiting my niece who was about 5 at the time... She spontaneously started dancing. It was like a hully-gully, or a shrug. Hahahaha! She loved it. And the whole "call and response" idea you mentioned? A genius way to teach kids patterns and speech! You did that beautifully in your song "Hey!"

PC: Thanks! In many regards, music really is a pre-language. It’s funny how many “kids musicians" forget that they are writing music for primarily kids. It’s not enough to pick a topic that kids care about like “Snow Day" or “I Lost My Tooth"... the music needs to appeal to them as well. And that means shorter songs, stronger rhythms, etc. A four-year-old doesn’t want to hear a 6-minute song and could care less about a guitar solo.

PSF: What are Sticky and Greenie's day jobs?

PC: Sticky is a carpenter. It has helped to build his forearms and wrists into the Popeye monsters they are, allowing him to hit eighth notes on the high hat at +180bpm. Greenie works in post-production audio and does a lot of voice-over work. All three of us are dads.

PSF: How did you get John Holmstrom to do the cover of "Let's Go!"?

PC: I got introduced to John via the great Jay Lynch, who did our first cover. Jay has been a fan of the band since almost day one. We made his poem “Um Tut Sut" into a song on the first album and adopted his children’s book Otto’s Orange Day into a song on our second album. John probably would not have anything to do with us, but he is a huge fan of Jay’s (which everyone should be), so Jay is really the reason that John agreed to do the album. He was a pleasure to work with.

PSF: What's on deck for the next record?

PC: We are going to take punk rock for kids to the next level – heavier music, with more from the perspective of the child. Most of the songs have been written and we’re in the middle of recording now. My current favorite is “Boogers on the Wall" which is about this kid who has a booger wall. He fantasizes that he is rescuing aliens from his nose and putting them in a safe place on his bedroom wall. Once his Mom discovers and freaks out about it, he tells her to buy a picture frame and not to worry. Instead of being a spaceman who rescues aliens, he is going to become an artist instead. This is based on a true story.

Get more Boogers at their Meet the Boogers site

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