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Tossing it Around with Angry Salad
By Matthew S. Robinson
(more articles from this author)
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Formed in 1993 at Brown University, the road-tested quartet known (thanks to the legendary Freddie Mercury) as "Angry Salad" have been criss-crossing the nation's venues and airwaves with their high energy song-based song and dance shows.

Having gotten their big break at the WBRU Rock Break (where they beat out 200 other New England bands for top honors), the Salad is no longer green, but they still (en)dive right into every show and every song. Taking their cue(cumber)s from hard-touring local heroes like The Bosstones and ace axeman Billy Squire, the band work it every night and are getting their just desserts. Angry Salad's tireless devotion to their grass-rooted fans has garnered them legions of 'em, and as they continue along their tire-wearing ways, Angry Salad's salad days may yet be ahead.

I recently had a moment to catch frontman Bob Whelan at a rare down moment ("down" being relative) while bandmates Hale Puslifer (drums), Brian Vesco (bass) and Alex Grossi (guitar) played video games in the band's custom van. This is what we had to say:

[Matthew] So, Bob, tell me about how the tour is going.

Angry Salad Things are going really well. We had the luxury of getting to see what happens when you get a little radio love. You go to those places and you better know the words on your record or you're in trouble because these people have bought your records and they know 'em. Soon, we'll be opening for Vertical Horizon and then for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. We've learned that we have to be real flexible, but thus far we've had the wherewithal to handle whatever they throw at us.

[Matthew] How long have you been touring.

Angry Salad We toured for two years before we got signed to Blackbird/Atlantic. Speaking of the Bosstones, we built our thing like them with the philosophy that if you give it to the fans, they will come. After the album got released last May, we toured over 200 shows. We're noticing how each room grows each time we come back. We really admire bands who hit the road hard because if someone's going to part with $7 for a show, you better take it seriously. It also forces us to get better as a band and to make things interesting night in and night out.

[Matthew] Is it true you signed your deal with Blackbird/Atlantic with a six of local brew?

Angry Salad It was Sam Adams. It was a beautiful spring day and we went there with a six pack of Sam and our CD and when the call came, we thought it was a joke, but it was real. And it's funny because we knew this label was really big on touring bands. We'd done our research on them. They were also under the Atlantic umbrella, so that was nice to look at Timing is indeed everything but, no, it does not hurt to get an A&R person liquored up. When he read the story, Jim Koch [founder of Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams (as if you didn't know!)] sent us a case, so it was good to see that Boston has been helpful for us in many, many ways.

[Matthew] What about the TV theme you just landed?

Angry Salad That was kinda' neat! There are a lot of people at Warner Brothers who like us. Early on, they landed us on a TV show called "Odd Man Out" which I think lasted about a week. But now we're on a new show called "D.C" which is on against "The Simpsons" (which breaks my heart). It's sort of like a 20-something show abut living in Washington. I recently saw the pilot and it's pretty good (but I'll watch anything). It's even got that guy from "Saved By The Bell"- the one who played "Zack." The music director was a big fan and asked us to record this Bob Dylan song "My Back Pages." Busta Rhymes was in the next room and he kept coming in and reminding us how white we are, but we had a good time and it's an honor to do a Dylan song. There's nothing like TV exposure because somebody in Nome, Alaska can turn it on and get an idea of what we're doing and that might lead them to check out the website or even go to a store (chances are slim we'll be touring there soon, though).

[Matthew] How did you pick "99 Red Balloons/Luftbalon" as your cover

Angry Salad It was sort of a late night goof in the studio. We had always been fans of the song-It's sort of a guilty pleasure. We threw it down quickly. I had always wanted to string together the German I learned from "Hogan's Heroes" and The Volkswagen commercials. I even get to mention my friends in Division St. and members of Scorpions in the same song!

[Matthew] What was it like to work with Tom Lord-Alge?

Angry Salad He's like the wizard of Oz! He just takes the song one at a time, and works magic. Just to sit in the studio with him while he worked was amazing! We're still handing out towels, but it was fun to have a key to the executive washroom. I remember when we finished "99," he asked us if we played it live and said "get used to it. You're going to be playing this a lot."

[Matthew] You guys are also up for three Boston Music Awards and will, in fact, be playing at the ceremony. Are you looking forward to that (duh!)?

Angry Salad That'll be fun. We've always loved the idea of playing the Orpheum. We've seen shows there, but never played there. I've always thought it would be pretty rock and roll to get up there. And with Donna Summer and Godsmack and The Bosstones, it should be an interesting backstage buffet as well.

[Matthew] How do four guys from an Ivy League school end up in a rock band?

Angry Salad Three of us went to Brown, as did our tour manager. We started playing on weekends but after college, it got to the point where we had to turn down shows in order to keep our day jobs. And ultimately we realized it was our chance to play. It was a scary leap from health insurance to this vow of poverty and chastity that is being in a touring band, but when the moment of truth came, we went for it! Well, some of us did. Hale and I went on and picked up Brian and Alex. Duncan Sheik and Lisa Loeb went to Brown, so we thought we might make our way in the world.

[Matthew] What did your parents think?

Angry Salad We were lucky to have cool folks. The numbers were against us, but our folks were of the mind set that you get your degree and do what you want. So they were cool with it. The jobs we got after college were things like working as an administrative assistant at a psychiatric hospital and selling tickets with the circus, both of which led perfectly into the world of the major label record business. The key thing is to go with your passion.

[Matthew] What's the meaning of the penguin?

Angry Salad We liked that as an album cover.. We went through three different art directors to get that cover. We've always seen the band as running the gamut of human experience - from sense of humor to introspection to deep sadness - and there's all of that on the album. So we liked how those four penguins kind of matched the "Joshua Tree" cover except with more humor. There's something very human about penguins- They take themselves very seriously. It was also helpful that we got the rights to the photo. So now , in addition to bringing croutons, people bring little penguins to the shows.

[Matthew] What's next for you guys?

Angry Salad The next single is "99 Red Balloons," so we're working on that. We've been fortunate to have a number of stations who really stuck their necks out for us and gotten behind the band. So we just go out and tour and continue to go back to places where we get love and build and build. We just get in the van and go and go until the people at the record company tell us to stop and get back in the studio.

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