Screeching Weasel is an American punk rock band originally from the Chicago suburb of Prospect Heights, Illinois. The band was formed in 1986 by Ben Weasel and John Jughead. Since their formation, Screeching Weasel have broken up and reformed numerous times with numerous line-up changes. Ben Weasel has been the only constant member, though Jughead was present in every incarnation of the band until 2009. Other prominent members include guitarist/bassist Dan Vapid and drummer Dan Panic, who have each appeared on six of the band's studio albums, and Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt who was briefly a member of the band.
Screeching Weasel recorded 13 studio albums, splitting time between a number of famous independent record labels such as Lookout! Records and Fat Wreck Chords. Despite never achieving mainstream success, a number of largely popular acts cite them as influential.
Early years (1986-1989):
The band originally called themselves All Night Garage Sale but changed their name to Screeching Weasel, a variation of a name a friend had suggested, Screaming Otter, which was a reference to a T-shirt that read, "I'VE GOT A SCREAMING OTTER IN MY PANTS!". Shortly after their formation, Weasel decided that it was too difficult to play bass and sing at the same time, so Vince Vogel, who took the stage name "Vinnie Bovine" joined as the band's bassist. The band recorded their debut album, Screeching Weasel, in one night for $200 and released it on Chicago label Underdog Records in 1987.
In 1988, Bovine was fired from the band and was replaced with Warren Fischer, better known as Fish, and former member of the band Ozzfish. The band recorded their second studio album, Boogadaboogadaboogada!, which featured Weasel playing second guitar (he would later state that he only played on about a quarter of the songs) and made a name for themselves by opening a show for Operation Ivy at 924 Gilman Street. Steve Cheese was fired from the band shortly after the recording due to his unwillingness to tour outside of Chicago. He was replaced by Aaron Cometbus for two shows who then was replaced by Brian Vermin. Boogadaboogadaboogada! was released in late 1988 on Roadkill Records, a label formed by investor David Best and managed by Ben Weasel following an introduction of the two by producer Mass Giorgini.
After what Weasel described as a "disastrous" tour, Fish left the group and was replaced by Dan Schafer, originally nicknamed "Sewercap" and later renamed Danny Vapid. The new band members recorded an extended play entitled Punkhouse for Limited Potential Records soon after that. The band ended up recording four more songs in 1989 that were featured on compilations, featuring a second guitarist Doug Ward, who also joined the band for several live performances. Screeching Weasel disbanded when Vermin and Vapid stated that they wanted to leave the band to concentrate on their side project, Sludgeworth.
First reformation (1991-1994):
After the break-up, Weasel and Jughead formed a new band called The Gore Gore Girls, and Ben briefly performed in the original incarnation of The Vindictives. In 1991, the members of Screeching Weasel reunited for what was intended as a one-off gig to pay off debts the band incurred from the recording of Boogadaboogadaboogada!. The line-up consisted of Ben, Jughead, Vapid, Vermin, and Ward. After the show, Vapid discussed the idea of reforming Screeching Weasel with Jughead. All of the band's members agreed to reform, with the exceptions of Brian Vermin and Douglas Ward. To replace Vermin, drummer Dan Panic (Dan Sullivan) was brought in. Before recording their third studio album, My Brain Hurts (1991) for Lookout! Records, Weasel decided that he wanted to focus on singing and would no longer be playing guitar in the band. Vapid switched instruments from bass to guitar, and former Gore Gore Girls bassist Dave Naked joined the band. The recording sessions for the album also produced the extended play Pervo Devo.
After recording My Brain Hurts, Dave Naked was fired from the band and Scott "Gub" Conway, Panic's former bandmate, was brought in as the band's bassist to tour. After the tour, Johnny Personality of The Vindictives became the band's bassist, as Gub was committed to another band. By late 1992, the band had recorded the follow-up to My Brain Hurts, Wiggle, which also marked their first collaboration with producer Mass Giorgini, who went on to produce the vast majority of the Screeching Weasel catalog, and also became the bassist of the band from 1998 to 2004. Personality then left the band to focus on The Vindictives. Instead of adding a new member, Weasel moved back to guitar, and Vapid moved back to bass.
The band was then asked to record a cover of an entire Ramones album, Ramones (1992), followed later that year by Anthem for a New Tomorrow. Shortly after the record's release, Weasel decided that he no longer wanted to perform live, and Vapid left after falling out with the rest of the band. Screeching Weasel enlisted the help of Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt to record what they intended to be their final studio album. After the release of How to Make Enemies and Irritate People (1994), the band broke up for the second time.
Second reformation (1996-2001):
Following the second breakup, Weasel, Vapid, and Panic formed the band the Riverdales and experienced some notoriety touring with Green Day. By 1996, they rejoined with Jughead and recorded a new Screeching Weasel album Bark Like a Dog for Fat Mike's Fat Wreck Chords label. The album peaked at number 34 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, making it their highest-charting album. However, both Vapid and Panic left by mutual decision after the recording, and Weasel and Jughead decided to go on without them, adding bassist Mass Giorgini (who had served as the band's producer in the past) and drummer Dan Lumley, both from Squirtgun. Weasel also decided for the second time that he no longer wanted to play guitar, so guitarist Zac Damon was added.
In 1998, the group's new line-up recorded the Major Label Debut EP; the first release on Panic Button Records, a label Ben and John had formed that year and quickly followed it with Television City Dream. Their next release, 1999's Emo, featured the same line-up minus Zac Damon, who was unable to record due to school commitments at the time. In 2000 the band brought in Phillip Hill as a second guitarist and recorded what was intended to be their final album, Teen Punks in Heat. After the album, Screeching Weasel made their first live appearances since 1993, playing 30 minute matinees at Chicago's House of Blues. The band broke up for the third--and allegedly final--time on July 6, 2001, due to Jughead's frustration of a lack of touring.
Hiatus and brief third reformation:
After the third breakup, Jughead started a new band called Even in Blackouts, while Weasel released a solo album titled Fidatevi, and new Riverdales album, Phase Three.
Both Weasel and Jughead authored books seemingly related to Screeching Weasel. In 2001, Ben Weasel published Like Hell, the account of a fictional punk band called Pagan Icons and the life of their frontman, Joe Pagan. Jughead released Weasels in a Box, his admittedly fictionalized account of Screeching Weasel's history. Both books were published by Hope And Nonthings, a publishing house run by Jughead. Jughead also continued his membership with the Neo-Futurists, a theater group he has written and performed with since 1997, appearing in a show called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
In 2004, Ben reclaimed all of the Screeching Weasel masters from Lookout! Records in the wake of long-running financial and personal conflicts. The masters were subsequently licensed to and reissued by Asian Man Records. That same year a line-up consisting of Ben Weasel, Jughead, and multi-year Screeching Weasel veterans Dan Vapid, Mass Giorgini, and Dan Lumley came together to play surprise sets at the Chicago club The Fireside Bowl. According to Ben Weasel, there was an intention to tour that year, but "the offers just weren't there".
Ben released a second solo album, These Ones Are Bitter, in 2007, and gave his first solo live performance at that year's Insubordination Fest in Baltimore. During his set, backed up by The Guts, he was joined on stage by Dan Vapid for several Screeching Weasel and Riverdales songs. Ben Weasel and Dan Vapid also played two shows in August 2008 at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago, playing the entirety of My Brain Hurts as well as other songs by Screeching Weasel, The Riverdales, and from Ben Weasel's solo albums.
Fourth reformation (2009-2011):
In March 2009, Ben Weasel announced on his blog that he had reformed Screeching Weasel. For the first time, the band featured a lineup without John Jughead, although longtime member Dan Vapid had rejoined. Ben wrote:
"I really want to give you the lowdown on the SW re-formation but there's honestly not a lot to say. Legal issues prevented me from doing my own band on my own terms over the past couple of years but thankfully those problems are all resolved now. The kind of stuff happens sometimes. I won't deny that those problems - which were really just the culmination of many years of a lot of other b.s. - left a foul taste in my mouth about SW. But now that all the headaches are behind me I'm feeling great about it. I'm finally running my own band again and I'm really happy and excited to be back at it. I've got a killer line-up comprised of myself, Danny Vapid, Simon Lamb (the Ritalins), Justin Perkins (Yesterday's Kids) and Adam Cargin (Blueheels) (he's also the new Riverdales drummer) and we've got a great set list."
In response to the resurrection of the Screeching Weasel name without his involvement, Jughead released the following statement via his MySpace page:
If it weren't for the fact that I actually enjoy conversing with the fans of my prior bands, I would never have found out about a new band called Screeching Weasel beginning to tour. "This can't be the band I was in." I say to myself. "I would have been preparing." My mind would much prefer going to a place of calm contemplation than into a dark cold room filled with anger and the emotions associated with betrayal. So to avoid painful emoting I first took the facts that Ben and I started a band together called Screeching Weasel, we both spent all our days making that band a home for ourselves, and 18 years later we put it to rest. This along with the statement made by both me and Ben on many occasions that the band wouldn't be Screeching Weasel without either of us, makes me assume that this band playing isn't Screeching Weasel, because I don't recall having kicked myself out of the band. So it seems logical that this is not Screeching Weasel. If it were I would have to admit that I longer sic have friends named Ben Foster or Dan Schafer. As for people like Ben Weasel, Dan Vapid, or even John Jughead, I have nothing to say, because they never really existed, they were just made up names for a bunch of friends that tried to do something different in order to survive and make a living in this world. And I imagine they are all still trying to make a living somehow, seeing that their band's prominent "leader" never wanted to tour in order to make it financially viable to continue on.
Weasel later revealed the split with Jughead was the result of two-year-long legal battle over Screeching Weasel's business affairs and, although they were resolved, Weasel said "it was not an amicable split" and that "things had gone way, way past the point of no return in terms of our friendship and any semblance of a working relationship anymore".
In November 2009, Mike Park of Asian Man Records announced that Weasel had decided to sever his relationship with the label and that Recess Records would be carrying the Screeching Weasel, Riverdales and Ben Weasel solo back catalogues.
On November 30, 2010, Ben Weasel appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly to talk about his personal problems with anxiety disorders and agoraphobia.
On March 15, 2011, the band released its first album in eleven years, First World Manifesto on Fat Wreck Chords. It was produced by Mike Kennerty of The All-American Rejects. It was announced that the label will also be releasing the back catalogs of Screeching Weasel, the Riverdales, and Ben Weasel.
On March 18, 2011, during Screeching Weasel's South by Southwest Festival performance at the Scoot Inn in Austin, Texas, Foster punched the face of a female audience member who had thrown a beer and ice cubes at him, and also spit in his face. As a result a woman on the stage, believed to be the club's owner, grabbed him from behind, and Ben mistaking her for an attacking fan turned around and punched her twice in the scuffle. Foster was then restrained by security and left the venue. On March 22, Foster apologized. On March 23, Punknews.org posted a statement from the four other members of Screeching Weasel, Dan Schafer, Adam Cargin, Justin Perkins and Drew Fredrichsen, announcing their resignation from the band.
"The un-calculated act put forth by Ben 'Weasel' Foster leading up to and including the violence that erupted on stage is seen by the band as shameful and embarrassing. The sentiments and actions expressed were completely out of our control and in no way represent the band members' view points or moral compasses. As a result, the band has discussed at length and has come to the conclusion that as a group we will not likely be able to muster the dignity to attempt a live performance as 'Screeching Weasel' in the foreseeable future."
On March 31, Weasel announced the cancellation of "Weasel Fest", a 3-day event in honor of Screeching Weasel's 25th anniversary that had been scheduled to take place at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago, after many of the other acts on the bill dropped out in the wake of the SXSW incident. In an interview published in July 2011, Fat Mike, owner of Fat Wreck Chords, stated that he had no interest in releasing another Screeching Weasel record, although the label might still reissue the band's back catalog.
New line-up (2011-present):
Despite speculation of a breakup, Screeching Weasel returned with a new line-up on October 29 at Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago with The Queers. The line-up included Ben Weasel-vocals, Zac Damon-guitar, Dave Klein-bass, Pierre Marche-drums and Mike Hunchback-rhythm guitar. A new 7-song EP, titled Carnival of Schadenfreude, was recorded in July 2011. It was also produced by Mike Kennerty and was released in November 2011 on Recess Records. In March 2013, Ben Weasel announced on the band's Facebook page that Dave Klein had split from the group amicably to join Black Flag. He was replaced by bassist Zach Brandner, AKA "Poutine."
A documentary on the band was in the works for several years, but was cancelled in 2012, with producers citing Foster's lack of cooperation with production.
On July 13, 2014, Weasel released a video on YouTube stating that new albums were in the works, through a two-part rock opera called Baby Fat. Baby Fat: Act 1 was crowd-funded, and the band raised over $40,000.
Musical style and legacy:
In addition to the Ramones, Ben Weasel credits bands such as Black Flag, D.O.A., The Dickies and Zero Boys for laying the groundwork for Screeching Weasel. Much like the Ramones, Screeching Weasel's common lyrical themes include girls and mental health problems (Weasel suffered from anxiety). While Weasel has been the sole writer of the majority of the band's catalogue, a number of songs credit Vapid, Jughead, or The Queers' frontman Joe King as co-writers.
Many subsequent punk and pop punk bands who have experienced mainstream success cite Screeching Weasel as an influence. Blink-182 covered the band's song "The Girl Next Door" on their album Buddha, with Blink-182 guitarist Tom Delonge citing them as one of the biggest influences on his songwriting. Other influenced bands include Green Day (whose bassist previously played in Screeching Weasel), The All-American Rejects (whose guitarist Mike Kennerty produced First World Manifesto and Carnival of Schadenfreude), New Found Glory, fellow Chicago bands Rise Against , Fall Out Boy and Alkaline Trio, and popular ska punk band Less Than Jake.
Additionally, a number of independent punk bands such as The Apers, The Leftovers, The Manges, and The Unlovables cite Screeching Weasel as influential. Screeching Weasel has been categorized as pop punk and punk rock.
Ben Weasel - lead vocals, guitar (1986-2001; 2004; 2009-present),
Zac Damon - guitar (1997-1998; 2011-present),
Pierre Marche - drums, percussion (2011-present),
Mike Hunchback - guitar (2011-present),
Zach "Poutine" Brandner - bass guitar (2013-present),
John Jughead - guitar, backing vocals (1986-2001; 2004),
Vinnie Bovine - bass guitar (1986-1988),
Steve Cheese - drums, percussion (1986-1988),
Aaron Cometbus - drums, percussion (1988) (two shows),
Warren Fish - bass guitar (1988-1989),
Brian Vermin - drums, percussion (1988-1990),
Dan Vapid - bass guitar, guitar, backing vocals (1989-1994; 1996; 2004; 2009-2011),
Doug Ward - guitar (1989),
Dave Naked - bass guitar (1991-1992),
Scott "Gub" Conway - bass guitar (1992),
Dan Panic - drums, percussion (1991-1996),
Johnny Personality - bass guitar (1992),
Mass Giorgini - bass guitar (1994; 1996-2001; 2004),
Mike Dirnt - bass guitar (1994),
Dan Lumley - drums, percussion (1996-2001, 2004),
Phillip Hill - guitar (2000-2001),
Simon Lamb - guitar (2009-2010),
Justin Perkins - bass guitar (2009-2011),
Adam Cargin - drums, percussion (2009-2011),
Drew Fredrichsen - guitar (2010-2011),
Dave Klein - bass guitar (2011-2013)
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