Doll Parts

Certainly the group's affiliation with Epitaph has helped strengthen its drawing power. Drake says that, unlike Sympathy, Epitaph has the financial clout needed to put the band on the road and get the records into stores across the country -- not just in the usual speciality boutiques and hipster outlets. "We left Sympathy on very good terms," Drake says. "We just hit a point where we had to get on a better label if we were going to tour, and we talked to [Epitaph head Brett Gurewitz] and he said they'd give us this much for a recording budget and we could play what we wanted, do whatever artwork we wanted, and it sounded great."

Before they moved to Epitaph, the Humpers were courted briefly by a few major labels, including Warner Bros. and MCA, but the band was unimpressed. "They approached us with such arrogance," Drake complains. "They'd send these label lackeys to the shows and they'd ask, 'Oh, do you have a demo?' It's like, 'We have three albums out. What do you mean a demo?' Then you'd find out that this person can't even sign you, that you have to stroke them to get up to that second level of lackeys, and I just didn't have the energy or ambition to do that."

And like every other underground act that's made the move from a respected indie to the much-loathed Epitaph, the Humpers faced the usual backlash from obscurantist tastemakers. Drake asserts, however, that "most people who like the band know what we're into and that we aren't hung up on being an anti-success, corporate-machine-fighting band." He also maintains that the Humpers' music has, if anything, gotten harder and more bare-boned since making the move to Epitaph. The production is no doubt sharper than it was on the pancake-flat Positively Sick on 4th Street, and the new songs from Plastique Valentine (especially "Here Comes Nothing" and "Mutate with Me") swagger with more assurance and confidence than the frantic older stuff. They may sound slick to the connoisseurs of scuzz-rock, but the Humpers can still scare the hell out of Bush fans.

"I think some people confuse success with selling out, but everything we've done [since signing] has come straight from the heart of what we're all about," says Drake. "Almost all of it has been cut totally live, whereas 4th Street was an overdubbed nightmare. Basically, we're playing what we want and finally getting somewhere by doing it. And we've never had any morals or integrity to be begin with, so the whole point of selling out is just ridiculous when applied to us."

The Humpers perform Wednesday, March 12, at Squeeze, 2 S New River Dr, Fort Lauderdale; 954-522-2151. Opening acts include Load and Radio Baghdad. Showtime is 10:00 p.m. Cover charge is $5.

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