Hail to the Chiefs 

The Presidents of the United States of America

I read once that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is the song most likely to get stuck in someone's head. I imagine that very technical study was conducted before 1995, because that's the year The Presidents of the United States of America released their multi-platinum selling debut album that included the song "Peaches." There is no way, no way "Lion Sleeps Tonight" is more irritating than those "millions of peaches, peaches for me."

Not only do these guys sing about peaches, they are also responsible for the notorious mid-90s hits "Lump," "Kitty" and the Drew Carey theme song. Picture this: Seattle, 1990. Childhood friends Chris Ballew and Dave Dederer unite with Love Battery drummer Jason Finn. Wham! PUSA is formed.

While the city was swathed in flannel and angst, the Presidents rassled up a faithful following with their whimsical and unconventional musical treatment, cranking out goofy lyrics and catchy ditties. Then in 1996 they disappeared. Maybe because it was an election year. But now they are together again, working on an album due out in fall 2004 and on tour for the first time in five years.

Why? "It just sounds fun again," says Presidential guitarist Dederer. Works for me.

Dederer's on the phone. He's in the lounge of their recording studio as the band sits around waiting to see if they must rerecord tracks on their new album. "We're working on it right now," he says emphatically. "Making the whole record in two days. Yesterday and today."

Five years of nothing and they do the album in two days. Those dudes sure are silly. If I had five years off, I'd sleep like a lion. PUSA didn't, however. Dederer explains with retrospective exasperation how, after their heyday—when paparazzi followed them into grocery stores and what not—they indulged in quiet time. Yo, I wonder about all that "attention" Dederer recalls. I don't remember their happily shopping faces slapped on either Tiger Beat or the Sun. But hey, they're the Presidents, isn't it all about ego anyway?

The thing is they were popular. But they weren't the prom queens or football captains. They were, and still are the actual cool kids in school who don't give a rat's rump what their peers think because they are busy having fun with or without them. "We've always been inclusive," Dederer says. "It's not as if we'd ever try to ... create our music to appeal to everybody because that's stupid. Everybody's welcome to the party!"

The newly reunited PUSA is hot on the campaign trail. They're stumping in Boise with their tour, which even offers voter registration thanks to their buddies at Music for America.

I wonder ... what's with the name? Is it pretentious? Goofy? A "look here!" gimmick? Reminds me of a band from my college days called Free Beer & Chicken. It was a lure; the name on posters got you interested. "Free Beer & Chicken. Friday night at Chuck's!"

I don't ask about the name because part of the fun of this band is the associated merriment and wonder. Knowing would kill the fun.

Instead, Dederer and I talk about John Kerry. That's who he's voting for. "F***ing Bush. I've never been so angry!"

I ask if they broke up in 1996 because Clinton's horny gallivanting screwed up their game, what with him also being a PUSA. Apparently there was little confusion. "At least he was smart," Dederer says getting fired up. "You don't want someone who's unscrupulous and not smart (as president)!" Touché. Kerry it is.

I have a hunch the Presidents chose their moniker with somewhat of a political motive when Dederer flies into a diatribe about the beauty of the absentee ballot. "The most important thing I've learned being in a rock 'n' roll band: Register to vote! I can't believe everyone doesn't vote by absentee ballot." This guy is no dead fish.

But that's such a heavy topic. And my mind's unable to focus on crazy stuff like the future of our nation. Actually, my mind's humming that dang song. And I've also read that there are two ways to get a song unstuck from your head: Think of another song to challenge the stuck one or pass it on. So here: Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches. Movin' to the country, gonna eat me a lot of peaches. Peaches come from a can. They were put there by a man, in a factory dowwwn towwwwn.

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