Roof Access

The Roofies have perfected the fine art of not taking themselves seriously

Updating Frankie and Annette beach blanket shindigs for the less naive youth of today, demented San Francisco party rockers the Roofies don't shy from incendiary themes and loaded language. Fronted by manic Gidget-gone-to-hell Jibz Cameron, the Roofies twist and frug through a topical minefield, devilishly smirking all the way. Consider the title track of their new CD, Blame It on the Roofies, an update of "Blame It on the Bossa Nova," minus the euphemisms:

Blame it on the roofies
It was them I think
Blame it on the roofies
That he slipped in my drink
Oh the evening was going so awful slow
Until I was date-raped, and didn't even know
Oh roofies, that crazy pill

"It's definitely not something I think is hilarious or anything," says Cameron of their Rohypnol rave-up's core thesis, "but I think it is darkly funny that there are all those songs about where kids came from. It's like, 'When our kids ask how they came about, tell them blame it on the bossa nova.' That's so sugary and funny. I just like to think of it as 'Blame it on those seven drinks I had, and then we fucked, and then you had to marry me because I got pregnant.'

The Roofies: (Back row) Brent Coffin, Saara Traister, Andy Oglesby; (front row) Diana Hayes, Jamie Peterson, Eli Crews, Jibz Cameron.
Carlos Corujo
The Roofies: (Back row) Brent Coffin, Saara Traister, Andy Oglesby; (front row) Diana Hayes, Jamie Peterson, Eli Crews, Jibz Cameron.

"Pretty much every girl I know has had some shitty experience happen to her," she adds, "and it's really just a way to talk about it: Everybody knows it happens, so why don't we acknowledge it? Instead of saying, 'I'm so hurt and damaged for the rest of my life,' you can overcome it by making it something you can laugh at. I'm OK with that."

Live Roofies performances are festive affairs. While the vivacious Cameron, equal parts Sandra Bernhard and Belinda Carlisle, is a strong frontperson with her animated antics and '60s party dresses, there's plenty else on the Roofies stage to divert attention -- every band member plays a role in the onstage fiesta. Currently, the Roofies number eight-ish: Cameron, organist/guitarist Andy Oglesby, guitarist Brent Coffin, bassist Eli Crews, drummer Jamie Peterson, and backup singers Saara Traister, Diana Hayes, and Beth Lisick (though Lisick announced at the interview for this story she was leaving the band and would only be available as an emergency backup). In the past, the band had a trumpet-playing drummer, and while several drummers and backup singers have come through the Roofies' revolving door in the last three-plus years, five original members are still going strong.

"We all really wanted to play this kind of music," Cameron says. "We have so much fun with it, and it just got bigger and bigger. There are so many elements that you can add to it, the cheese factor is so unlimited. 'Let's get a backup singer. Let's get three backup singers.' There's endless possibilities."

The Roofies germinated during an Oregonian car ride. Crews and original Roofies drummer Oran Canfield, on tour with San Francisco's Optimist International, were visiting their friends Cameron and Traister, who were living in Ashland at the time. "We were in the car listening to the Supremes," Cameron remembers, "and I said, 'Let's start an R&B band.'" After Cameron and Traister relocated to San Francisco, the four started bringing others on board. When it was discovered that boyfriend-of-a-friend Andy Oglesby owned a Farfisa, he was recruited instantaneously, despite his not knowing how to play. "It had the right sound," he recalls. "Very cheeseball." The band's first gig was a 1997 Casanova Christmas party, and everyone agrees it was pretty raw.

When asked if it all started off as a goof, guitarist Coffin says, "Probably no more than any other band. We started off basically just totally ripping off a bunch of obscure '60s shit and then gradually writing originals in that style, trying to maintain that flavor." Adds Oglesby: "It wasn't a lark in that no one knew what they were doing, but I think most people were in other projects that they were pretty serious about. This was really more about fun, and just doing obscure covers, but it's turned into something where we can actually write songs together pretty easily."

The Roofies still fill out their set with covers of obscurities such as the Davie Allan & the Arrows chestnut "Granny Goose." The revving riff on one of their first originals, "Frankie the Shoe Fucker," was cribbed from a hyper-obscure biker record titled Cycle Psychosis. The song details the nocturnal dirty deeds of a work-shoe fetishist, and was supposedly based on a true story. "Somebody I knew when I was in high school said they read it in the paper," claims Cameron, who manages to rhyme "boot" and "skin flute" in the song. "It was about this creepy guy who liked dirty construction worker boots." Continuing with the urban legend theme, "Mean Mean Man" is an audio-dramatization of the title character's furtive phone calls to little girls home all alone. "Mean Man" vocalist Crews is quick to note the song contains no bad words and as such could theoretically be played on the radio: "I say, 'I'm going to fork out your eyeballs and make skin soup from your supple little body,' but there are no obscenities."

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