Off with your pants!
A talk with one of Chico’s wildest front men, “Crazy Joe” from Inflatable Supermodel
Maybe it’s because the lead singer staples things to himself. Or maybe it’s because at gigs the band members usually end up in their undies. Or maybe it’s the warped sarcasm that saturates such songs as “The Ripper,” which is about anal sex with sorority chicks. Whatever it is, local party rockers Inflatable Supermodel have taken the Chico music scene by the shoulders, thrown it on the ground, rubbed their butts in its face, and shown it who’s daddy.
Much of the manic rock band’s success as a haywire act comes from the natural charisma of the musicians, namely Zach Theiss (guitar), Dustin Reed (bass), Matt Eckhardt (drums) and front man Joe Manente, who has earned the moniker Crazy Joe. He’s not crazy, though. He’s a theater major.
Manente recently agreed to meet at his surprisingly well-maintained college abode to discuss the forces behind the band named after a bachelor-party favor. Above all, stage antics are a major ingredient in a Supermodel set, he said.
“You need it in a town like Chico,” he said. “People have heard you a thousand times—you need something extra.”
And in a college town full of bored youth, ideas for new antics come from everywhere. One show involved a lot of Twinkies. Another involved a huge trash bag full of bounce-house balls—the kind you have to steal.
On a couple of “night missions in broad daylight,” the band members, clad in stealth black, invaded a fast-food playpen or two, shoving plastic balls into a trash bag while toddlers blinked in confusion.
“We played with the kids for a while, then took off. No one really cared,” Manente said.
Exposed underwear is a recurring theme for the band, and self-stapling has become Manente’s schtick, though he admits the idea is not original. He got it from the bums in Berkeley and San Francisco, who staple money to themselves as a way of attracting donations. Manente tried it with images of pop stars cut out of magazines, and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.
“It just gets a rise out of people, that’s it,” he said.
And when the band doesn’t have a controlled bar atmosphere to perform its shenanigans, it can still throw an impressive set. During one show at a house party, the police arrived just as Joe was dumping a can of beer over his head. He was shirtless, standing on top of the PA speaker with a crowd around him, raving into the microphone. He carried on unaware of the police presence, and when he started to take off his pants everyone had to yell for him to stop before he could be cited for indecent exposure. One cop reportedly said it was the best show they’d broken up that night.
But for all Manente’s antics and lunacy onstage, he is polite and collected offstage. Guitarist Theiss said Manente is usually the one who has to act as den mother during practices.
“Joe’s really professional when it comes to writing songs and getting shit done,” he said. “He keeps us in line.”
And here’s a shocker, Chico: The Catholic-school grad doesn’t drink.
“It’s not a religious choice, it’s a personal choice,” he said. “People drink to lose their inhibitions, and I don’t have any to begin with.”
In high school, Manente was one of the socialites, being a homecoming king and an all-league golfer. He also made use of school events, like the Catholic Mass, to have some fun.
“I always felt obligated to steal the podium no matter what—go up there and do something, scream something,” he said.
College is no different; Manente could be seen in Whitney Dining one Valentine’s Day going around singing lounge-style to various girls he didn’t know, as well as to Linda, the renowned card-swiping lady.
But onstage, Manente’s revved-up nature translates into something not quite as charming. For example, the band’s trademark hit about sorority girls and anal sex. Manente says he has nothing against Greeks personally, just certain stereotypical aspects of Greekdom.
“Sorority girls are an easy target, and I’ve been picked on enough by sorority girls in my life, so this is my revenge,” he said, laughing.
Inflatable Supermodel is due to release a full-length D.I.Y. album by May 22. Until then, the band frequents the Riff Raff Rock Bar, though the crowd policy may make it hard to get in the door. Once you’re in, just watch for flying Twinkies.