Popsecret: Behind the music
A talk with Chico’s legendary front man about his band’s multi-platinum success
By now, everybody has heard of Popsecret.
The talented group of four Chico buddies came together two years ago to share their mutual love of music and have since exploded into international stardom, selling out football stadiums around the world and yielding 11 consecutive No. 1 singles, smashing the record once held by Michael Jackson’s Thriller and christening themselves the new kings of pop.
But the climb to fame and glory was not without plenty of hardship.
What began as an excuse for lead singer Bob Dwyer to “stop Dumpster-diving for used needles” took on greater significance when the band managed to sneak its demo tape into the pocket of singer/film star Kevin Bacon via a transsexual Swedish masseuse hired to rub Bacon in his Hollywood home.
After hearing the songs, both Bacon and his fellow-musician brother became champions of the band, traveling to Chico on numerous occasions to see if the Popsecret sound was for real. Before long, the elder Bacon offered the hometown boys a record deal, and the band’s debut album, Add Butter, was released and hailed by Rolling Stone as “an unholy alliance of Doobie Brothers artistry and seething Bon Jovi machismo. … [It is] one of the most significant rock moments since Bob Dylan turned the Traveling Wilburys on to Viagra.”
Although initial sales were a disappointment, the band’s video for “Snake Eyes"—featuring a drunken Winona Ryder and several dwarves burglarizing the Good Vibrations sex shop in San Francisco—raced into heavy rotation on MTV, and massive sales soon followed.
Touring relentlessly, the group watched as its unique blend of rock opera, acoustic Christmas pop and Nepalese hardcore soared to the top of the charts, eventually selling more than 20 million copies worldwide and making the band members household names in places as far away as Phuket, Thailand.
Then … things went terribly wrong.
In accordance with rock legend, as the money came rolling in, so too did the problems—from “Pepsi” overdoses and back acne to alleged improprieties involving the group’s collection of rare albino wombats at its hidden Wonderland ranch. But it was a free concert in Moscow’s Red Square that resulted in the mass poisoning of thousands of young fans and subsequent diarrhea epidemic when the band sprayed hoses of tainted water to cool down the crowd.
Guitarist Colin “Patron” Brewer (ex-Rookie 13, Trench) suffered a number of public disasters, including crashing his Harley though a Weed, Calif., Gulp and Blow, accidentally burning talk show host Conan O’Brien with a Zippo trick gone awry, and a publicized arrest for public drunkenness and aggravated assault on MTV’s TRL Live, during which witnesses claim he repeatedly “bludgeoned” tearful host Carson Daly with a Jack Daniels bottle.
Then there was enigmatic lead singer Dwyer, whose harrowing descent into self-imposed psychedelic exile—when he believed that grenade-toting rabbits from a planet made of pesto were controlling his thoughts—rivaled the artistic inspiration of once-bedridden Brian Wilson. The result was the brilliant solo album Kernel Alone.
Though still together, the band has come under fire lately, beginning in May for the cover artwork of its latest release, The Grapes of Wrath: The Best of Popsecret, featuring a scantily clad man brandishing his testicles above three squatting supermodels in anticipation of the first single, “Teabag Tonight.” More criticism surfaced when it was revealed that the “best of” collection consisted of the same songs as the debut album but in a different order.
The N&R was able to catch up with Dwyer for a few questions before the band departs for its upcoming Icelandic tour with openers Ass Trumpet and Dogstar (featuring Keanu Reeves’ cousin as a stand-in).
You’ve called Popsecret the most popular band in the world that nobody has ever heard. With millions of albums sold, how could that be the case?
Dwyer: Well, most of our albums were stolen instead of sold. Also, they forgot to put our name on the album, so a lot of people only know the songs. I think the actual figures are around 3.8 billion worldwide. We suffered a setback when we brought in Arthur Andersen to help on the books. … I had to kill my dog, Enron.
Rumor has it you were asked to play Julia Roberts’ secret wedding reception but bailed so that you could play a small, Fourth of July barbecue party in Chico instead.
That’s true, and, with a little help from our friends the Asskickers, the Chico party was a booming success.
What are your goals, and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I thought it was 10 years already! My first goal is to find my future ex-wife. Colin’s is to be able to watch every sporting event at one time; Jim [bassist] wants to be a racecar driver; and Gary [drummer] just wants to be a real good dad.
Word has it that Popsecret has a fresh new sound in store for Chico—away from the Christmas pop or Nepalese hardcore of the past.
That’s right. But seriously, those who really want to know about Popsecret should come check us out when we rock live at the air-conditioned Red Room in Chico on July 19. You’ll find out why we’re the best band you’ve never heard.