The Remones, Calgary’s seven-year strong Ramones tribute act, understand that the snobbish don’t respect their craft: They dress up, often in shaggy wigs and leather jackets, to resemble Johnny, Joey and co. They build their sets around crowd-pleasing hits — think “Beat on the Brat” or “I Wanna be Sedated” — rather than mining the obscure corners of the Ramones’ discography. And, unlike so many other local musicians who take their craft to Montreal, or Toronto, or Vancouver before returning with their tails tucked between their legs, the Remones aren’t trying to take their music outside of Calgary.
That’s the thing: The members of the Remones — BB, Stevie, Pauly and Ribsy Remone — aren’t careerists. Shit, they just wanna have a good time. “We were having a party at my house,” says Ribsy when asked of the band’s genesis story. “And as the night went on, we just found that everyone there was asking us to play the Ramones. Everyone was singing along to Ramones songs. And we found out that Stevie could sing those songs really, really well.”
The other members of the Remones can play those songs really, really well, too — which is hardly a surprise considering their musical pedigrees. Their members, they say, have been involved with Calgary’s punk rock since the early ’80s, back when its scene swirled around the Calgarian Hotel and the National. They’ve played in bands, too, like Forbidden Dimension, Daggers, The Presence, Art Bergmann and ’90s alt-rock hit-makers Zuckerbaby. And they’ve been studying, and admiring, the Ramones’ music since they were pups, “way before you could download that shit.”
So, why, then, are they not pursuing original music? “Well, we’re playing with a bunch of old farts here,” laughs Stevie. “We have no feeling like we’re going to cut a record and make it. Our objective is to rock parties. Bands get misguided by the idea of fame. That’s not us.”
“We don’t think about our next record [anymore], and there’s no pressure,” adds Pauly. “There’s no pressure now. It’s really about having fun.”
And it’s evidently been fun: When asked about their favourite memories, the members swap stories of audience members being hoisted atop the crowd in chairs, crowd-surfers crawling along the ceiling, Trainspotting-style, and having mic stands stuck in chandeliers. But their next show — at Ship & Anchor — is slated to be their last, with BB moving to Toronto to “work at a 7-11 in Mississauga.”
But until then, they’ve got a set to play. And, if you haven’t caught them perform, the Remones are as close to the real thing as you’ll get (without re-animating Joey’s corpse). That’s no small feat — especially because, despite their rudimentary song structure, it ain’t easy emulating the Ramones’ style with precision.
“This is the most challenging band we’ve been in. We’ve seen other bands try to play the Ramones, and they think it’s easy,” says Ribsy. “But other bands play ‘Blitzkrieg Bop,’ and it sucks.”
“It’s a huge challenge to play like Johnny Ramone,” adds BB. “The guitar playing sounds simple, but it’s a set style. The timing’s fucked, and it’s all downstrokes. Seriously, I challenge kids to play it as well as we do.”
But playing Ramones songs expertly isn’t the only point. “[For a while], people didn’t move around too much when they saw music — maybe, they bobbed their head to faster stuff,” says Ribsy. “But we want to make it a fun show. We wanted to get chicks dancing. And we wanted everyone to sing along. And it works — because everyone loves the Ramones.”