The Romantics
By Ronnie

You can't get around that timeless classic from the '80s, "What I Like About You". Even the unititiated now know the song, thanks to its use in a Burger King commercial. But, like the Buzzcocks and the Muffs (whose songs were also used in popular commercials) there is much more to their music than simple TV fluff.

My first exposure to the Romantics left an endilible impression on me, for they were my first club show (and first use of a fake ID no less). They opened my eyes to the inimacy and energy of the rock & roll club scene - just like the change from black & white to colour in the Wizard of Oz. In the '80s I followed them faithfully with each new album and club show (each with the obligatory new leather outfits and finally snakeskin outfits). I was even at the show which ended up as the band's live album.

As the '80s ended, so did the Romantics, or so I thought. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw an advertisement for a local show by the Romantics. Alas, the show was cancelled due to weather, but I did get to interview the band. Not content to milk the retro-'80s touring circuit, the Romantics are forging ahead with NEW MATERIAL! I talked to the Romantics about their place in rock, their new album and of course that song…"What I Like About You".

Note: Although all members were present, I list all band answers as "the Romantics"...

Right: The most recent lineup of the Romantics-cover of their European EP 1994.

E.C.: Tell me about the new album?

The Romantics: We're NOT rehashing the '80s. It's a rythym 'n blues, English pop type thing, you know? With a Detroit energy to it.

E.C.: Well, that's how you started out really. I mean, you weren't punk.

The Romantics: No, its more of an English pop with an American energy. And its still pretty much the same, even more so. We pulled together a lot more of the influences which brought us together in the first place. We dug in a little bit deeper almost. So, it's a little bit of the same kind of pop, but it's a little more grown up.

E.C.: On your very first album…there are a lot of bands that try for that authentic, older sound…

The Romantics: I hear that from other players…I'm not sure how that came about. All we did was take our Hiwatt amps, put them in the corner and put blankets around them. Its more…I think and attitude, how you play.

E.C.: You saw progression in your albums, I mean STRICTLY PERSONAL was defintely harder than the first two albums?

The Romantics: But that was something where you had a change of personel for that album. A different influence injected in and one influence drawn out, too. Still having a core of the band there performing and writing…just a different influence there. And even for RYTYHM ROMANCE, too. Both those albums probably were more or less…ahh…good demos instead of being actual albums, I think.

E.C.: I remember the reviews for STRICTLY PERSONAL, they were saying the band was going 'arena rock'.

The Romantics: It has a lot to do with the mix. I have demos of that, that are nothing like the finished product.

Even the new record, is just straight-ahead Romantics stuff. Clem's kicking ass on three or four songs. Jimmy [Marinos] is actually on a couple of songs. If I'm not mistaken, Jimmy's on five tracks, Clem's on five tracks, and a friend of ours, Johnny B., from Detroit, is on two tracks.

E.C.: Is the new album going to be the same, well, within the confines of a three-minute pop song formula?

The Romantics: No, we didn't really stick to that kind of thing. We just let it go, if the song was feeling good, we let it go. I think what we used to write at that time, we just got into a groove where we would structure the songs…it would be the funniest thing because they would end up no matter what we did - verses, chorus, solo - they would be all within 2:45. Now we let the tape roll…from start to finish and judge it after that. Were not just gonna cut it for the sake of making it shorter.

We actually tried on the first album, to keep the songs concise to a certain little thing. No solos…we tried to trim everything cause all the bands that were out, there was all this added, extra stuff that didn't like. We didn't want the Ted Nugent long, drawn out solos. We were exagerrating everything down to one little thing. But its not the same times, times are different now.

Were just letting things ride a little bit more at the sessions, and see where the songs would go. Let the tape run from start to finish and see how the song sounds full-length. I always find that interesting, just to see what transpires.

We've got this one with Eddie Hawrysch, who plays with the Black Crowes, he lives in the Detroit area, and its like a Small Faces type of song. We just let him play off like Nicky Hopkins.

E.C.: Do you have a label for the new album yet?

The Romantics: We're still working out all the details on that. Things are shaping up, but I'm not gonna say anything until all the details…

E.C.: What date are you shooting for the release?

The Romantics: [deadpan] I wish it was next month…next Spring hopefully the latest.

Mike wants to have it out in May. Obviously for us, the sooner we could get it out, the sooner we could do summer tours. But, the bottom line…the sooner the better for us. At this point we have people not not knowing what the band is up to, they aren't quite sure what our intentions are as far as going from city to city, whether its just to cash in on a Burger King commercial or…what, they don't know. They don't know that there's a new album, that the band is intact.

Left: Those red leather suits from the first album, 1980.

E.C.: The last recording that you had out was in 1994, the E.P? So it's been awhile since you've had something out.

The Romantics: There's a whole story as to why we couldn't record at that time…we were able to write and do demos. But, being tied up in a lawsuit at that point from 1987 straight thru…seven years later…kinda prevents you from recording.

E.C.: Since you have control of your music catalogue again, will we see reissues on CD?

The Romantics: Umm, I'm not quite sure how that's gonna work. Sony has all the master tapes. We own the copyrights, the songs, but not the master tapes. So, Sony can do whatever repackaging the feel…now, as far as us putting a repackaging ourselves…that's a different thing. We're thinking about putting a live, like a group of 12 songs on vinyl. More vinyl stuff. Plus, there are demos that we have done that we could dig up and see how good they are and maybe release some of those demos. We have our independent singles that the band put out before the band was signed.

E.C.: Now they have the enhanced CD's, so you can put your videos on there.

The Romantics: Yeah, put the videos on there…

E.C.: Tell me about the web site, its pretty impressive, lots of cool pictures?

The Romantics: Its pretty good, isn't it? Irene's [who designed the web pages along with ALL the leather/snakeskin suits-see her web page at really helped us out a lot . We didn't want to just jump into a web site and start selling shit. We wanted it to be good, to look good, have some good photos. We talked about it for a few months about how we wanted to do this and we said what better time than January of 2001? We contacted Irene, gave her three weeks to put the site together! [everybody laughs!] We even have everybody involved, we have sections on everyone whose in the band.

E.C.: Any title for the new album yet?

The Romantics: A couple of things…we're still not totally decided. What? You wanna know now? [deadpan] There's a few other ideas…but we wanna get this done as soon as possible.

E.C.: Speaking of Napster, you go in there and there's like hundreds of listings for "What I Like About You". Is that song like your albatross?

The Romantics: That song has a life of its own. To be honest, once I joined this band, I sold out. Once you join a band you sell out! You are doing everything you can to make yourself known. So, whatever happens with that song, happens. It has a life of its own.

E.C.: Since you own the rights to it, do you make a good chunk of change from the commercials?

The Romantics: Now…instead of going into a company and it gets diverted…now it just goes to us.

Nothing is gonna be the same as "What I Like About You", we're not gonna come up with another one that is like that.

E.C.: So, are you always trying to match it?

The Romantics: No, that's what I'm saying, the more you try and do something like that, it never works out anyway. It's too obvious.

Right: In Atlanta 2-16-2001 with the editor

E.C.: The band's bio on the website says that the band was formed on Valentines day in 1977? Is that how the name came about, a tie-in with that date?

The Romantics: I remember there was an article in Creem magazine with Brian Ferry, and we were really big fans of Roxy Music, and all through the interview he kept saying 'romantic' this, 'romantic' that. And that sparked something in Jimmy's [Marinos] head. Yeah, but Valentine's day makes for good press [laughs].

E.C.: How did those red leather suits come about?

The Romantics: Talk to Irene…[to see her site for the story click here] A lot of the Motown bands wore these leather jackets with all different colors, and we knew we wanted to do something like that.

E.C.: Clem Burke seems like a natural to play with you guys. How did that come about?

The Romantics: Our agent was getting married and Clem was at the wedding. At that time we were without a drummer. He was open…so we asked him, "what do you think about joining the Romantics?" Were from the same era and influences.

E.C.: The local paper this week described you as 'the Dave Clark Five to Cheap Trick's version of the Beatles". But, I always saw you more like the early Kinks, about 1965.

The Romantics: They have a certain perception of one or two songs, and they don't bother to look into it a little further.

E.C.: The Romantics seem to typify the two-minute, three-chord power song. Why do you think that this type of music seems to be ageless? I mean, its outlived the negative sort of punk stuff and the grunge stuff. It always comes back.

The Romantics: It's what rock 'n rolls about. You grow, but you still come back to your basics, your roots.

Click here to visit the official Romantics web site