Pop-punk vets the Bubble Boys return this weekend with a new album
Lawrence’s pop-punk band, the Bubble Boys, were omnipresent in the ’90s. With songs from their debut full-length, Bitter is Better, finding regular airplay on 105.9 the Lazer and the band opening shows for the likes of Descendents and Blink-182—the trio of guitarist/vocalist Brian Gee, bassist/vocalist Dan Cook, and drummer Chris Bulgren were a blast of energy.
The band formed in 1992 and essentially broke up when Gee moved to California in 2005. The occasional reunion show has popped up, with the last one in 2013. Before Gee moved away, however, the band recorded an album with Chubby Smith, entitled Burst, which has had the occasional compilation feature but never saw a full release until the end of last month via Lawrence’s Ownlife Records.
It’s a bigger, more-developed record than Bitter is Better, although the band’s longest songs still barely break the three-minute mark. Featuring additional instrumentation such as organ, trumpet, and even saw, it’s still classic pop-punk at its heart but tackles the ideas of aging in a college town in a way that feels almost grown up.
The Bubble Boys are reuniting for two shows this weekend, along with Cher UK and Danger Bob. The shows take place Friday, Oct. 7, at Liberty Hall in Lawrence and Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Ship in Kansas City.
We reached out to the band to see where the trio is now and how this all came to be. Nobody’s quite sure, but the band’s humor readily comes through in Gee’s first response.
“Not sure where the genesis of the idea came from,” Gee says. “Definitely from either Danger Bob or Cher because they came to us and asked if we were interested in doing a potential show. Fun fact: Dan didn’t want to do it, Chris did, and I was in if Chris was, so Dan was told to stop crying.”
Bulgren agrees, “We all love Cher UK so much that sharing a bill with them is always something we’d be interested in doing. But I also think that Mike has been such a dedicated musician and torch bearer for music in this area; he’s the reason everybody said ‘yes’ so readily.”
Given that the Bubble Boys hope to have Burst available on compact disc in time for the shows, as well as the fact that it’s already available digitally, we were curious as to how the band will balance their beloved 25-year-old debut with songs that are, to most folks, new.
“I know I personally mostly prefer playing songs off our ‘new’ album as I think they are simply better songs than what we were writing in the Bitter days,” Gee says. “The balance is probably going to end up being 40% new songs and 60% from the other eras of Bubble Boys.”
He adds that the band has a lot of music that got recorded and never officially released, from early demos to Red House and Mercy studio recordings and other home demos, and the three of them want to try and cover some of those songs, as well. We have our fingers crossed for “Plastic Earwax” from their first release, the Drip 7-inch.
Either way, Bulgren sees these shows as an attempt for the Bubble Boys to just enjoy themselves.
“I think we are taking this opportunity to play the songs that are the most fun for us,” Bulgren says. “Some of those songs predate Bitter is Better. People don’t really know the new album yet, so it will be nice to run some of these tunes out there.”
As to why Burst sat for so long, Gee is reflective.
“Because we are terribly lazy,” he jokes. “I also moved to California for 14 years, and I was never around for the mixing. In fact, I remember that I was just glad to get the recording more for posterity than ever really trying to release it.”
Bulgren’s a little more contemplative regarding the delay on the Bubble Boys’ sophomore full-length. “Life intervenes. I moved away from Lawrence about 10 years ago. I think since we weren’t getting together to play, the project lost steam. This show has been a nice excuse to push that project into the light of day,” he says.
Gee continues to say that he was “never really thrilled with the overall mix” of Burst until David Moore remixed the tracks for its current incarnation, and prior to that, had been all right with the idea of a “lost album” that only a few folks knew of or had heard.
“Going back to Dan being nonplussed about doing the show, he was adamant about getting the album finally out if we did end up doing the show,” Gee says. “We are cutting it so close there is actually still a possibility that we won’t end up getting the physical media by the shows. It would be so classic Bubble Boys if the CDs arrive the week after the reunions.”
At the end of our conversation, Cook finally chimes in with a perfect clarification of all that’s come before it.
“‘Adamant’ about releasing Burst seems a bit strong, but Brian pretty much covered everything I would have said,” Cook says. “I said that if they both wanted to play, I’d be in. I figured as long as we were doing the shows, let’s make Burst—which is the best record I’ve ever been a part of— available to the public.”
You can stream the Bubble Boys’ Burst above and hear songs from it live when the band plays with Danger Bob and Cher UK on Friday, Oct. 7, at Liberty Hall in Lawrence and Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Ship in Kansas City. Details on Friday’s show here, and on Saturday’s show here.