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Geeks Playing for Geeks

By Christine Dean
April 10, 2002 | Ripsaw

Vinnie and the Stardüsters guitarist Eric Dregni and singer/bassist John Perkins met as teenagers on a church trip. They bonded, said Dregni, because “John, at that time, had a knack for profanity and I was very impressed by that.” By the end of the long bus ride to Appalachia the two had plotted to form their first band.

It’s fitting that the origins of the Twin Cities band go back to junior high. The band is adolescent geek-boy energy taken to the extreme—teenage guys making up dirty lyrics to popular songs in the back seat of the school bus—only now they’re are all grown up and made dangerous by the fact that they have guitars, microphones and college degrees.

Dregni and Perkins had already formed Vinnie and the Stardüsters when they met drummer Nick Perkins at Macalester College. The group started as a parody lounge act, went through a brief phase of trying to write originals, inspired by Dregni who studied classical piano in college, started slipping classical music parodies into the mix. This resulted in a 1992 cassette called The Baroque Wind Sessions, a sort of punk-rock equivalent of Hooked on Classics. The band recently released a new version of the album on CD; the liner notes tell the amusingly convoluted story of why only six of the original tracks appear on the disk.

The band moved from classical music to parodies of everything from the Sesame Street theme to the Cure’s “Boy’s Don’t Cry.” The latter became “Bake My Pie” and was released as a single whose cover featured the band putting Perkins’ newborn son Max in the oven to bake a pie. “It was just a joke but people got really upset,” said Dregni, “especially my mom and his mom. At that point we had to put a disclaimer on it saying no babies have been baked in the making of this record.”

That’s just one example of how far the Stardüsters will go for a good prank. The band has sent out a press release threatening to leave the Twin Cities if the public didn’t build them a 100,000-seat rock stadium, appeared naked on the cover of their 1999 album Novelty Music for Casual Sex and has staged annual “farewell” shows for several years. Considering the fact that the band only performs a handful of shows a year, the music seems almost beside the point. At Twin Cities shows, said Dregni, “We end up doing mostly just banter and silly stuff. Like one time during the intermission we all went down to the basement and shaved our heads and came back dressed as Buddhist monks.”

Dregni thinks the band may stick to music at its upcoming Duluth show; but then again, it’s hard to say. The Stardüsters have never played a prom before and the Duluth appearance will be only the second out-of-town show the band has ever done. The band’s only previous road trip was, in Dregni’s words, “a complete disaster.” On the way to the gig, a keg party in Madison, the band stopped at a Wisconsin Dells Burger King. “Nick stole a Burger Buddies poster and the manager called the police and they escorted us out of town,” said Dregni. Only 25 people showed up to the kegger and the host hid all the kegs so he could return them. To cap off the evening, said Dregni, “It was like five in the morning, we were driving back and both Nick and John fell asleep in their cars. We just about hit oncoming traffic so we spent the night in a landfill. We haven’t been out of town since.”