Here you will find the complete history of the Presidents of the United States of America, all the way back to when Chris Ballew would record music on the school playground. PUSA lead singer Chris Ballew was always very music-savvy and loved to write and record music.
Almost all PUSA songs are written by Chris and many evolve from his life-old library of recordings. On PUSA's latest album "These are the good times people," you can see brand new/fresh songs as well as re-makes of songs from his old band EGG (circa 1988), a song based on another band's old number and a song written in colab with Robyn Hitchcock, amongst others. This is the way it usually works; drummer Jason Finn and Guitbassist Andrew Mackaeg are called in for recording duty and complete the full Presidential vibe. Please read on for a full timeline showing PUSA's evolution...
This was Chris Ballew's first "real" band (aka David and The Overtones). It featured Chris on piano at age 10 and childhood friend Dave Thiele on a Sears Drum Kit at age 6. They had one song...."David and the Overtones". One line up was electrified 3 string acoustic guitar and drums and sax. One line up was 4 string bass and drums. One line up was 2 string guitar and 3 string guitar. They played loft parties until dawn and on the street for change. It took 30 years before the first album "Creepy Stick" saw the light of day. The song "David and The Overtones" however, remains unreleased.
This was Chris' other pre-EGG college band, which lasted about a year and featured bass player Emily Duff. No other information is really known about this besides the fact that they used to play 'Love Delicatessen,' a song which later appeared on PUSA's album Pure Frosting in 1998, and also songs 'Great Moments in Parking' and 'Suzanne'. At least one recording exists of the band, although it is yet to surface.
This was somewhat the first incarnation of PUSA, featuring Chris (Guitar, Piano, Violin) alongside Dave Dederer (Guitar hero), Dave Thiele (Chamer Dulcimer), Phil Franklin (Guitar, Drums), I. Sterling (Bass) and T. Ballew (Little baby voice). They produced a run of 50 cassettes entitled "Toy Surprise," each with a custom crayon-coloured sleeve. The tracks 'Tiki God', 'Slip Away' and 'Basketball Dream' went on to be re-recorded as PUSA tracks circa 1996.
Founded by Chris Ballew and Phil Franklin, EGG started out as a street band. In 1988, Lloyd Dyson joined the band and was followed by new member Dale Peyser in 1989. There are various cassette recordings from this era, all of which feature hand-made sleeves, limited to around 25 copies each. Ballew and Franklin worked on a fanzine, also entitled EGG, which saw limited local distribution in Boston, MA during this period.
Balls was a short-lived jam band featuring Chris (Electric Bass, FX pedals), Phil Franklin (Drums & percussion), Mark Brooks (Electric Bass, Voice) and Greg Wildes (Detuned Electric Bass). Two improvised tracks were recorded and released on a 12" vinyl entitled "We Will Grow On You."
Caspar was Chris Ballew's alter ego for much of his solo work between 1991 and 1996. Some material appeared on a series of home-made cassettes entitled 'Casper,' 'Link Cake' and 'Sonic Uke.' Quite a few Caspar songs were re-visited and later recorded as PUSA and Giraffes (Chris' other solo project) tracks. Caspar lived with Beck in East LA and toured and recorded the album "One Foot in the Grave" with his band in 1994. A one-off 4-track recording session between the two ended up as a 7" release under the name "Caspar & Mollusk" on Cosmic Records, featuring the tracks 'Lint Cake' and 'Twig.' Twig also went on to become a PUSA track, on their second LP "II."
Chris joined up with Dave Dederer (an old time jammer of Chris' from high school) and Dave Thiele, performing under the name "Go!" between 1991 and 1992. Chris and Dave performed together under various names in 1993, including "The Lo-Fis," "Dynamic Duo" and "Pure Frosting."
Although barely knowing each other, Dave invited a guy named Jason Finn to the last ever Go! show on March 5th 1992. After becoming instantly hooked, Jason cornered Dave in the bathroom to beg for a drumming spot in the band. A month later, and further groveling, and the rest is history.
Chris performed a psychedelic-fuelled basement gig that same year and announced himself as "The President of the United States of America." The name stuck and became the name for his new band, alongside Dave Dederer and Jason Finn. Raucious live shows and a demo entitled "Froggystyle" earned interest from various record labels.
Chris teamed up with Morphine front man Mark Sandman whilst living together in Boston, MA. They played once a week at the Plough and Stars under the name "Supergroup." The whole idea behind Supergroup was that they would come up with the song names while having a beer before the gig. Then they would make up the songs onstage during their show. Occasionally Mark or Chris would call out a Super Challenge ie. shout out words on stage and the other one had to make up a song on the spot using those words. A 7" vinyl (It's Not Like That Anymore/Telepathic Cathy) was released by Cosmic Records in 1995. The idea of reducing the number of strings on a guitar also came from Mark Sandman, who was a big influence on Ballew. Ballew wrote the PUSA song Ghosts Are Everywhere about Sandman, who passed away in 1999.
The self-titled debut album "The Presidents of the United States of America" finally came out on Popllama in 1995 and was quickly snapped up and re-released by Sony Columbia in July of the same year. It reached the prestigious US billboard top 10 and received Grammy nominations in both 1996 and '97. The singles Lump and Peaches saw very heavy video rotation on MTV and drove the album to double-platinum status. A full world tour ensued, including a famous performance at Mt Rushmore on Presidents' Day '96 and a live show on the big screen at Times Square, New York at midnight on New Year's Eve 95-96. The band also toured with Kula Shaker and supported Supergrass in Europe, where they were eventually taken off the tour due to fans coming to see PUSA instead of headliners Supergrass.
A more "arena rock" album (recorded on 6-strings) followed on November 5th 1996 and was certified gold in the US. Mach 5 was the big single and reached the top 20 in both the US and UK. Volcano and Tiki God were quietly released on the Australian market and received little recognition, as the band continued to tour throughout 1997.
Constant touring and the 'big record label' schedule took its toll and ended up in the PUSA terminating their contract with Sony Columbia in 1998. The last ever concert went down on New Year's Eve 1997-98 in Seattle. Sony released two PUSA unreleased and rarities albums after the band's breakup, entitled "Pure Frosting" on March 11th 1998 and "Rarities". Ra reties was made available in Japan only. They also released PUSA's cover of 'Video Killed the Radio Star' which featured in the film The Wedding Singer.
Each member went their own way and performed with other bands. Dave Dederer also auditioned to be in Weezer but didn't get the gig.
Chris then teamed up with Tad Hutchinson (member of local Seattle band "The Young Fresh Fellows") and settled on the name "Chris and Tad" after playing around with names such as "Starter Kit," "A Band Almost Known as Starter Kit" and "Woop." Although having had a long break, they still sporadically record together to this day and have written scores and tracks for various small and high-end clients. Their only album to date "Hand Me That Door" was released in 2000. A one-off reunion concert was held on New Year's Eve 2014 at Darrell's Tavern in Shoreline, WA and again in March 2016 in Seattle.
To satisfy his solo needs, Chris Ballew recorded various PUSA-esque songs as a concept entitled "The Giraffes", directly after the PUSA breakup in 1998. This concept involved a band being made up of animal puppets where Chickey was on drums, Froggy on Bass and five other animals picking up musical duties. When it came to performing live, Chris called up drummer Mike Musburger and multi-instrumentalist Jason Staczek to help out. The Giraffes recorded three albums entitled "13 Other Dimensions," "The Days Are Filled With Years" and "Zero Friction." Many Giraffes songs remain unreleased but are in healthy circulation, with some having already been re-recorded with PUSA. In 2015 Ballew made 33 of these unreleased tracks available for free download, via Insane Ian's Bandcamp page.
1998 saw Chris Ballew, Dave Dederer and Jason Finn perform the song "Addicted to the Fame" alongside Seattle rapper "Sir Mix-A-Lot" at one of his shows. The song (written together as a one-off in 1997) got such a good reaction that they joined up to form the band "SUBsET" who went on to record an album's worth of material in 1999. A low-key tour of the West Coast in 2000 was as far as it went for the band as they disbanded due to lack of interest and musical differences. Nothing was ever released although various studio and live recordings are in circulation. The track "What The Hell?" went on to be re-recorded by PUSA in 2007, and in late 2013 we saw some hints that Mix-A-Lot had been working with PUSA on some new songs, possibly for the new PUSA record. Watch this space.
Between 1998 and 1999 a Seattle 'supergroup' was formed featuring Chris Ballew (Vocals, Bass, Drum, Keyboard), Gavin Guss (Vocals, Piano, Drums) and Phil Hurley (Vocals, Guitar, Drums, Tambourine). They performed various shows and would take turns in playing each of the instruments. They released one Christmas EP on Orange recordings entitled "Is It Christmas Yet?" The track "Cloudy Cloud" from this EP is currently being re-recorded as "Snowy Snow" by Ballew to feature on his upcoming Christmas solo album. The band called it quits following a final performance on Live Room, KCMU FM 90.3 (now KEXP) on 22nd January 1999.
A friend of Dave's at MusicBlitz records approached the band to record a one-off 12" single on on their record label in 2000 under the name "The Quitters" (Sony still owned the rights to the PUSA name). The track was so well received that the label convinced the band to record a full-length LP, which was released later that year entitled "Freaked Out And Small." The name "The Quitters" was already being used by a band in New York so the band obtained full rights to the PUSA name from Sony and the album sold over 25, 000 copies. The name of the album originated when the band were looking through an old Sub Pop book and came across a photo of Kurt Cobain huddled up in a corner, looking freaked out and small! A one-off "World Tour" concert was recorded with Guns n' Roses guitarist Duff McKagen on 1st October 2000 and broadcast live on the Internet. MusicBlitz quietly released the singles "Tiny Explosions," "Last Girl on Earth" and "Nuthin' But Luv" from the album before going bankrupt.
The next few years saw Chris work on tracks for personal and commercial purposes as well as some further collaboration with Tad Hutchinson. A huge catalog of his sounds were distributed by the Talent House agency for promotional use and are in heavy circulation. He also contributed to the music on the 2002 Scooby Doo film "The New Doo".
After another few years apart, the band members decided it was time to get the band back together on October 31st 2002. They played New Year's Eve that year in Seattle and the ball started to roll once again. A new album, entitled "Love Everybody", was released on their own label "PUSA inc" in 2004. The label also re-released the debut album that year after gaining the recording rights from Sony and re-released Freaked Out and Small with various bonus tracks. A few shows accompanied the release and the label was soon scrapped after the band realised that managing a record label should be left to the pros.
Love Everybody was well received and although Chris and Jason were urging to take things on the road again, Dave was not so enthusiastic. This resulted in Dave leaving the band and being replaced by rocking Seattleite Andrew McKaeg. Dave taught Andrew the methodology of the 3-string guitbass and although the band remain good friends with Dave, Andrew is now the full-time replacement and has surpassed the number of concerts played by Dave with the band. The band have since gone on several world tours and released what could be their final album, entitled "These Are The Good Times People", on Fugitive Records in 2008.
Pursuing personal interests and toying with the idea of releasing no more records, PUSA took it easy for the rest of 2009-2011 playing just a few more shows, including the annual PUSAFEST parties. In 2012 they played in the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, performing the self-titled LP in full and in order, and seemed to have found their groove again in 2013, having performed in Australia/New Zealand, UK, Netherlands and toured the US coasts in the first half of 2013. In 2014 the band booked some studio time and in February came out with another new LP entitled "Kudos To You" together with a live album "Thanks for the Feedback", inviting fans to help finance the project through buying unusual and one-off PUSA memorabilia via the Pledge Music website. The $6,000 goal was reached and the project went ahead. A UK and very short European tour followed along with PUSAfest back in Seattle, before the band decided to take another indefinite break to concentrate on other projects. An Australian tour was pencilled in for later in 2014 but never materialised.
Chris Ballew teamed up with rapper "Outtasite" to form this band in 2005 in a concept where the feelings of existing songs are hijacked and transformed into TFH songs. Traditionally they will strip the drums from a song and re-do them. Once this done then the main track is taken out and replaced with something that fits well with what's already been replaced. They still write together in their spare time and have so far released two albums, "The Feelings Highjackers" in 2005 and "Skeletal Remains" in 2007, as well as a further 20-track "SupeRecord" double-album featuring both old and new TFH tracks, which came out in 2011. They did produce some videos for the songs and released them on YouTube, but there has been no news since.
Is the alias used by Chris Ballew for his latest side project. The first album, entitled "Here I Am!" featured a collection of songs written especially for young children and their parents and was released on February 14th 2009. A follow-up album, entitled "More Please!" featured more of the same and was released on November 17th 2009. In February 2010, a collection of Ballew's other kids songs were released as a download-only compilation album called "PEPS Sing-a-long" on his website. A third album was released on November 2nd 2010 entitled "This Is Fun!" after toying with working titles "Baby Bits!", "Stay Small!" and "Nuggets for Newborns!" It features Nirvana cover of Sliver, with special guest Krist Novoselic on bass.
Fourth album "Sing Along!" came out on 20th Sep 2011 (tentative title was "Look At Me!"), followed by "Hot Dog" (17th Apr 2012), "I Found You!" (18th December 2012), "Baby Beatles!" in September 2013 a vision Ballew had when he began his Babpypants project and which features covers of 20 Beatles songs, kiddie style), "Rise and Shine" in September 2014, "Night Night!" (a collection of lullabies) in March 2015 and another Beatles cover album "Beatles Baby!" in September 2015. Chris continues to write at a rapid pace and had originally planned to have released 10 albums and form a boxset of themed-CDs (eg. lullabies, covers) from his catalogue. We have the ten albums now... Just awaiting the boxset! You can catch him playing live around Seattle (both solo, and with his backing band) on an almost daily basis, especially now that PUSA are on another hiatus.
Future plans include a theatre show, based on the first few records, with the tentative title "A Day in the Life of the Pants". A subsequent DVD release of the show is expected, along with an ELEVENTH studio album "Away We Go!" due out on 12th August 2016 and number twelve coming to us on 20th November 2016; a collection of holiday songs entitled "Winter Party!".