The Arrogant Worms’ Hilariously Long Goodbye

Photo by Reinier deSmit

Decades into their career, The Arrogant Worms haven't lost their sense of humour. Despite what their misleading album and tour names might tell you the band isn't quitting soon, in fact they're quite happy where they are. Whether it's their clever comedy or amazing music the band has managed to stay relevant and even crowdfund their last two records online.

We had a chat with vocalist worm Trevor Strong to talk about avoiding sketches, how to last as a comedic band and why they keep getting mistaken for other bands.

Ottawa Life: You guys have talked about throwing out sketches early on, so have you never considered bringing them back in future recordings?

Trevor Strong: We've always been a performance-first, recording-second kind of group. We didn't drop the sketches because we didn't like doing them, we dropped them because when we're playing in bars no one pays attention during sketches, it's really a form of hell. Even if you're playing a song and people aren't really listening, you're still playing a song and people will react. Now that we've been doing the song thing for so long, there's no real push to go back to sketches, we're quite happy with the songs. We're like the AC/DC of comedy music, we found what we like doing and we're going to continue doing that.

Though your tour and album title are clever jokes on all the farewell tours going on right now, is there any kernel of truth to the finality it suggests?

I would call it a desperate cry for attention. (laughs) So many people threaten to leave music, but they seldom really do. We thought we'd just get started with our farewell tours early, so we have more time to do them later. We don't intend to go anywhere, we don't have a lot of other skills so we'll be around till we're not. 

There's so few comedic bands, especially nowadays, so how do you manage to stay relevant in a world demanding on fresh ideas from both musicians and comedians on their own?

We made a decision early on that we weren't going to make topical material. It was mainly because we were lazy and didn't want to have to write new stuff all the time. We wanted to be broad, which is why we're able to still sing almost all the songs. We never take an attack approach where we're making fun of a specific thing or person, it's usually a bigger idea or a genre. Our "History Is Made by Stupid People" where it's about all the stupid people in history, not this specific stupid person, at this moment. Doing that really makes the music last a little longer.

Why did you decide to crowdfund your recent album and what kind of backer rewards did you come up with?

It was our second crowdfunded album, and we did it through Indiegogo. The first one we did that way, we actually ran out of money. Some people on there were just asking people for money and getting it, so we thought "Let's try this out." You basically have to do it this way now, because no one buys an album after it's made anymore. If you want to sell albums, you have to sell them before you make them. People still want to support artists but they like to be part of the process. We learned from the first crowdfunding campaign that it's hard to do rewards that involve you and the backer in the same place, because we're not even in the same place. We sent postcards from the road, randomly from wherever we were. We did Flat Stanley, where people would send a picture to us and they'd go on tour with us like that. The surprisingly popular one involves cleaning up my basement with all the tour passes, promo material and photos from the road. 

Considering the egos that can fly in music and comedy on their own, have there been a lot of challenges staying together over the years?

We've always looked at what we're doing as an act, we do this thing and that's what this group does. We never have someone saying they want to do this more serious thing, because that's not the act. We've never had a problem with people doing other stuff, they just go and do it. There's a possibility in younger bands where someone does their own thing and everyone gets worked up. As soon as we could financially, we made sure we had separate hotel rooms. People ask how you stay together so long and we say "Separate hotel rooms," people think it's funny but we're not joking. You can get on each other's nerves when you're around everyone all the time, the fights you have come from cabin fever.

Why do you think you've had so many other songs like "The Toronto Song," "Wayne Gretzky Rocks" misattributed to you throughout the years, or does it call back to your niche as a humorous band?

People generally only have so many slots to fit things in. We somehow got the slot of semi-acoustic, Canadian, comedy song, because we're more well-known then other comedy acts, people think it's the Arrogant Worms. It's generally just that we lasted long enough that people think it's the Arrogant Worms when they hear stuff like us. It has subsided a little bit, we don't have as many people shouting names of songs that we didn't write at encores as we used to. At one point we had those songs plastered on our website to tell people, because we know a lot of the people who wrote those songs. At one show in Victoria we asked the audience if they wanted to hear "The War Of 1812" which isn't ours, and they said "YES." We actually had the guy that wrote it come out and sing it.