Two of my favorite things in the world have always been rock n’ roll and horror movies. I remember my 2nd-grade teacher calling my parents when I did a book report on Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. I also remember buying the film version on VHS and using my tape recorder against the TV to pirate The Ramones’ end credits song of the same name. Those things make up who I am today. So needless to say, when I heard my friend Andy Herrin was joining a supergroup of sorts for a cover of that particular song, I was beyond stoked!
The Ramones were (and still are) known for simple, tongue-in-cheek punk inspired by pre-Beatles rock n’ roll. But when given the opportunity to write a song for the film Pet Sematary, they had no problem going a little dark. Fast forward to 2020, Gin Blossoms frontman Robin Wilson, his son Grey, Paul Masson of Great American Canyon Band, along with the aforementioned Andy Herrin, drummer of CAVO (to name a few) came together for a fun little side-project/supergroup just in time for Halloween. Introducing Robin Wilson & The Last Rites with their explosive cover of “Pet Sematary”.
I reached out to Herrin (who also hosts ‘The Local Buzz’, one of the most listened-to radio show on Nashville’s 102.9 The Buzz) and we talked a little bit about how the song came together.
Aaron Cooper: First and foremost, how did this beast come together?
Andy Herrin: Robin and I go back about 15 years and he’s one of my closest friends. My old band, One Lone Car, was on his record label Uranus Recordings around 2008 and we toured with gin blossoms a ton back then. We’ve been friends ever since and when I decided I wanted to cover this song he was the first person I thought of since his voice is so unique. We’re friends but obviously, I’m a gin Blossoms fan as well so I was really stoked when I texted him about it and he was as excited as I was. It’s one of those songs some people just really love.
Aaron: Was it pretty easy to put a new band together on the fly?
Andy: I knew I wanted Paul Masson from my new band, Great American Canyon Band on the record so I asked him to track the guitar and bass with me, and Mike Purcell at County Q is always my go-to for stuff like this. Mike gets music in a way that really hits with me. He’s quick and likes things to be raw and he’s great at capturing a moment when it comes to a performance. It was Robin’s idea for his son Grey to play the guitar solo and to be honest I didn’t realize Grey was 19 now, he’s still a young kid to me when I think about it, and he killed it. That dude has a session career in his future if he can just throw down solos like that on the spot.
Aaron: It’s one of my favorite songs from The Ramones (and criminally underrated by the way) but why did you guys choose it?
Andy: Every October, I always think how cool it would be to release a cover of “Pet Sematary” I know it’s not a Halloween song but it fits the Halloween season vibe and it’s always been a staple on my Halloween playlist. There’s something fun but also really dark about the song’s lyrics that have always struck me. The chorus “I don’t wanna be buried in a pet sematary, I don’t want to live my life again”, it’s pretty dark when you think about it. Hating your life so much that if someone was to bury you in a Pet Sematary, THAT’S what you’re worried about? Having to live more? I think Ramones really nailed it with This song in that those lyrics fly over most people’s heads it seems.
Aaron: Horror and Rock N’ Roll go together like chocolate and peanut butter anyway. But it’s not easy to balance them. It can’t be too gothic or too campy.
Andy: Haha it’s so true! I feel like we just kinda wanted to make the music video for fun. We didn’t spend a ton of time or money on it and just figured it would be rad to have some fun and hope it comes off that way. I do remember seeing some comments on the Gin blossoms Facebook page though when Robin posted a picture of the video and some dude commented “what are y’all goth now?” Haha. So maybe they’ll start selling Gin Blossoms shirts at hot topic now.
Aaron: What did each of you bring to the table with this track?
Andy: It was important to me to keep with the vibe of the original and not go too crazy in another direction with it. It’s a perfect song to me and I feel like we just wanted to have fun with it. I kept the drums big and bashy. Robin nailed it by bringing his distinctive voice to it. Any time someone hears his voice, you know exactly who he is. Paul really brought some rad guitar tones and unique vocals to it, esp at the end he wrote some call and response stuff to Robin’s voice and it sounds SO rad in there. Mike added keys and synth which really paid tribute to the original and his mixing job was spot on. And lastly, Grey provided some really cool guitar parts and that guitar solo which really took it to the next level. I was pumped when Robin sent it to me!
Aaron: Did it take a while putting this together with all this COVID stuff going on?
Andy: Honestly, it didn’t take long at all! Robin and Grey live in Long Island so basically Paul and I went into County Q with Mike Purcell here in Nashville and tracked the drums, bass, and guitar within a few hours. We then sent the tracks to Robin and he tracked his parts along with Grey’s guitar solo in his home studio.
Aaron: You’ve worked with a lot of groups I love (and covered here) like CAVO, John Davis of The Lees Of Memory, Matthew Caws of Nada Surf, and of course, a 50Thirdand3rd favorite, Transylvania Stud. How do you approach such a diverse group of artists?
Andy: I try to approach every band or artist with the same level of attention. It’s easy to be more attached to some projects over others and some people kinda slack on some. But I always try to bring as much to the table as possible. I had quit drumming a few years ago after 12 years going constant, but it’s funny how the drive comes back. I find myself wanting to play for anyone and everyone at this point in my life. I sometimes say yes to too many things I think haha.
Aaron: You’re kinda like the P Diddy of Nashville’s indie scene. Any other collabs in the works?
Andy: Haha I LOVE that analogy. I actually had initially asked my pal Dom from Kreeps to be involved in “Pet Sematary” but he’s an even busier dude that I am, and we couldn’t make it work out, but it led to something else him and I have coming out together next year and I am STOKED.
Aaron: You already know what a fanboy I am for anything Dom does!
Andy: I’m such a fan of his, and he’s an artist I think the world should really know about. So much talent in that dude!
Aaron: Despite living in Chicago, I listen to The Local Buzz every single Sunday. Nashville’s rock scene is over-flowing with such legit artists. How do you pick what to play!?
Andy: I get asked that a lot and honestly it just comes down to the song to me. It’s so easy to play the artist that’s “blowing up” to get the cool points. Or to play the super political songs and try to get more likes and all that nonsense but to me, it’s just about the songs. If a song is good and hits me a certain way I’m gonna play it.
Having a 3-hour radio show on Nashville’s Rock Station 102.9 The Buzz is a dream come true for me. It’s like bringing your playlist to the world every week. I take it seriously, days go into prepping for that show. I’ve hosted it 6 and a half years now and to watch it grow and to see the ratings getting so good esp lately has been such a good feeling.
Aaron: Well, being on the topic of Pet Sematary, what’s your current favorite scary movie?
Andy: I love the Insidious movies and The Conjuring movies. I feel like so many scary movies always let me down and end up not being scary but somehow those series always kill it. I was a massive fan of Hill House on Netflix last season but this season isn’t scary at all. Was definitely bummed haha.
Aaron: What’s next for Andy Herrin? Tricks? Treats?
Cavo just released a new single called “Muscle Memory”. We’re with The Label Group now and it’s been going really well. Our next single, “Lead On” is out in November. I’m really hoping we can get out and play some shows in 2021, like we all are I guess haha. Dom from Kreeps and I will be releasing some music together next year and Great American Canyon Band has a record coming out next year as well. So between radio and that, I’ll hopefully stay busy!
Pet Sematary by Robin Wilson & The Last Rites is streaming everywhere now!
Follow Andy Herrin on Twitter.