One-man-bands have always really impressed me. Until I met a man with no band: IMAGINE “the” BAND. The name perfectly describes the concept: wearing a too-tight wetsuit and headphones with “special education” printed across the top, Eric William Pierson (known as Egos Personos on stage, and just E.P. on planet Earth) hyper-earnestly performs original songs a cappella, and it’s up to the audience to imagine the band. “I just had a bunch of songs, but everybody I wanted to jam with was busy,” E.P. explains of the concept’s genesis. “Plus I didn’t have a radio in my truck, so I was always making up songs and singing them to myself.”
Most funny guys think of thousands of ideas like this. But it takes a special person to grab hold of one and actualize it. And on stage at least, E.P. takes it very seriously; E.P.’s imaginary band has only “played” 12 shows since first opening for dirty girl rapper Peaches three years ago, but due to the intensity of his performances, “The knees are already coming out of the wetsuit, there’s a hole in the crotch.” Nor does he ever wink at the audience. “I want to do more than just write a funny song,” E.P. explains. “I want to blur the line of ‘is this guy serious?’ I’ve thought about doing stand-up comedy, but it’s just not enough of a mindfuck. Same reason I’m not so into having a traditional band.”
A traditional band’s volume would also obscure E.P.’s well-written lyrics, especially since many of his songs are (I imagine) heavy metal (“Mean Face” about testosterone rock) or even grindcore (“Ballpark Franks,” about America). And while in most live comedy, silence equals death (notice how many insecure stand-ups and talk-show hosts won’t stop yakking even while the audience is laughing), silence is a punchline for IMAGINE “the” BAND. Because no “real” singer sings during every note of a song, E.P. too may sing over the first four beats of an eight-beat measure, then leave the second four “instrumental”—meaning, in this case, silent. Because of this silence, audiences either chatter less at ItB shows, or else E.P. becomes a heckler’s dream. Between songs at a recent Howling Wolf performance, one smart guy yelled, “Turn it up!” To which E.P responded sincerely, “We’re gonna turn it up on a different level,” then launched into his theme song “Imagine the Band,” in which each invisible band-member—including the conga player—takes a solo.
E.P. claims the slower numbers, such as his country music send-up “Look Both Ways (Before You Cross My Heart)” are the hardest to pull off. “There were two shows that really flopped,” he recalls. “One was opening for EyeHateGod. It was their idea; they like to badger their crowd. The other time, my friend Pepper [Keenan, Corrosion of Conformity] invited me to perform at Le Bon Temps Roule. I was opening for Morning 40 Federation and you’d think their crowd would be into it.” But E.P., a longtime Ninth Ward resident and collaborator of Quintron (their killer rap group Drumbuddy Badass unfortunately breaks up after every show), blames that bellyflop on the crowd’s Uptown attitude.
But the majority of the time, “I look out and see people bobbing their heads!” E.P. laughs. “They’re hearing the beat!” ItB has rocked crowds opening for Dead Moon and Canned Ham, and won a special place in the heart of hilariously unfunny stand-up comedian Neal Hamburger: “I’m gonna go open for him in L.A. He says he’d love for me to ride his coattails.” ItB’s official soon-to-be-released DVD Listen with Your Eyes! was filmed at a Hamburger show. And I would bet that someday we will see ItB on Letterman or Conan.
If not, E.P. also has more than this one questionable iron in the fire. For the past five years this former co-host of Louisiana Jukebox (“I like to think I played a part in that show’s demise.”) has been hawking a TV pilot called Quest for the Unknown: “I play E. Willy P.,” E.P. drawls, “a country guy with simple smarts who goes out and investigates supernatural goin-ons.” Two full episodes can be seen at questfortheunknown.com.
In the process of playing a record store clerk in Carl Perkins’ (“Blue Suede Shoes”) electronic press kit, E.P. and the king of rockabilly penned a little ditty about astronauts having sex. He also had a bit part in B-movie Candyman 2, and played drummer DJ Fontana in the recent Elvis TV movie: “Thank god there wasn’t a drum- kit at the audition,” laughs E.P., a novice drummer who practiced like hell after he won the part. “At the audition the casting guy asks, ‘So can you play drums?’ I said, ‘Good enough to be in Elvis’ band.’ The guy’s like, ‘That doesn’t sound too good.’ I said, ‘What? You don’t like Elvis?’”
But currently, E.P. is focusing all his energy on Sleepstation 41, “A documentary about my wife talking in her sleep.” After seeing clips, I can honestly say this is one of the weirdest, funniest things I’ve ever seen. So amazing that, “I’m afraid people won’t believe she’s asleep,” confides E.P. In one scene E.P.’s wife loudly channels a Molson Golden beer commercial that doesn’t exist, but should. In another, E.P. slips a keyboard beneath her limp hands and—though she doesn’t play—she instinctually tinkles-out a repetitive little melody.
IMAGINE “the” BAND plays (in your head) Saturday, August 13 at Circle Bar, opening for Crimson Sweet.