Long before Fred Armisen became known as a SNL cast member or one half of the dynamic duo behind Portlandia, he was a drummer in a punk band called Trenchmouth. Based out of Chicago, the band released four albums between 1988 and 1996 before disbanding. In that time, Armisen did a lot of drumming and saw a *lot* of bands. Many would go on to grab the fame that seemed to constantly elude his band. In the above clip from The Tonight Show, Armisen’s experience is put to hilarious good use with a trip through indie and punk rock history based on rhythm guitar styles.
He starts with a decent Lou Reed imitation to locate the original source at the Velvet Underground, then up through the Ramones and Sex Pistols, eventually winding its way through the ska-influenced pop-punk of Blink-182 and ending with the Strokes. Host Jimmy Fallon, as always, laughs non-stop throughout. And Armisen also name drops Sleater-Kinney as a knowing wink to his Portlandia mate Carrie Brownstein.
If this sounds like a well-rehearsed bit, well, it is. But when Armisen does it live, it’s on the drum set. In the below clip, he makes almost the same stops along the way on his journey. And it helped confirm my suspicion that his post-punk guitar bit (“I am a neon light”) is his parody of Wire.
Armisen spoke to Sam Jones on his monochromatic Off Camera interview show about his years of punk struggle with Trenchmouth, which will help place his numerous band-based comedy skits in the correct context.
Don’t miss his classic punk music SNL skits in the Relateds below. And if you are jonesing for the punk stylings of the hot, young Armisen, here’s live footage of Trenchmouth from 1992:
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the Notes from the Shed podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.