The Courtneys are so ready for this. It’s one of the first sunny days of spring, and they’re on the other end of a Skype video chat, a red brick building and clear blue sky visible outside the window of vocalist Jen Twynn Payne’s Vancouver apartment. Payne is also the drummer, and she’s joined on her couch by bassist Sydney Koke and guitarist Courtney Loove, who both also sing. They’ve taken notes. It’s ’80s TV time.
The concept: These three fuzz-pop prodigies have allowed me to commandeer their Monday afternoon — one of the trio’s last before heading out on the road opening for Tegan and Sara — to view a sampling of theme montages of television shows from the Reagan-Bush years. Why? Well, their first EP was named after Keanu Reeves, their excellent debut album offers a beachy garage-rock gem called “90210,” and their new cassette single “Lost Boys” calls out a guy who looks exactly like he “did in 1986.” But mostly, we just wanted to tease out the Courtneys’ personalities without getting bogged down in Very Serious Questions.
Here’s the thing, though: They’re taking this very seriously! We’re going to watch the TV intros together, but they’ve already gone through them all in advance and jotted down comments. The word “analysis” is floated.
Each band member rating the shows’ opening sequences in four categories: catchiness, content, relevance and “couchlock” — does it make you want to stick around to watch the show? We end up talking about Mac DeMarco, Canadian fitness shows and the potential influence of the Growing Pains theme song on the musical aesthetic of Robin Thicke.
It was impossible to make note of all the laughter in the edited transcript below.
Sydney Koke: This was one of my favorite ones!
Courtney Loove: Me, too. I think this song is awesome. I was like, “I want to watch this.”
Jen Twynn Payne: This does not make me want to watch it.
Loove: So Jen doesn’t like that one, but Sydney and Courtney do like that one.
Payne: How well does it tell you the plot of the show?
Koke: I think it’s a very good reflection of the plot. I’ve never seen that show, but I know what it’s about.
Loove: Old ladies who are friends.
Koke: Yeah, and the vibe of that song communicates I think what the vibe of the show is very effectively.
Payne: You can tell it’s going to be about friendship.
Koke: OK, so how much would you watch it based on this?
Payne: Not at all. It’s dated to me. It’s very dated.
Koke: I thought the theme of friendship was relevant to all time periods.
Payne: But sonically itself, and then like the visuals? It looks really dated. I don’t want to watch it at all.
Koke: Yeah, only if I really, really had nothing better to do. Like, if I was in an airport and I had the option of watching that show or not watching anything, and I didn’t have a book, and I had nothing to do and I was really tired, then, yeah, I would watch it.
Loove: I had to stop this.
Loove: It’s so annoying.
Payne: It’s so trippy. This intro — like, pre-intro. The intro has an intro.
Koke: I think I watched this show when I was, like, 18.
Loove: I remember watching Mr. Dressup instead.
Payne: Yeah, this is so obnoxious. It’s not catchy at all.
Loove: It’s like Fran Drescher meets the Chipmunks. I can’t even tell if it’s a kids’ show or not.
Koke: That’s the thing about Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Everyone is like, “Is this actually for children?”
Payne: I would not watch this.
Koke: I would and have watched it, but only when consuming drugs.
Loove: I wouldn’t want to watch this when I was high. It’s too high-stress. I’d rather watch something chill.
Koke: Yeah. I’d rather watch Golden Girls.
Koke: The last five seconds of that really dates it, to me. The little bass fill that fades out.
Payne: Do you know Mac DeMarco? So, on one of his early, early tours — he wasn’t Mac DeMarco yet, just Makeout Videotape — they went to San Francisco and they remade the Full House intro.
You were in his band at that point, right?
Payne: Yeah, but I wasn’t on tour with him because I was in school.
So what do you guys think? Catchiness, content, relevance and couchlock…
Payne: I think it was very catchy. I still know the words to this day.
Loove: Very catchy. Content, uh, I don’t really care if it reflects what it’s about very well. It’s just a good song.
Payne: I think that the lyrical content was fitting. It had to do with home, yeah. “Full house”!
Koke: The song doesn’t have any really drastic dynamic points. It’s just very continuous, like everyday life would be.
Payne: Oh, I see what you’re saying. Hmm, relevance. I don’t know. I don’t think that that theme song would fit in with today, personally.
Koke: It’s pretty ’80s. Late ’80s. Or early ’90s.
Payne: Couchlock, I’m biased, but I would watch it just because of nostalgia. It would have nothing to do with the theme song.
Payne: A funny thing about Roseanne is there’s like a bajillion seasons, and each season still had that exact same theme song, but they’re just getting older. It’s the same shot but they’re older and her laugh’s a little bit different [at the end] but that’s all that changes.
Loove: It got more rock ‘n’ roll.
Payne: Whenever I see the Roseanne theme song on TV, I’m just like, “Yes! Roseanne is coming on!” I’m just stoked. OK, content: I think this theme song is brilliant because there are no lyrics but I still think it perfectly describes —
Loove: That doesn’t make any sense!
Koke: Do you think that it’s very artful in that it reflects the ambiance of the actual show?
Payne: It reflects the kind of people that the show is about perfectly. Because all it’s about is these people — there’s no real plot aside from that. And that music perfectly describes what those people are.
Payne: It’s held up really well, [mostly because] they changed it every year.
Loove: Adapted it to the times, to make sure it never went out of style.
Koke: I guess the intro for the show The Wire was a Tom Waits cover that was kind of heavy and ambling in the same vein as this is. [But the Roseanne theme] is so bad that whether it’s relevant or not is not valid.
Payne: This is a really good example of our varying musical tastes, when Sydney gave Golden Girls a five, and I gave it a zero, and I’m giving this a five and Sydney hates it.
Payne: Have you heard of Microsoft Songsmith? It’s this program where you just put in what key you want a song in, and what genre, and it makes you this really shitty song. It sounds like that’s what they used for this.
Loove: That is so not catchy at all. I forgot it already.
Payne: It’s terrible. I don’t know if it explains —
Koke: The singer has no personality.
Payne: He’s kind of mumbling.
Koke: It just sounds like a keyboard demo.
Loove: It didn’t sound like any specific style.
Koke: We all agree that this one sucks. It’s everything that Full House is not.
Koke: This one, oh boy.
Loove: Someone’s going to have to explain this. I don’t think this show aired in Canada.
Payne: I’m really into the beginning of this, with the spaceship. I was like, “Why is Close Encounters of the Third Kind in this video?”
Loove: I feel like there’s a very big disconnect between the lyrics and the song. This looks like an action show.
Payne: Yeah, and this is not an action song at all.
Loove: Everybody looks really stressed out and angry.
Payne: I don’t like these still frames. Whoa, that was cool — he just disappeared in the car. I’m going to assume this is like a low-budget Superman. Is that right? I can’t really say if it gives the content right, because I don’t really know what it’s actually about.
Koke: It seems like it was definitely written specifically for that, and the person writing it knew what the show was about.
Loove: The lyrics might, but the music doesn’t at all.
Loove: This show looks like a mess.
Koke: It looks like it would be kinda funny to watch actually.
Payne: I wouldn’t watch it.
Koke: Do you think it could be a current concept for a show?
Payne: Yeah, but it would need a way better theme song.
Payne: This one sonically reminded me of Mac DeMarco. Not the vocals. But I kinda want to watch it.
Koke: This is the kind of thing that’s, like, Mac DeMarco’s main influence.
Loove: I want to watch this just for Bruce Willis.
Payne: He’s so young, too.
Loove: This was like pre-Die Hard.
Payne: I don’t know what it’s about, but I want to watch it. The theme song isn’t really catchy, though.
Koke: Yeah, I kind of thought it was terrible.
Loove: It’s a bad theme song.
Koke: We would all watch it, because we’re confused, or intrigued.
Loove: I’m intrigued. It also seems like it’s more for adults.
I kind of felt like the theme song was, I don’t know, appropriate post-Daft Punk, kind of going back to “real” instruments. Like, maybe it would make more sense nowadays.
Koke: It’s like the Daft Punk album!
Payne: I think that right now it definitely is relevant, because there’s this weird throwback to this kind of music going on.
Loove: This is getting way in the stoner category or whatever it was. It’s really trippy.
Payne: If I heard this, and wasn’t looking at the TV, I would assume it was a travel or health and fitness show.
Payne: I don’t think it’s relevant.
Koke: It’s hard to say, because every season is different. They’re basically saying it’s only relevant for one four-month period by changing it every year. So no, not relevant. The one I saw there was flamenco dancing and there was no words.
Loove: I watched that top one.
Payne: Season three? Oh, this is classic. It sounds like the Sesame Street intro. They’re always dancing.
Koke: Some really old-school, like, horn and tom, drum-machine action here.
Loove: I kind of love that sound.
Payne: This looks like a TLC video.
Payne: These intros definitely do not explain what Cosby is about at all.
Koke: You’re just expected to know.
Payne: If I didn’t know, I would think it was a dance show.
Payne: Do you think that Robin Thicke was inspired by this?
I mean, that was his father…
Payne: [laughing, with great patience] I know, but do you think that musically he was inspired by this theme song?
Did you see the whole thing where they were accusing Robin Thicke of ripping off Marvin Gaye? Clearly, he was influenced by Marvin Gaye. But I don’t know if you have to owe somebody royalties for just sounding like them.
Payne: Yeah, lots of people sound like lots of people.
The other thing with this show that’s weird is that it turned out that Kirk Cameron — did you guys ever watch this show? Maybe not.
Payne: I didn’t, but I always thought Kirk Cameron was really cute.
And then he turned out to be super hardcore religious. And then this show, Leonardo DiCaprio was in the last season or two. A young Leonardo DiCaprio. As like, a last attempt to get it cool or whatever.
Loove: And it didn’t work, obviously.
Payne: I wouldn’t watch this.
Koke: I just like this one guitar sound, that sounds like this one scene transition in 90210. [Singing] Bow now NOWWW NOWWWW! But I feel like either they were ripping off 90210 or 90210 was ripping off this.
Loove: What do you think of the male and female vocalists?
Payne: I don’t like them.
Koke: It was a bad song.
Payne: The only thing that would make me watch this is Kirk Cameron.
Koke: And Leonardo DiCaprio?
Koke: This is the only show that we could all say that we’ve all watched.
It technically started in 1990, so I’m totally cheating.
Koke: Like, Twin Peaks I’ve watched recently. The theme song is great. It’s really simple and takes its time.
Payne: I don’t think that this intro describes this show.
Koke: It gets the vibe, though.
Loove: There are no people in this intro at all.
Payne: This looks like one of those videos you have to watch in shop class. “Let’s take a tour of the logging plant.”
Koke: We’ll just do a shop sequel video. It’s supposed to be a small town in the northern U.S., which is basically like Canada.
Loove: This show really spaces things. Eerie and lots of space.
Koke: And xylophone. I love slow fade-outs. Excessively long fade-outs.
Loove: There were no people in it, at all. It gives you no information. It’s potentially misleading about what the show is about.
Payne: It’s very mysterious. You can tell it’s weird.
Koke: Especially because they use neon green font. That’s an interesting clue that this is not what it seems or that it has some sort of extraterrestrial or alien subject matter. Neon green is the official symbol of extraterrestrials.
Loove: [to Jen, whose notepaper is flapping audibly] Do you need to consult your notes for this one?
Koke: You took a lot of notes.
Loove: Jen pulled an all-nighter for this interview.
Payne: I did not!
Koke: This is right up your alley here. Next we’ll have an interview about favorite findings in neuroscience for the last 10 years or something. And then what you would like to have Courtney? What would your favorite interview be?
Loove: Cartoons, animation history.
Koke: Best cartoons from the ’60s?