The sales clerk at J.C. Penney assumed the gold skinny jeans were for Jeff Japp’s wife. When the clerk offered to show his wife to the women’s dressing room, she was politely turned down. The clerk never suspected the shoppers were headed upstairs so Japp could try the jeans on in the men’s dressing room.
Such are the occupational hazards of glam rock.
Japp is the lead guitarist and vocalist of the Glampas, a local tribute band who pay homage to ‘70s glam acts like Sweet, T. Rex and David Bowie. And much like the glitter rock titans whose music they adore, the Glampas believe in the visual aspect of rock ‘n’ roll.
“I have to get my kids to paint my nails,” Japp admits to Bill Kopp, the Glampas’ keyboardist and vocalist.
The two are sitting on a couch at The Hop Ice Cream Café wearing street clothes that, with the possible exception of Japp’s Ziggy Stardust tee, belie the platform boots and stretch pants they’ll don at their July 31 show at the Odditorium.
“We’re really looking forward to the gig at the Odditorium because some of the gigs we’ve had — the one that jumps to my mind is Harley-Davidson. You can’t really glam up too much at Harley-Davidson,” Japp says.
“Not if you want to get out of there alive,” Kopp adds.
Rock pageantry is important to the Glampas if you intend to call yourself a performer on stage.
“A lot of bands come out dressed as if someone walked up to the mic and said, ‘Excuse me, is there a bass player in the house,’ and somebody just walked out of the audience, strapped on a bass, and started playing,” Kopp says.
When rousing an audience to relive one of the most hedonistic, larger-than-life periods in rock history, the Glampas know the goofy outfits help the crowd release their inhibitions and shout along with their fists pumping.
“It’s kind of a communal thing when it’s at its best,” Kopp says. “Us and the audience are all one sort of hardy thing, so we just have to be the loudest-dressed people making the loudest noises.”
After all, giving the people a good show is the entire point. Japp and Kopp fondly remember the finest shows they’ve seen as the ones where the performers were having the best time and projecting that energy into the crowd.
The Glampas intend to recapture a simpler era. Live bands played fun tunes at high school dances, and DJs were free to play songs based not on the whims of some corporate programmer, but on the merits of their hooks.
“When we think about doing songs, it’s really, ‘Is it fun? Will people get up and dance to it?’” Japp says. “That’s the main thing we consider whenever we’re deciding whether to add a new song to our repertoire.”
And half the fun is hearing songs by Alice Cooper or Thin Lizzy that you won’t hear from your average tribute band.
“There are classic rock/jukebox-type bands who play ‘Free Bird,’ ‘Gimme Three Steps,’ ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ or whatever,” Kopp says. “Our idea is to pick stuff that people are going to remember or feel like they remember, but that they haven’t been beaten over the head with.”
But such a simple idea for an innovative take on the tribute-band phenomenon started off as little more than a joke. Japp suggested the humorous concept to Kopp when the two played in a classic-rock-style band called the Back Pages. It was years later, after the Back Pages had split and Japp and Kopp had pursued other musical avenues, that the two revisited the concept more seriously.
However, the real break came when Japp’s friend Seth Kellam entered the fold on rhythm guitar and vocals. Kellam, who is younger than the rest of the group, may appear at first glance a little more Mötley Crüe than Mott the Hoople. But with him he brought his college-honed talent as a vocalist, an asset to the Glampas’ arrangements, which often include three-part harmonies.
“We would have limped along and had a little bit of fun here and there if it weren’t for Seth. Getting him made a world of difference,” Kopp says. “We had to up our game too. It was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to have to work harder on the vocals now so we don’t sound like clowns next to him.’ It raised the bar.”
Now, with Kellam, bassist Greg Allen, and drummer Dan Rosenthal in tow, the Glampas are ready to stir up the freaky folks at the Odditorium with a heaping dose of KISS, ELO and the Bay City Rollers.
“I feel like the Odditorium gig is going to be a good venue for us to fit into,” Japp says. “People can get in there and be as freaky as they want to be. We can dress as wild as we want to. We’re just hoping that we get a good turnout and have a lot of fun there.”
who: The Glampas
where: The Odditorium
when: Wednesday, July 31 (8 p.m. $5. http://www.ashevilleodditorium.com or 575-9299.)