“Keeping Legend Alive: A Conversation With AJ Rebel Of Ordinary Boys” published on Tropicult.com
Ordinary Boys are keeping the legend of The Smith’s and Morrissey a-live in our town. I met A.J. Navarrete aka AJ Rebel, the lead singer of the ensemble, at the now trending Gramps in Wynwood.
We talked about everything from the legend of The Smiths, Morrissey, the history, conception and future of Ordinary Boys to tribute bands, nostalgia, and vegetarianism.
“A tribute artist is truly great when you leave their show not only as a fan of theirs, but also with a new found interest for the original.”
The Church: Nightmare Before Christmas
I caught Ordinary Boys this past December at The Vagabond. The club was resuscitating The Church, a late 1990’s Goth dance party that I went to back when I delved in dark poetry and had a fascination with Lydia Deetz, wearing all-black and combat-boots (wait, that’s still now…well, not so much).
Eager to escape my parents’ house for a while “because it’s not my home, it’s their home,” I asked an old childhood friend who was in town for the holidays (and who has always shared my appreciation for all things dark) to “take me out tonight, where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive.”
Of course, she was going to The Church. I pulled out my fishnets, a little black dress, and dusted-off my combat boots, for old-ti-mes sake.
“Ordinary Boys will not only make you an instant fan, but like great tribute acts, they will give you a newfound interest for the Smiths.”
The Wynwood Interview
Oscar Wilde, Morrissey’s favorite writer once said, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” With The Beatles silhouetting the alley near the Wood Tavern nearby and Salvador Dali peering with those dark, wild eyes, to passers-by out from a corner on the street, reminding them to stay strange and original, the streets of Wynwood are illuminated by a twilight of idols. The streets keep the legends alive, inspiring a new generation of burgeoning artists and art connoisseurs alike.
Naturally, I met AJ there on a cool, quiet night and found a place in the back of Gramps for a drink and conversation. AJ had a Grolsch and I had Gramps Original – homemade ginger with soda (highly recommended).
Tell me about the history of Ordinary Boys. How did you get together?
Three years ago I spoke to Ian Michael, who’s in charge of booking bands at Churchills. They were doing a lot of tribute bands with acts like Marilyn Manson and doing very well with that. I asked him about doing something for The Smiths and for Morrissey. And he said that he had the perfect day for it, Valentine’s Day, and it would be like an anti-Valentine’s day, situation. So I said perfect let’s do it.
We gathered up the musicians. I already knew Illia who’s the drummer for Astari Night, who had just gotten off from a Florida/Georgia tour. We had Munch who’s our bass player. And, I play drums so for me, I think it’s the backbone of the band. I wanted Illia because I knew we needed a solid drummer. We worked and perfected about ten songs. We called the night “Hated for Loving,” which is also the name of a Morrissey song.
What are the top The Smiths – Morrissey songs on your playlist?
Well we have two new members in the band, who are drop dead The Smiths fan. They’re more The Smiths fans and I’m more of a Morrissey fan. I like the swagger and the ego. And, I love Morrissey’s writing style now. There are some newer songs we want to implement. We can’t get too hard-core because we’ll loose some of the MTV kids. They are the ones that keep coming to the shows. So you have to find that balance.
Do you get into character at the shows?
Um. Well, It’s easy to do it with other tribute bands, like the U2 cover band does a good Bono impersonation. But, it’s tricky with Morrissey because like the name of the song says, he is “Hated for Loving.”
People either hate him because he is loved so much or becauses he is quote on quote, an “asshole.” And, I guess when you get to a certain point in your career you’re allowed to be an asshole and you can get away with it with your fans but the people that don’t like you are always going to call you an asshole.
What things has Morrissey has done to make him hated?
Well, he’s a diva. All the shows he’s canceled. About five years ago, one of the last shows he was doing on the tour was at the Fillmore. I took my sister it was part of her birthday present. We went out to dinner first and we got to the Filmore there was a big sign on the door that said, “show canceled.” And, you didn’t know till you got to Fillmore. They didn’t send out e-mails, nothing. You found out once you got to the venue. And, that’s happened a couple of times already.
Why did you want to cover the The Smiths and Morrissey, besides, obviously, being a huge fan. Is it because your voice sounds like Morrissey’s?
People started telling me I sounded like Mox after the started doing the shows. I’ve always been interested in doing the ultimate tribute band.
What is your favorite tribute band?
It can get a little of cheesball. [Laughs] I’ve never seen a lot of tribute bands, but there is a really good U2 tribute band I love. I’d like to put together the ultimate tribute show, like a two hour concert, with a B-stage.
Is that where you see Ordinary Boys going, being the ultimate tribute band?
No, I don’t think Ordinary Boys could ever get to that point. It would have to get in the right hands.
Well, it’s not like The Smiths is together.
Yeah, that’s another way of looking at it. Sometimes it comes down to what is it that you want to do more. Do you want to put together a project for money or do you want to put together a project you’re really passionate about. You really want to expose people to it or you really want to be on stage, and accentuate that part of your personality.
Yeah, that seems to be an issue for most artists and, well, people in general. So, as the Ordinary Boys have you thought of making any original music?
We talked about writing original music and making it sound like the Smiths. But, I wasn’t sure how that would boil over. The guys are all involved in other projects so it would be asking a little too much. The first show had a huge turnout and the second one was phenomenal so I think this year will be fantastic.
What’s the most fun you’ve had at a show?
We have fun at all the shows. If we mess up we laugh at each other and the audience picks up on that. It’s a well-oiled machine to a certain extent. The Poorhouse show was fun. I never drink at the shows. I like to keep my head in the game. I don’t even eat before a show. But that night I decided to have a beer.
Well, the first night we played there the owner thought we were just another tribute band, but when he heared us play that night, he gave us a bonus because we packed it and kept the people here. And now they call us back every three to four months because they want us to come back.
So, back to that night. We had some friends come in and do an Oasis cover between sets, and the crowd when crazy. When you throw a curve ball at people, something they like and they’re not expecting it, the response is phenomenal. So, when I came back to the second set I was a little tipsy and felt it was gonna be good, I ripped my shirt off ala Morrissey. [Laughs]
A plane passes overhead…
Good timing there channel ten.
What would you ask Morrissey if you ever met him?
I wouldn’t ask him anything. We’d just talk. We’d talk about vegetarianism and music.
I was going to ask you if you promote vegetarianism like Morrissey?
I am vegetarian.
And celibacy, too, lol?
Uh, no. [Laughs] Baby, steps, baby, steps.
Did you get into vegetarianism through the music?
No, I was vegetarian for a few years then I fell of the wagon. It’s hard after a gig. You don’t want to cook. I started eating drive-thru. Then, in May I started up again. It just feels right to me.
People ask me if I crave, and I mean I’m human and my mind starts thinking about how yeah it did kind of taste good. But, I start thinking about how that animal was killed. And, would you have the heart to kill it?
Why do you think the Goth culture is so drawn to The Smiths and Morrissey?
Maybe the sadness. He talks about what people don’t want to talk about. He’s very expressive. He’s a poet.
How would you describe The Smiths genre?
When they were together, they were being played on the radio. I don’t know if it was pop rock, but definitely popular music, a form of rock.
Have you gotten any gifts from fans as if you were the Mox?
[Laughs] On the first show my friend Mario from Modernage gave me a hug and roses like how they do to Morrissey.
Why do you think The Smiths means so much to so many people?
I know a guy who has all the records and was in his teens and early twenties so for him it’s a nostalgic thing, so nostalgia has a lot to do with it.
How did you come up with the name?
Ian thought of “Ordinary Boys,” which is a song. I wanted “The Last of the Famous International Playboys.” But it was kind of long, so the rest of the guys agreed with Ian. It’s definitely catchier.
What are some of the upcoming projects for the Ordinary Boys?
On February 23rd we are playing Radioactive Records in Ft. Lauderdale and it is going to be recorded (Facebook Event). I want to put together an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) so we can start playing bigger shows. There are also some shows planned for March. Eventually, we want to go to Orlando or Tampa.