VIBES | FEATURE 05.01.02 Ton o' fun Sober rockers Born To Please shake it up and spit it out BY LEE SMITH Two years ago, Born To Please stormed through their first practices in a sweltering space on Marietta Street near the Somber Reptile. "When we started writing songs, we were in no hurry to play shows," recalls bassist Andrew Shearer. Shearer and guitarist Santiago Velasquez had sampled the Atlanta punk scene in a high school outfit called Evergreen. As for singer Jeri Waynick and drummer Justin Freeborn, they'd never been in a band. "We wanted Jeri and Justin to be comfortable," laughs Velasquez. "So we thought, 'Let's play a club where no one's gonna be on a Saturday night.' So we picked the Somber Reptile." At the group's first gig, the opening band left shortly after Born To Please started playing, and only one extremely intoxicated woman remained. With no idea of how an audience would react to their potent mix of rock, punk, jazz and humor, the band decided to play a few more times at the club. Subsequent reaction was favorable, and soon the band was getting better and better gigs, moving rapidly through the underground punk world to mainstream clubs in a matter of months. Due to the venues the band often played, critics wrongly labeled Born To Please a punk outfit. "If you come to see us hoping to see a punk show, you're gonna be disappointed," says Waynick. "We have a lot of punk influences, but we also have a lot of metal and rock and R&B in our sound." Then there's the fact that BTP is considered both an Atlanta band and an Athens band. And while the Athens scene was open to the hybrid sound, gigs were hard to come by there because of the group's Atlanta address. "It's a fine line," says Shearer. "I live in Athens, and we record and practice in Athens, but the rest of the band lives in Atlanta. We're straddling the fence, creatively and geographically." In both cities, "drunk people and kids" love Born To Please, says Shearer, thanks in part to all-ages shows. Shearer's favorite BTP gig so far happened last year in the very un-rock city of Lawrenceville. "Kids were excited to see us," he recalls. "Playing there was perfect for us because it's about halfway between Atlanta and Athens, and we aren't really rock 'n' roll people." That said, BTP's Upstairs Tiger CD is self-released on their own Fuk Rok label -- "our big 'fuck you' to the whole rock cliche," says Shearer. "We are usually the only band on the bill who's gonna hop around on stage and have fun," adds Shearer. "Hey, if you pay to see me, I'll fuckin' dance around and get naked." BTP subscribes to a sober approach to fun perfect for the underage fans. "We're not a drug-using band," says Shearer. "When we get together after practice, we don't go get drunk. We go eat." Their clear-eyed take on a myriad of topics -- occasionally peppered with profanity -- may be shocking to some. But to BTP, it's just business as usual. "Some of our songs deal with self-hatred, confusion, evaluation and stuff," says Velasquez. But Waynick adds that the band has "silly and outright verbally perverted songs, too. It's us having fun. We'd be posers if we didn't have all that stuff in our songs, because it's how we are." "At one of our first shows," says Shearer, "we went on after a hardcore band. Jeri said, 'Born To Please is not music to mosh to, it's music to fuck to.' I got all teary-eyed."

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