When Nerf Herder split up in 2003, could fans of the punk band credited with the theme to Buffy the Vampire Slayer have ever imagined that seven years later, lead vocalist Parry Gripp would be playing a show at the SXSW music festival while wearing a hamster suit? Unless they had insane psychic powers, probably not. But that’s just what has happened to Gripp in his years as a solo artist — all thanks to YouTube.
Gripp has been a longtime favorite and viral master for years, thanks to his keen realization that if the Internet loves anything more than adorable animals, it is adorable animals set to music. Starting in 2008, Gripp began his song of the week project, in which he faithfully puts out a new tune every week. All of the songs are available for free download or not-free iTunes or Amazon purchase, and some have been adapted to video.
Valleywag called him the ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic of YouTube in 2008, which is an apt description, though Gripp’s work is less parody-focused, instead manipulating found footage to work with his original songs. And despite the fact that cute videos are an easy sell, their popularity is less due to the cute factor of Gripp’s videos as it is due to the catchiness of his tunes.
I say this because I have had Boogie Boogie Hedgehog stuck in my head for the last THREE HOURS despite listening to other music in the meantime. That’s possibly the most catchy of his works, but other favorites include the animal-free Bump It! and Overweight Hedgehog. His iPad-mocking commercial is also a delight. There’s a heavy use of synth instrumentation in play here, but if you’re not a snob about electronically-generated music, you’ll definitely tap your toes.
Plus, thanks to the Bunim-Murray/M Theory original series The Set LIst, today we discover that the music holds up pretty well without the visuals. Filmed at SXSW 2010, each episode of Set List intermingles interviews with artists performing at the festival with their actual performances, giving insight as to how a musician constructs his show. In Gripp’s case, his performance included both acoustic and regular renditions of his Internet classics, and given the success of one particular sing-a-long number, appeared to be a major success.
Gripp could easily have gone the way of a one-hit wonder a while ago, but he does show an ability to adapt to trends and keep things fresh. Just the latest example: his most recent video finds its inspiration in Justin Bieber eating a Twiglet on a talk show. The song is a new version of one of Gripp’s early successes, Hamster Eating Popcorn on a Piano, and the update works well. And not just because young Mr. Bieber kind of looks like a hamster himself.
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