Saturday Night Live’s history of extensions has been spotty at best. While films like Wayne’s World and The Blues Brothers were worldwide successes, the majority of their TV-to-movie screen adaptations have been critically and commercially unsuccessful.
However, a number of properties spun off independently by writers or performers have found interesting new lives on the big screen. Origins of the cult classic Office Space can be found in Mike Judge’s animated shorts that aired on the show, and the fictional band The Folksmen from the mockumentary A Mighty Wind began as a sketch all the way back in 1984.
A celebrated one-off sketch from 2010 has now found new life in recorded music. In the scene “Band Reunion at the Wedding,” actors Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Ashton Kutcher, and musician Dave Grohl play middle-aged men who have momentarily reunited their band for Armisen’s daughter’s wedding. It is not until they begin playing that the audience realizes they were a 1980s hardcore group.
The specific details and references to the 1980’s Washington, D.C. hardcore scene led to the skit being sent around and appreciated by music fans not normally interested in Saturday Night Live. Yet it was still a surprise to see that the “band,” Crisis of Conformity, had their song “Fist Fight” released as a 7-inch single on the Drag City label this past July!
The single’s description reads,
“This reissue is what some would call an essential little hardcore single from the mid-80s DC scene. In fact, ‘Fist Fight’ might make ‘reissue of the year’ — especially if you’ve never heard any classic mid-80s punk stuff before.”
Paper Magazine tracked down Fred Armisen, the only real member of the band, and discussed the release with him. When asked about his inspiration for the project, he replied, “The idea behind it was to write a love letter to my teenage years, to all the bands that I grew up listening to…It’s a thank you to all the bands who inspired me.”
The artwork is meticulously designed to call back to the style of the 80s hardcore scene, with DIY style collage images and handwritten text. It is clear from the thought and care put into the creation that the content is not poking fun at the scene but appreciating it for what it was. This depth of knowledge and sincerity appeals to music fans who may have been turned off by a strictly comedic approach.
The commitment to crafting a realistic band that could exist in our world is very appealing to fans. Fucked Up also took this approach earlier this year to support the release of their album David Comes to Life. The band created David’s Town, a “compilation” of eleven bands from the fictitious town Byrdesdale Spa that celebrated the 70s British punk genre.
These two records are great examples of how music extensions involving fictitious bands do not have to be cheesy or tongue-in-cheek, but can be very sincere and carefully produced “love letters” to original content or a music genre. Armisen went so far as to record the single in the studio of Brendan Canty, a member of the widely celebrated hardcore band Fugazi, and include photos in the album art of when he and Dave Grohl were involved in the hardcore scene.
It is unlikely that the property will extend any further than this, as Armisen is heavily involved in his work on Saturday Night Live and television series Portlandia, but the single is an excellent case of how to creatively extend non-music content into music release with the appropriate amount of care.