Since early 1978, brothers Jeff and Steven McDonald have been working on a band, music, or some form of noisemaking. At first, they were The Tourists. Then in 1980, they became Red Cross (but some nutty nonprofit organization already had dibs on that name) and finally wound up as Redd Kross. Sure, over the past 37 years, the McDonalds have taken some breaks here and there from Redd Kross to raise children, relax, recharge, etc., but the fact remains that their passion for music and all things pop culture has allowed their musical acumen to continue to grow and flourish. From their first recording, the 1980 EP Red Cross, to their most recent full-length, Researching the Blues (2012), the band has continued to expand its sound, even if it hasn’t performed nearly as much as fans would like.
We caught up with the brothers one day after they were done practicing a couple of weeks ago. Always entertaining, the McDonalds occasionally finish each other’s sentences and are not shy about sharing their thoughts on their career, the scene (or “scenes,” as they point out), and pretty much anything else they could think of. Catch them on Friday night at the Crescent Ballroom as they return to the desert and promise to bring the “razzmatazz.”
New Times: Hi, guys. What’s happening?
Jeff McDonald: We just finished rehearsal.
How was it?
Jeff McDonald: We’ve been having great rehearsals and going through a lot of songs.
Are you going to bust out with some special stuff for the Phoenix fans, since it has been two decades since you have been here?
Jeff McDonald: I assume everything will be special since it’s been two decades.
Steve McDonald: We’re banking on that.
Jeff McDonald: So far, we’ve had just the best times on this tour, so we’re thinking it will be special. We don’t play that much, so we have such a good time when we play.
You took some time off, Jeff, to raise your daughter, correct?
Jeff McDonald: Yeah, that was in the early 2000s. We took this long break. I didn’t want to play. I wanted to recharge. I really wanted to be ready to perform again. Redd Kross is band that (pauses) . . . We’re kind of like seasoned performers.
Steve McDonald: (interjects) more like Liza Minnelli.
Jeff McDonald: And the Osmonds . . .
Steve McDonald: We don’t consider ourselves peers of like the Foo Fighters. We’re more like peers of Liza Minnelli and the Osmonds.
Jeff McDonald: We always make sure our show has a certain razzmatazz. Some people call it razzle dazzle, but I call it razzmatazz. I think some of our latest shows that we’ve done in the past year have been some of our most exciting gigs. We never play the same show twice. We always write up the set list, like, five minutes before the show. We kind of keep ourselves on edge on purpose.
So, how many songs did you run through today (in practice)?
Jeff McDonald: Umm, we are just kind of getting our feet wet again . . .
Steve McDonald: Like 30.
Jeff McDonald: Was it 30?
Steve McDonald: Yeah. Some of them are a minute and half long, but . . .
Jeff McDonald: We know songs from any record in our career. We do a little bit . . . You know, songs that work with the set. Sometimes we’ll be playing in front of an audience and a certain song doesn’t seem right for the vibe, so we’ll cut it, and sometimes we’ll throw in a song that isn’t on the list. We do that stuff constantly. I think it really irritates some people in the band . . . But um.
Steve McDonald: No one cares . . .
Jeff McDonald: Steven can handle it.
Steve McDonald: I can just never tell if we skip a song if it’s because someone can’t read the set list.
Jeff McDonald: It happens. I’ve skipped like four songs before on accident.
Somebody with good penmanship should write the set lists.
Jeff McDonald: I have the worst penmanship in show business. I have the penmanship of a doctor.
So you prescribe your songs?
Jeff McDonald: We prescribe our songs. We don’t perform them.