Fred Armisen and Crisis of Conformity: Hardcore Punk's Official Wedding Band

"Band Reunion at the Wedding" -- a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Fred Armisen, Dave Grohl, Ashton Kutcher and Bill Hader as Crisis of Conformity, a fictional reunited '80s hardcore band -- gained a cult following in both the underground music and comedy communities after it aired in early 2010. So when a 7-inch single for the Crisis of Conformity song "Fist Fight" recently appeared in venerable indie label Drag City's catalog without fanfare, PAPERMAG decided to track down Armisen, the band's creator (and sole member), to discuss the secretive project. 

What was the inspiration behind "Band Reunion at the Wedding" and "Fist Fight" by Crisis of Conformity?

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 tribute to Black Flag and Hüsker Dü. All the bands that I used to love. Bad Brains. I remember when that kind of music was the most aggressive, revolutionary music. And when I did the math, I realized that the people in those bands are old enough to have daughters who are getting married. So I thought of people of that age still playing that music, which I think is a nice thing. It's a celebration of it, that that music can represent a type of anger, and a type of energy from when you're 18. And I thought where's a nice place where you could smash everything up, and that would be a wedding.

In the sketch I put all kinds of details that referred to people from different bands. On the opening card, it says "The Cadena-Norton Wedding." And that's a reference to Dez Cadena of Black Flag and Greg Norton of Hüsker Dü. And I remember very specifically from that time that bands would name politicians, like Ronald Reagan. But now looking back, it's like, "Who were they talking about? Who's Alexander Haig?" I just love it. It's just a love letter. It's a thank you to all the bands who inspired me.

When you pitched the sketch to Dave Grohl -- who's a veteran of the D.C. hardcore scene -- what was his reaction?

Oh, he was way into it. I had to play it for him in his dressing room, I think I had a guitar or it was on my computer, and he understood right away what it was about. There's a part where the song goes slower...

It reminded me of a Suicidal Tendencies breakdown.

Yeah, it was typical in a lot of songs of that time. Dave knew what exactly what to do. It didn't need any explaining.

"Band Reunion at the Wedding"

The record sleeve says it was recorded by Brendan Canty [of Fugazi]. When and where did that session take place?

I did it this year, in the spring. Before I went to Portland, I went down to D.C. to Brendan's studio, and I did a bunch of songs, and that was one of them. It took two seconds.

Like the Crisis of Conformity B-side "Kick It Down and Kick It Around."

Yeah, I wrote that one on the train on the way down there. We needed a B-side because Drag City wanted one. That's kind of based on "Gimme Gimme Gimme," the Black Flag song.

Did Canty play on any of the songs?

Not on those songs.

So you're playing every instrument?


[Above: The 7-inch cover for "Fist Fight" by Crisis of Conformity. The singer with the shaved head at the bottom left is Armisen, performing with his old hardcore band, the KGB. In the top right corner is a photo of Dave Grohl as a teenager in the audience at a D.C. hardcore show.]

"Band Reunion at the Wedding" seemed like it could have been a Portlandia sketch. Do you have a process for separating what material goes on SNL and what goes on Portlandia?

It's all timing. It all happens in the moment. I was at SNL when I had that idea, and I was like, "Let's try it." When it's the summertime and I have ideas, those go into Portlandia.

If you could see any hardcore band reunite at a wedding, who would it be?

You know, I would love to see Hüsker Dü reunite, just to watch them play together again. I know that reunions aren't always ideal, because so much goes into it, like where you're at at the time and the environment and the energy, but just purely for the fun of seeing them together. And Minor Threat, of course.

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