In 1987, a couple of college students in Cleveland, Ohio, inspired by punk bands who couldn't even play their instruments, formed a band with an undertaking to counter this trend and play punk music of first-rate quality: well written songs, well played -- plain and simple. To do so, they reached back in recent history to styles of music that everyone loves: Doo-wop, Surf, Girl Groups, Brill Building/Tin Pan Alley -- all of this, American music. The band's first song "Strawberry Girl" was written, and the Beatnik Termites were formed; a trio, making a new American music.
The band's first task was to record and self-release their 1989 debut 12-inch vinyl EP, the self-titled "Beatnik Termites." The EP was immediately heavily supported by local then national college radio. The song "Strawberry Girl" caught the attention of some DJs at a local commercial radio station, and quickly the Termites were enjoying airplay on commercial radio before having ever performed live. The Termites immediately returned to the studio recording their "Ode to Susie and Joey" 7-inch single, also self-released.
By this time, a man named Joachim Gaertner in Frankfurt, Germany took note of the Termites, and enlisted the band to release their "Schoolboy's Dream" 7-inch EP on his label Get Happy! Records, the band's first European release.
In 1993 the Termites again returned to the studio, this time recording their first full length release "Taste the Sand!!," which is now recognized as a seminal classic, -- highly influential in defining what has come to be today's pop-punk sound. But long before the term "pop punk" had been coined, the Beatnik Termites were simply a punk band playing their original style of sugar-coated syrupy pop songs; and "Taste the Sand!!" was already the band's fourth release. Barbershop harmonies and an aggressive surf punk backbeat make "Taste the Sand!!" an instantly likeable and seriously fun record. The Termites retain an exacting approach at innocent and heartbroken pop music that sounds like "Meet the Beatles" accidentally played at 45 rpm. It was this highly stylized original power pop music that lead "Taste the Sand!!" to widespread international acclaim. Concurrent with its original release in the USA, "Taste the Sand!!" was also released in Spain on Rock-n-Roll, Inc, a subsidiary of Munster, Spain's largest independent label.
Also at this time, the Termites were invited by Ben Weasel, lead singer of the seminal second wave punk band Screeching Weasel (who have been credited with single handedly leading the second wave revival of punk) to be on the compilation "Punk USA" which Ben was putting together for Lookout! Records. The compilation included such heavyweights as Screeching Weasel, Face To Face, The Queers and Jawbreaker. However, critics noted the Beatnik Termites' contribution as a stand out track on the compilation. It seemed that next to song after song of harder edged punk, the Termites' sweet, mellifluous power pop tune stood out from the crowd. There's just something about hearing a song for the first time and immediately singing along as if you've heard the song on the radio a million times already.
Also growing out of Lookout! Records at the time, in 1994 Green Day were graduating from Lookout! Records to Reprise/Warner Brothers and were about to have their first #1 hit "Longview," which would introduce pop punk to the world. The Termites secured an opening spot for Green Day's Cleveland show on the landmark "Dookie" tour when "Longview" was at the top of the pop charts; and the Termites found themselves playing to a sold out audience of 20,000; audiences the size of which the Termites would repeat the following summer. Green Day had been introduced to the world, and "pop punk" had been given a name on the map. With this, the Beatnik Termites began to realize great success.
What followed was a rapid-fire whirlwind of releases, and by 1997 the Termites had releases on 17 different independent labels encompassing the USA, Spain, Germany, and Italy. Most significantly, the Termites' "Live at the Orifice!" CD and 12-inch picture disk was released giving fans a glimpse of what it's like to be at a live Termites show. Another significant release during this time was the "Lineage" 7-inch featuring cover art by Karl Alvarez, bassist from the legendary L.A. punk band the Descendents. Another 7-inch single was released with Get Happy! Records in Frankfurt -- a one sided single continuing the Termites' tradition of collectable vinyl releases. After releasing a single in Italy, various formats with two different labels in Spain, and a series of collectable vinyl on Recess Records in Los Angeles, the Termites began to feel that they were too spread out. For this reason, a decision was made to start the band's own label, Insubordination Records, as a vehicle for their music. To date, the Insubordination Records label group has grown to include a catalog of 50 plus releases, and now even incorporates the entire catalogs of Knock Knock Records, Imperfekt Records and Buzzpop Records.
At the same time, Mutant Pop Records entered the fray and centralized the entire underground American pop punk scene in the mid-90s. It's rather ironic to note that the Termites, having so many releases with various labels during this time, never had a release on Mutant Pop, which thrived on the very scene of which the Termites were actually at the center of. From this scene spawned a legion of bands following in the Termites' footsteps, such as The Proms (who attained a degree of notoriety in their own right), the Connie Dungs, and Charlie Brown Gets a Valentine (a band who took their name after a Termites song.)
In 1998, ten years after their first recording, the Termites embarked on their first tour opening for Marky Ramone's latest band, The Intruders. With such a solid history of recorded output, Termite fans were waiting at every corner of the tour for their first glimpse of the band live. Marky Ramone, an ardent connoisseur of oldies music, was himself taken with the Termite's stylized doo-wop punk. In fact, Marky was so impressed that he invited Termites vocalist Pat Kim to co-write a song with him which appears on Marky Ramone's "The Answer to Your Problems?" CD.
The Termites "Bubblecore!TM" LP was released on Recess Records in 1999, and the band continued to tour for three years. The 14 tracks on "Bubblecore!TM" are without question the angriest that you've heard or will hear from the Termites. And the highly infectious super sugary melodies are played with the Termites' irresistible style that is punk only in spirit, not in sound.
Soon thereafter, the Termites' recorded and released a cover of the entire Ramones' LP "Pleasant Dreams", reinventing it with their signature sugar-coated sound. The release was the last in a highly collectable series of Ramones cover LPs' originally issued as vinyl only on Clearview Records, covered by such bands as Screeching Weasel, The Queers, and Mr. T-Experience, among others. The Beatnik Termites' "Pleasant Dreams" was recorded with special guest on bass Ray Ahn from the Hard-ons, Australia's premier underground export. The "Pleasant Dreams" session was also the first complete Termites session recorded by highly acclaimed producer Mass Giorgini at Sonic Iguana Studios. As master of the control knobs, Giorgini would actualize for the band the recorded sound which the Termites had envisioned and been striving for. Giorgini later commented that the Termites' "Pleasant Dreams" session was one of the highlights of his professional recording career. The album won more praise from now longtime Termites supporter Marky Ramone, who when questioned on the multitude of Ramones' covers being released commented succinctly in Hit List Magazine #4 of the Termites "That cover LP I like. It was real good." The praise landed the Termites with an official nod from the Ramones in the liner notes of the Ramones own re-mastered version of "Pleasant Dreams" on Rhino Records. It seemed that everyone was hip to the Beatnik Termites!
Then the personal diaries of Nirvana frontman and pop icon Curt Cobain were published post-mortem "Journals" in 2002, where Cobain mentions the Termites early 1989 recording "When She's Nearby." Once again, everyone who had been living under a rock was asking: "Who are these Beatnik Termites?"
The assiduous Termites again recorded, and released their "Girl Crazy!" CD in 2003 followed-up with two years of continuous touring. It's hard to believe that the Termites' "Girl Crazy!" is not a Greatest Hits release when you listen to hit-after-hit-song -- but it's simply the latest output from the band. On "Girl Crazy!," the Termites deliver nine new hit songs demonstrating their mastery of the unique style of modernized sock-hop power-pop which they developed on their seminal 1989 recordings. And they are still playing those same bitter sweet, instantly catchy bubblegum melodies that you can sing along with the first time you hear. "Girl Crazy!" delivers nine instant classics with all of the 50's songwriting hooks that have made this pop staple infamous in the underground music scene. The Beatnik Termites have clearly gone infectious!
Great songs, stunning melodies, trademark Beatnik Termite harmonies, soaring upper-register vocals, and a driving surf punk back beat. The Termites' highly stylized music is a progression of the power pop sound that has left so many fans breathless: a modern pop whose quality is timeless. The Termites music is urgent and direct: not retro, -but timeless. Stories of hopeless love, wrapped up in infectious melodies, written and executed with precision, and hitting a bulls-eye right in the cross hairs of modern indie pop. Timeless music that evokes feeling ranging from those your parents had at the sock-hop or watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, to those you have when you're alone with your honey on a sunny afternoon and those you have slam dancing at a punk show.
Now ruling the underground of pop music with their scores of self-releases and even more releases on other indie labels, the Termites have a history of recorded output spanning 20 years with 26 releases to date. And Termite fans continue to be thrilled by the trio's live three part harmonies. Despite the bands hit making ability, they continue to operate in the underground, beneath the mainstream radar. The Termites meanwhile continue in pursuit of their dream: to have "Weird Al" Yankovic parody one of their songs. Along the way, there have been many other interesting events including television appearances, a Hollywood video, and front page newspaper coverage of their unlikely arrests and convictions for disturbing the peace for playing too loud at one of their shows.
The sound is almost that of the very early Beatles. Rich and energetic, this is perhaps the musical equivalent of eating oversweet chocolates laced with amphetamines. - Fact Sheet Five, 1989
The coolest sounding American pop-punk band. This Cleveland trio is addictive. - Shredding Paper, 1995
America's most under rated band strikes again. - Maximumrocknroll, 1995
These boys do the geek rock/wuss punk thing so well it brings tears to my eyes. - Maximumrocknroll, 1999
Modern day masters of the sugary-sweet bubblegum pop anthem. - Now Wave Magazine, 1999
Everybody loves the Beatnik Termites. [They] are one of the most distinctive and best pop-punk bands of the 1990s, as their legions of fans will agree. - Mutant Pop, 1997
Totally irresistible! - Platterpus, 1995
I was hooked from the first chord. - Get a Life, 1995
The Beatnik Termites have managed to make writing songs about girls into a stylized art form. - Egghead, 1997
Bubble gum chompin' psychotic stompin' surf beat. - Cryptic Tymes, 1990
These songs are what Joey wishes the Ramones had done. - Moo Magazine, 1991
The Beatles played at 45 rpms. - Spilled Guts, 1990
It sounds like when I accidentally played my mom's Beach Boys albums at 45 rpms, which probably explains why I love the Termites so much. - Moo Magazine, 1995
It's the early Beatles demeanor filtered through any ??60s radio hit done by the Ramones with the Archies singing! - Ragnarok, 1992
I could see them playing at the sock hop in Grease rather than Sha-na-na.
- Hooligan, 1995
Innocence with a sneer and a razor blade heart. - Suburban Voice, 1992
Cool heartbroken upper register vocals that are perfect for this kind of boy-girl pop thing. - Noise for Heroes, 1991
Enjoyable pop. Catchy hooks and energetic. A record to have. - Jersey Beat, 1991
The band has a snappy, retro sound that rules. A rare treat for the ears. - US Rocker, 1995
Bright and inventive. The Beatnik Termites redefine retro-pop with an aggressive beat and impressive guitar styling. - The Splatter Effect, 1990
The perfect synthesis of ??60s pop and ??90s punk. This little baby's got it all - driving guitars, pounding drums, cool vocals with lots of oohs and aahs in the background and more hooks than any one record has a right to. - The Teen Scene, 1991
This is brilliant! Snappy pop with just the right amount of crackle. Flawless, bubbly pop with songs of young love and innocence. Filled with infectious melodies. This 3-piece from Cleveland are amazing. - Tab Magazine, 1995
"Punk USA" is a stupendous sampler - a collection of super groups. And there is one song that is perfection, that has me pressing ??repeat' on the CD player to play the song over and over again. "How Many Times" by the Beatnik Termites. - Rock and Roll, 1994
Now you take a real pop-punk band like the Beatnik Termites, whom I adore, and they're veritably clouting the listener with pop-ness. [Their song] "Denise, Denise" had me on my fucking knees, playing the track about twenty times in a row and practically weeping openly at the sheer fucking perfection of it all. - Reverend Norb, "Making Friends with Reverend Norb" in Maximumrocknroll, 1995
The Riverdales and Mr. T-Experience had the dubious pleasure of being blown the fuck off the stage in Cleveland by the Beatnik Termites. If you think their records are good, you ain't seen nothin' yet. This is one of the best live bands I've seen in years. - Ben Weasel of Screeching Weasel/The Riverdales in Maximumrocknroll, 1995
That LP I like. It was real good. - Marky Ramone of the Ramones quoted in Hit List Magazine, 1998