No Doubt marked a strange black-and-white checkered time in the 1990s. The dark sludgy grunge scene was bursting in popularity. Someone needed to step up and say, “Hey, rock and roll can wear bright red lipstick.” Enter Gwen Stefani, flushed with energy and a penchant for bright fashion. She rallied the ska rock scene into a revival and led her band to several No. 1 hits. It’s no wonder the charismatic musicians of No Doubt propelled a successful tribute band. No Duh bass player E.J. Curse spoke with Lake Tahoe Action about the cover band’s beginnings, its audience and his marriage with Gwen Stefani look-and-sound-alike Spen Gjormani.
Lake Tahoe Action: How does a No Doubt tribute band get its start?
Curse: Quite frankly it all started almost as a fluke. The current lead singer, Spen Gjormoni (pronounced Spend-yur-money) and I had been dating for a couple years. I was playing in a few bands and I didn’t even know she could sing. I discovered she could sing after she recorded a few Disney songs for her niece.
I said, “Wow, you can sing. So next time I have a gig you can sit in.” She said, “No, I’m not.” I was playing a small little bar with some of the guys from one of my bands and we asked her to come up and sing. She wouldn’t do it.
I asked what artists she liked and she said, “I like No Doubt.” I said, “OK. What’s a popular No Doubt song?” I didn’t know anything about them at the time. She goes, “Just a Girl.” We learned it that week.
We played this gig and she didn’t want to sing. She had a few cocktails and we finally talked her into coming up. She sounded just like (Gwen Stefani). This was in 2004. I went, “Well, we’re going to start a tribute band and we’re going to call it No Duh.”
Everybody thought it was a joke. One thing led to another and all of a sudden we were really doing it. She went from not being a singer to doing it for the last nine years.
Are you a No Doubt cover band because that’s the only songs she could sing? Or do you really like the music?
Her voice happened to sound like Gwen Stefani’s. She was a huge fan. I owned a CD, but I wasn’t a huge fan until I really started listening to the music. I can honestly say I am a fan now. I love the music. We all really do enjoy it.
Everybody has their own bands, so it’s not like the only thing we do. Most of us are in at least three bands. I’m in five bands. The thing that got us started though was the singer. She really nails it.
Are you in any other tribute bands?
We have another band with the same lineup. It’s a tribute to Blondie. It’s called Blonde Day. That’s the only other tribute band we have.
With the same lineup, we’ve been talking about original material for the last four years. We just started writing at the beginning of this year. So hopefully we’ll have another band.
I interviewed a Neil Diamond tribute band a few weeks ago. They told me about how fanatic the fans are. Are No Doubt fans the same way?
I couldn’t tell you how many people have showed us their No Doubt tattoos at shows. I would also have to say we’ve developed our own following within the No Doubt community. You can’t go out and see No Doubt every week. I don’t know why you’d want to see any band every week. But we have these people that come out every week, probably like the Neil Diamond guy does.
They wear their No Doubt shirts. We have No Duh shirts they wear. It’s a lot bigger fan base than I would’ve thought.
What percentage of your audience are men?
There are definitely a larger percentage of women. If men would realize this, we’d probably have more of them come out. There are so many pretty girls at these shows. It’s probably really only about 60/40 with more women. But most rock shows are probably 75 percent guys and 25 percent women. We have a lot of alternative lifestyle people that come to see us too.
Besides No Doubt and Sublime, what other ‘90s bands have tributes?
There’s a couple Green Day tributes we play with. There’s a band called the Red Not Chili Peppers. There’s another band called Vitalogy that does Pearl Jam.
Are we reaching a heyday of ‘90s tribute bands?
I mean the ‘90s were 20 years ago. It’s kind of like classic rock now. There are definitely a lot more cropping up. I really think that could be the demise of the tribute thing. Bands have to be good. You can’t just go out there and say, “I want to make some money and pretend I’m this other band.” You have to take it seriously enough that it’s a good product. If every garage band goes “Oh, let’s start a tribute band to Weezer,” and they’re not very good, it will demean the whole market.
Did you enjoy the 1990s?
This is just my perspective. I played in some ‘80s metal bands prior to starting to this band. For me, the ‘90s were bizarre. I lost my record contract. The grunge scene came out and kind of destroyed the ‘80s glam stuff. I started doing other things, acting. I’ve always played music and been in bands, but my career was at its smallest in the ‘90s. I kind of skirted the question there, but it’s the best I can do.
You and Spen Gjormani are married, right? Didn’t Gwen Stefani date her bass player and write songs about their breakup?
Funny enough, yeah. Most of Return to Saturn, their second record, is all about the breakup between Tony (Kanal) and Gwen. We kind of play off that. We do a lot of antics on stage. When Gwen had a baby, we had a baby on stage. We kind of make fun of it, but not in a mean-spirited way. We incorporate all that stuff that happened to them.
But you guys are not impersonators, right? You have your lives away from No Doubt?
We definitely have our lives away from No Doubt. But the funny thing is the singer and I both are impersonators. We do other things, although she does Gwen the best. We actually met as impersonators. She was doing Marilyn Monroe and I was portraying Kevin Sorbo as Hercules. That was 11 years ago.