“Are we parody?" asks Beatallica leader Jaymz Lennfield? "People have no idea what to call us. Is it tribute? Is it satire? We get all sorts of responses to what we do. Trying to wrap your melon around this band can be a pretty strange thing for a lot of people."
Count the folks at Sony/ATV Publishing, who own the rights to many of The Beatles' songs, among those asking such questions. Some years ago, the publishing giant sent a cease-and-desist notice to the Milwaukee-based humourists (which also includes members Grg III, Kliff McBurtney and Ringo Lars) after their popular Beatles/Metallica mash-ups first started appearing on the Internet.
The members of Metallica, however, got the joke, and once Lars Ulrich offered the services of their band's attorney to settle any disputes, it was agreed that Beatallica could continue with their merry ways. There was a cavaet, though: On the band's new album, Abbey Load, Beatallica serve up "Metallica-ized" versions of Beatles tunes with the original lyrics intact (on earlier releases, Lennfield and co. wrote their own lyrics, referencing both bands in highly comedic ways).
"If we had our way, we would have done Abbey Load with some of our own lyrics and some different musical passages," Lennfield says of the compromise. "But because we’re a team, and we have publishers that we need to have a decent relationship with, we did it this way."
For anyone who might be wondering about such things, the 14 cuts on Abbey Load are a superlative answer to musical question, "What would it sound like if Metallica covered The Beatles?" According to Lennfield, the balance between hilarious impersonation and heartfelt tribute is a tricky one.
“Playing these songs in a certain way requires finesse," he says, "and that’s why we have the people in the band that we do. To function in Beatallica, you have to have a real knowledge of both The Beatles and Metallica. I wouldn’t be in the band if I couldn’t do a certain impersonation. You can learn it to some degree, but it has to be in you."
So far, Beatallica haven't heard from surviving Beatles Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr, but Lennfield is hopeful: "I just saw that Paul McCartney is playing the Miller Park Stadium in July," he says, "so of course, the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Hey, maybe he’s available for lunch...’ I'd be up for it!"
On the following pages, Lennfield talks about how Beatallica put a fresh, Metallica-like spin on five Beatles classics from Abbey Load.