Arizona ’90s band, the Refreshments, subject of new documentary
PHOENIX — In the early 1990s, inside a small bar in Tempe, Arizona, it would not have been unusual to hear an emcee say “And now, the Refreshments!”
The band enjoyed increasing success and, by 1996, they had gone from playing small venues across the Valley to the top of Billboard’s Heatseekers. Their hit, “Banditos” — which included the famous line, “Everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people” — was played on radios nationwide.
In 1997, the band recorded the theme song to a new animated show called “King of the Hill.”
Then, like many bands in the 1990s, they disappeared.
“The Refreshments were out there and we sort of started to engage a lot of people but it lasted a very short time,” lead singer Roger Clyne said of the band’s demise. “There’s never a lot of fanfare when a band disappears.”
The band’s meteoric rise from obscurity to international fame — they were scheduled to take an Australian tour but it was later canceled — and the aftermath is the topic of a new documentary called “Here’s to Life.”
It was back in the band’s heyday when filmmaker Taylor Morden first heard of the Refreshments. He was in high school when the group’s first album, “Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy,” was released.
“I had all the ‘90s alternative kind of one-hit wonder CDs, but that was the one that really stuck out and that was the one you could listen to it and every song was great,” he recalled.
Morden said his musician friends all loved the album, but when the Refreshments faded away, he had no idea what happened to the foursome from Tempe.
“They had some subsequent minor hits and sort of disappeared,” he said. “I had no idea what happened. This was pre-internet days.”
Morden wouldn’t hear from Clyne again until 20 years later when he decided to go see a group called Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers at a show in Washington, D.C. He liked the music, did some poking around — the internet was a little bit better by then — and discovered Clyne was the lead singer of the old Refreshments.
Morden decided to make a movie about the band and the 20 ensuing years after “Fizzy, Fuzzy, Big and Buzzy.”
“If I was such a big fan of the Refreshments and I didn’t know about this new band for 20 years, I wonder if there’s some other people who don’t know and maybe there’s a story to tell,” he said.
When Morden first approached him about the idea, Clyne said he was a little skeptical. He was worried that a movie about his band, sometimes regarded as a one-hit wonder, would carry little weight.
“Once he (Morden) started putting it together and I started seeing sort of the perspective he was taking — how a small, relatively unknown band had a deep impact on a lot of people — I started feeling really good about it,” Clyne said, adding that he was “humbled” to see the impact the Refreshments had on people.
Morden said the band — save for bass player Art Edwards, who is writing a book about his time in the group and did not participate in the documentary — were great to work with.
“Everybody was pretty into the idea,” he said.
Clyne said the documentary brought about good things for the former Refreshments and encouraged them to resolve differences from 20 years ago.
“Honestly, it was sort of a healing because the breakup of the band was a little bit bitter – it was that typical VH1 ‘Behind the Music’ kind of breakup where a bunch of young men have a bunch of misunderstandings and there’s a bunch of chemicals in the way,” he said.
“It doesn’t usually end well and that one certainly didn’t.”
Clyne was worried the documentary may overpower what he’s done in the past two decades, including forming the aforementioned Peacemakers group that has since gained a steady following.
“The Refreshments, albeit a more famous band, we’ve done far more work – and very good work with music and community – through the Peacemakers and I wanted to make sure that wasn’t eclipsed by the end,” he said.
However, after seeing a rough cut of the film, his concerns were assuaged. Clyne said the documentary was done “really, really well.”
“[Morden] did a really good job essentially telling a story that I didn’t even think was a story,” Clyne said.
The documentary — Morden’s first feature film — is expected to premiere in mid-March. Clyne said he plans to attend.
KTAR’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.