There’s a reason that when the Who performed live they played the fiddler’s part of the greatest rock-violin song of all time, ”Baba O’Riley,” on a harmonica. It’s the same reason why the last time you probably saw a violin in regular rotation on MTV it belonged to one of Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Folks, tubas and glockenspiels aside, nothing’s less rock & roll than the violin.
Apparently not everyone got the memo. Yellowcard, the newly popular Ventura, Calif., pop-punk quintet, whose breakthrough album, Ocean Avenue, recently went gold, prominently features Sean Mackin, a classically trained violinist who can be seen regularly on MTV with his electric four-string skipping (yes, skipping!) around the video for the bouncy hit title track. ”I’ve always been very athletic, so I run around a lot during the songs,” says Mackin. ”I’ll even throw in the occasional backflip and land it on the downbeat.”
While such gymnastic feats are impressive, they can’t cover up the silliness of Mackin’s exuberant on-screen athletics. But because we sympathize and love the song (hey, L2T’s not dead inside), we asked Jonathan Segel — violinist for ’80s college-rock favorites Camper Van Beethoven, the recently reformed supercool violin-based rock band that has been playing live shows to rave reviews — to share his years of wisdom with the new kid. Listen up.
”The number-one thing,” says Segel, ”is don’t drop your bow. Believe me, I’ve done that. You’re playing in front of all these people and your bow falls to the floor. It’s not like dropping your guitar pick, because you really can’t play the violin without the bow. You can’t just fake it.” And you know how the guitarist sexily swaggers over to the amp and takes a swig of a longneck Bud? ”When you have to hold on to something with two hands all the time,” says Segel, ”you can’t smoothly pick up your glass and drink a beer while you’re playing, like the other guys in the band.”
Alas, when it comes to matters of skipping and such, Segel’s best advice is to just ignore hecklers like us and get on with it.
Segel and Camper Van will reissue four classic albums — Telephone Free Landslide Victory, II & III, Camper Van Beethoven, and Camper Vantiquities — on April 27 and are working on a new CD. Yellowcard is currently on tour with Something Corporate. Rock me, Stradivarius!