Back in the late 1990’s, I considered the band Nada Surf to be “just another radio band.” They got some solid radio exposure and even a bunch of video airplay on MTV with a song called “Popular,” which is still probably the song they’re most well-known for. That is somewhat unfortunate as their latest album, the 2003 release called Let Go, completely slaughters “Popular” or anything they had recorded previously. Something happened to this band between all that exposure and 2003. The songwriting got sharper, the music was more inventive, it was deliciously catchy and they basically made an entire album of very damn memorable rock songs. Good for them. They’re one of the very few “radio bands” out there who just may have staying power. They’re working on a new album and it should be out soon. Personally, I cannot wait to see what they’re up to next time.

That said, I consider it an honor that Matthew Caws, lead singer and guitar player for the band, took some time to answer some questions for today’s Item Five. Won’t you come along for a ride on a very special Rustedrobot? Thanks to Matthew for not responding in caps.

1. When you sing “…..tripping in 7-11, the shelves were stretching out of control,” was that, uh, autobiographical?

Yes it was. I only took acid once, but I took a lot (four little Bart Simpson heads in all). I was impatient and thought that nothing was happening. Silly me. It turned out to be a very long and memorable night. But good lord, never take that many.

2. What can you tell us about the next Nada Surf record?

It’s weirder? I thought that about “Let Go” at the time, but this one really is, I think. I don’t mean that in a bad way. But we haven’t really entered the full bell and whistle over-dub stage yet, so there’s still room for it to move around. I do know that there are more spontaneous moments on it, and I’m very happy about that.

3. Which is the better choice of cover songs:

a) I Fought The Law – The Clash

b) It’s My Life – No Doubt

c) Take My Breath Away – Jessica Simpson

d) Blinded By The Light – Manfred Mann

Jessica Simpson sounds a little scary. I’m not sure i want to hear it. Mrs. Simpson’s style is a little too, er, decorative for my taste. No Doubt is pretty good. The songs by The Clash and Manfred Mann are amazing. I think “Blinded By The Light” is the better song, but The Clash executed theirs better. It’s still got a lot of life.

4. What was the last thing you really laughed hard at?

I don’t know! That’s terrible! I haven’t had the hysterics in weeks. Thank you for the quesiton, I vow to totally lose it as soon as possible.

5. Bruce Springsteen once made the claim that it is hard to be a saint in the city. Assuming you are a saint, what are your thoughts?

I think it’s hard to be a saint anywhere. But I think that what makes it hard in the city isn’t so much what’s there (plentiful diversion) but what’s not there (nature). The country’s good for you. I should really get out of town.

6. Do you secretly believe that the movie “Alien” just might be a true story?

No. But…. it would be awesome if this interview was just an excuse for you to use that question as an opening to telling me the “truth.” I do have one concern though. If scary aliens are real, do we still get to watch them from comfy movie seats while eating popcorn, or do we actually have to interact? I think I’d get pretty shy around anything that angry and huge.

7. Why don’t you ask me a question?

Who did you have your first kiss with and who made the first move?

Jeff answers: Her name was Dawn Chaisson. It was 1984 and I was in seventh grade. Nobody really made the first move because we were playing spin the bottle at her house. I do remember it quite clearly though. I guess if I had to definitively say, then I would say she made the first move, because I’m shy.

8. Who is the most underrated band of all time?

A Boston band called Big Dipper. They put out an EP called “Heavens” and an album called “Craps” (a gambling reference)on Homestead Records in the mid-eighties. Amazing stuff. They signed to Epic after that but kind of lost the magic. I’m glad i got to see them a few times.

9. Ric Ocasek produced Nada Surf’s first album, back in 1996. I believe The Cars might be the best band to ever come out of Boston. You think? I also believe that Ocasek wins the contest for “most unlikely dude to get a super-hot model. You think?

That’s a tough call. Though they weren’t all from there, it can be argued that the Pixies were a Boston band too – and don’t forget The Modern Lovers. I’d have to vote for a three-way tie.

I don’t know. I think Ric is really handsome. He’s certainly not a Ken (as in Barbie and….), but he’s certainly got a look, and a whole lotta charm. Paulina definitely had her head on straight. Serge Gainsbourg got a lot of flak too, and you should see who he hung out with, yikes!

10. Who would you rather be: Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers or Barbara Streisand?

Are you forgetting someone? Anyone? Drat, ok. Let’s see…Barbra sounds like too much of a diva. Being that demanding would be an effort after about five minutes. Neil Diamond wore a lot of polyester, which is an uncomfortable fabric even without spotlights frying you. I guess i’ll be Kenny Rogers, but honestly, I’m a little nervous.

Big thanks again to Matthew Caws, a huge talent and a fun interview.

One more thing – yesterday as I was driving to work I spotted what I thought were geese – an entire family of them – crossing the road. As I approached I realized they were not geese, but a gaggle of wild turkeys, all walking around together. There was a very large one, either the mother or father, and then a bunch of smaller ones. Kinda cute, really. I have actually never seen a wild turkey until yesterday. I’ve seen plenty of them on farms, but not aimlessly wandering around the suburban woods of Sudbury, Massachusetts. Neato mosquito.

Song now playing: Angry Johnny & The Killbillies – “Old Boyfriend”