With the Red Hot Chili Peppers set to play the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, it made perfect sense when a slick site premiering a new single appeared on RHCP2014.com four days earlier. Except, well, “Abracadabralifornia” quickly revealed itself to be a very funny and musically faithful parody, with an Anthony Kiedis impersonator rapping about characters like Lady Sex and the Alabama Scammer, along with non-sequiturs like “If you wanna get Frasier, you gotta get Grammer.” The site quickly went viral, with even Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith having a laugh over Twitter.
Within hours, Internet sleuths began to identify the duo behind the parody site. The Kiedis stand-in is Jon Daly, a comedian who’s appeared in films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and currently works on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show; and the instruments were laid down by Cyrus Ghahremani, who fronts L.A. rock band Hot Karate and composes music for Adult Swim shows and the Earwolf podcast network. Here, they discuss how “Abracadabralifornia” made Internet magic.
The genesis of the song came from a Comedy Bang Bang podcast from last year where you sang a little of the song. How did that snowball into an elaborate fake website?
Jon Daly: Well, the Comedy Bang Bang sketch happened because me and Zach [Galifianakis] were hanging out and doing Peppers bits for a couple months, and for whatever reason thought it was really funny to pretend that we knew the Peppers. It was a dumb bit that we did, and part of that became singing “bing-a-bong-Burbank.” I knew Cyrus from Hot Karate, and I’d worked with him briefly on Earwolf, and we got together and made the song.
Cyrus Ghahremani: We just worked on nonsense musical projects. We opened for Man Man at one of the bigger venues in L.A., just doing nonsense new age characters. I think he just likes to work on silly things, and we never know or have expectations of what’s gonna happen with them.
Daly: Cyrus is such a genius that every melody or lyric I came up with, he’d play a Flea bassline to, he’s amazing. Then we kinda sat on it, when it was announced that [the Red Hot Chili Peppers] were doing the Super Bowl, and it was like, the perfect time. We made that super corporate website to throw people off, and I’m thinking it kinda worked out.
Ghahremani: We basically did it in one take, I recorded the guitar while he sang the vocals. They’ve got a revolving door for guitar players, so there’s a very easily formula for the Chilis’ guitar sound. We went through the whole thing, added the other instruments, one take of the bass as noodle-y as I could go, some real tight drums with absolutely no toms. The best part for me has been that no one has questioned the musical integrity of this, like “It doesn’t sound like the Peppers.”
Yeah, we totally bought it at first, until we heard the song.
Daly: The biggest coup of the whole thing was that Yahoo! Music put out a story as if it was real. That’s really a triumph, when that happens. I didn’t count on any of this happening, but the fact that a news outlet believed it?. . . My favorite thing in general is positive comments about the direction the band has taken. That’s really the biggest compliment, a few people have definitely been like, “Y’know what, this kind of harkens back to their old stuff, I really like it!”
Ghahremani: The most fun part for me is that a lot of the tweets will be people saying “It’s heartbreaking to hear Flea expertly delivering this awesome bassline over these awful lyrics.”
You couldn’t tell if people were falling for it or playing along to perpetuate the joke.
Daly: I enlisted the help of a lot of my friends like Nick Kroll, Aziz [Ansari], people in comedy, and tried to mix it up as much as I could with people who know people with large Twitter accounts. When people see those corporate logos, people wanna hatewatch. We got over 300,000 downloads, because people are either duped, or everyone loves a free download. When the Black Eyed Peas put out a new track, I check it out like “Fuck this.” That said, I’m a big fan of the Peppers, not ironically. Probably after One Hot Minute, I checked out. My oldest brother gave me Mother’s Milk when I was in 7th grade and it blew my fucking mind, and they became my favorite band. I saw them like five times.
Ghahremani: It wasn’t to prank the band, it wasn’t even to prank the media. And for me, I don’t enjoy that it’s pranking the Chili Peppers fans. My favorite thing is that it’s tricking people that aren’t critical listeners. They’re bad at listening to music if they think this is a real Peppers song.
It’s an affectionate parody.
Daly: Yeah. And they liked it! Chad Smith tweeted it yesterday.
You have to wonder if Anthony’s feelings would be hurt, though.
Daly: I mean, you can never tell. I think they are kind of in on the joke of their own music, you’d think they’d have to be. . .the Chili Peppers, they’re a weird thing. If they had disappeared in 1991. . . it’s really their longevity that’s made them funny. When you’re doing punk-funk and you’re 50, it’s a rough racket.
The site looked so much like how major albums are launched now…
Ghahremani: I only expected that a couple blogs would catch onto it, instead we had 4,000 people listening to the song at any given minute. I didn’t get anything done all day… Once you looked up the info you could get my phone number. I immediately got a phone call from Warner Brothers.
Was it a good call or a bad call?
Ghahremani: I don’t know, I didn’t pick it up.