Four men stand on a stage, singing into microphones accompanied by a talking Halloween pumpkin head.
This is how I found The Blanks, Ted’s band from Scrubs.
They performed on Saturday, September 12th at Lyte Auditorium. I arrived two hours early and was lucky enough to find them rehearsing and performing sound checks with the equipment. They were also checking the sound levels of the toys they used in their performance.
After adjustments were made and their rehearsal finished, the four allowed me to interview them downstairs in the “green room.” This room, with its funky smell and buzzing fluorescent lights, was furnished with a work table covered in a red checked table cloth. Fruit and other food was set on top of the cloth.
Philip McNiven was the first to speak with me. He sat at the table on a stool and opened his salad. After complaining about a lack of salad dressing, he started spreading hummus on the lettuce and spoke with me.
“I guess I should start at the beginning,” he said, “I was born in Philly but didn’t stay there very long. I eventually moved to Los Angeles and there I met the other three. I met them through Second City and in the mid-1960s we were on the side of the road singing-“
He paused there and looked up at me. I looked up from my notes slightly puzzled. A mischievous smile spread across his face as I realized he was joking. I scribbled out that part of my notes and he continued to describe how they started, “We all started singing a capella nine years ago. Then Sam Lloyd got a part on Scrubs and we sang at the Christmas party to the whole crew. We sang the theme to Superman and they loved it. I saw the writers with their heads together mumbling and from that part on we got a gig that lasted almost nine years now.”
McNiven paused again in his tale to chastise Tina Stout, who was in charge of tending to the band’s needs. “You know,” McNiven said to her, “I was thinking of eating that pile of sawdust over there, but then I remembered, I have this dry salad here I can eat.”
The same mischievous smile came back as he laughed and vehemently apologized for his misbehavior.
As Sam Lloyd and Paul F. Perry came in and out of the green room, McNiven continued the interview by describing their new role as a band on tour. “At first, we started doing little shows all around but it was too racey. We only had angry solos full of swearing and stuff, so we decided to do a family friendly show,” he said laughing into his hummus salad, “No, that was meant to be funny, you’ll make me sound funny, right?”
McNiven then described what it was like to work on the set of Scrubs, “At the start of the week, the writers told us we’d have to sing a song. So we had to arrange it, practice it, and then sing it for the crew. “In those dry runs, we’ve had people die in the other room next to us and we’re singing and getting applause. It was really strange.”
The Blanks are a band full of best friends. “That’s what I love the best about being in this band; I just get to hang out with my best friends and it is tremendous fun,” McNiven said, then another smile, “We’re like the Blue Man group but not blue and we sing and we don’t use props…just toys.”
He is excited to be in Pennsylvania again. “I don’t know if you heard but Los Angeles is basically on fire. I’ll take the rain here, it’s a nice change.” Later he explained what he looked forward to most after the show, “I am looking forward to a big salad…with dressing. Also a big breakfast of chipped beef and scrapple!”
Grabbing a sub wrapped in aluminum foil, Perry joined the interview. “He has achieved recognition recently outside the band. He wrote a song for Ms. Pennsylvania called “A Little Polish”, which was performed during their show. Ms. Pennsylvania will sing it at the Ms. America competition,” Perry said in respect to McNiven.
Lloyd walked into the room and grabbed a sub marked for him. The focus shifted to him and his role in the band. “Perry does the arrangements for the band. He also did the musical episode of Scrubs; writing half of the songs for that show,” Lloyd said about Perry.
The three began to talk about the performing experience. “We love to perform,” they said, “We’ve been getting standing ovations at every show pretty much, but if we don’t get one tonight don’t quote us on that.”
“The songs with talking toys happened by accident,” Lloyd explained, “There was this pumpkin in the office and every time we walked by it it would say ‘Happy Halloween!’ We decided to use it in a song, which Paul wrote, and out of an annoying gag came the worlds greatest Halloween anthem.”
When asked about the show, they explained their concerns, “Last time we had a stage this high, Phil ripped his pants trying to get up on it.”
“Yeah I was wearing a pink thong,” Phil said and laughed.
The band members often switched parts in the past. For recent shows, however, they found their niche and try to stick with their roles. Perry is always the bass, George Miserlis the low baritone, Lloyd a high baritone, and McNiven the tenor. Sometimes they switch roles to make it more interesting, but only when it serves the song to do so.
“Me, George, and Phil can sing the same parts, but Phil can hit notes the others can’t,” Lloyd explained, “It was more a trial and error before but we are getting used to who fits where. George has the best range and has a great falsetto.”
The final words from the band are humble, “We just thank everyone for watching Scrubs. We also thank the University for having us out here. We don’t take anything for granted and we always appreciate this.”
For any who are interested in the world of a cappella, there is a group on campus that is holding auditions for the first Millersville a cappella group. Pick your own song and audition on Thursday, September 24 at 6-7:30 p.m. in Lyte Auditorium in the basement practice rooms.
If interested, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.