When the late comic George Carlin was asked about why he didn’t have much luck when it came to scoring acting gigs, he laughed.
“I don’t have to have that,” Carlin said. “I didn’t want to compromise. I had enough success. Sometimes success can ruin you.”
Southern Culture on the Skids can relate. The Triangle-based band has been together for 30 years, but when they were at their commercial peak in the ’90s, the quirky roots band was in jeopardy of breaking up.
“We were on Geffen Records and they were about making oodles and oodles of money,” vocalist-guitarist Rick Miller says while calling from his Carrboro home. “We were told that metal and ska is really big. We were asked, ‘Can you make something like that?’ We actually talked about doing it, and that was the point in which we came closest to breaking up.”
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Southern Culture on the Skids did break up, not with each other but with Geffen, which was then the home to such critical and commercial darlings as Beck, Nirvana and Counting Crows.
“The funny thing is that we’re still a band, and Geffen is no longer a label,” Miller says. “Who would have ever guessed that?”
Since leaving Geffen, after touring behind 1997’s “Plastic Seat Sweat,” SCOTS, which also includes bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman, has released six studio albums, including the latest, “The Electric Pinecones.”
The band throws fans a curve since it deviates from its left-of-center amalgam of rockabilly, surf rock and country. “Pinecones” is a combination of psychedelia and folk-rock. It harkens back to a side project from the act’s early days.
“We had a group called The Pinecones,” Miller says. “It was a fun project. We thought it would be a good time to make something a little different than what we normally do. Anyway, back in the days when we couldn’t afford to hire a band to open for us, we opened for ourselves as the Pinecones. We would change clothes before we came out as Southern Culture on the Skids. I remember people would come up to us afterward and say, ‘Who was the opening band? We really liked them.”
Southern Culture on the Skids, known for the single “Camel Walk” 20 years ago, has always been about delivering songs with a wink and a smile.
“That’s how it always was with us,” Miller says. “I don’t see a lot of young rock bands who are like that today and it’s kind of weird to me. Rock should be fun. There shouldn’t be cellos. I remember living in San Diego and seeing bands like the Cramps and they were fun live. I just don’t see a lot of bands like that. I saw my share of them, though, in San Diego.”
Miller left Southern California for Carrboro in 1983. “I love it here,” Miller says. “It’s been amazing. We’re looking forward to our hometown show since it’s been about three years since we played locally. I look back on our early days and playing places like the Flying Burrito in Chapel Hill.”
SCOTS, which will perform Oct. 28, at Motorco Music Hall in Durham, is winding down its “Electric Pineapple” tour and will focus on its next album.
“It’s about time for that,” Miller says. “I love that we can work on another project after being together for all these years. It’s not easy keeping anything together for 30 years, but somehow we’ve managed to do it. I think part of the reason is because we never got crazy successful. We do everything ourselves. What we do is very manageable. We work everything out ourselves.
“What almost derailed our band – and other bands – is that too many people are in the mix. It’s just us and I think that’s a big reason we’re still doing this.”
What: Southern Culture on the Skids
When: 9 p.m. Oct. 28
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave., Durham
Cost: $14 in advance and $17 day of show
Info: 919-901-0875, motorcomusic.com