The Undone Sweaters are made up of comedians but their dedication to playing the music of Weezer is no joke.
The quartet -- vocalist-guitarist Jim Tews, guitarist Reid Faylor, drummer Andrew Short and bassist Dan Tamberelli -- will perform Saturday at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.
Tews said Thursday during a phone interview what started off as a one-off bit between him, Faylor and Short during a show in New York City has blossomed into a web series (about the life of a Weezer tribute band living in Brooklyn) and concerts across the country.
"We started learning other stuff just for fun and started writing music," Tews said. "Every time we do something, it seems to be more fun than the previous time, so we can't stop. It was a fun bit that has gotten completely out of control."
The original concept, Tews said, was that the trio would play off of the idea that the venue forced them to seek out a bassist. When the call went out looking for a fourth member, Tews said the band was surprised when a friend suggested recruiting Tamberelli -- an actor best known for his role as "Little Pete" Wrigley in the popular 1990s Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete and, later, a cast member of the network's sketch comedy series All That.
"The first practice, I thought about it for a second and then it went away. He (Tamberelli) is a guy I would hang out with if I had met him in some other circumstance," Tews said. "People are so happy to see him."
Tamberelli, a lifelong Weezer fan and bassist for the band Jonas, showed up to rehearsal ready to go. Tews said it was surreal to watch Tamberelli jam on the same bass the latter used to play on the set of Pete & Pete -- a bass that happens to be signed by punk icon Iggy Pop.
"He knew the whole 'Blue Album' already," Tews said. "It was a little strange for a minute, but then as soon as we started hanging out, even in that first practice, we were all pretty relaxed and got we got along together."
Tamberelli said playing Weezer is always fun. Performing the band's seminal (and arguably most popular) studio album is a guaranteed way to win over the crowd. "You put on this super suit. It's like having unlimited lives in Contra," Tamberelli said enthusiastically. "We're all (Weezer front-man) Rivers Cuomo and I have a little (Weezer bass player) Matt Sharp in me because I play bass."
Tamberelli said he appreciates fans giving the music a chance, even if they are unsure of what they are walking into. He then remembered the time when a fan who came up to him after a Jonas concert and bluntly told him, "I came for the novelty but stayed for the music."
"It opened my eyes and kicked the jaded pretentiousness out of my ass," Tamberelli deadpanned. "They came skeptical and sort of curious and left happy. That's great."
He is also aware of how meta being a child star in a touring band can be. "Maybe I'll blow your mind. 'Look, it's Little Pete playing bass in a Weezer tribute band!' (At that point) you've won the battle," Tamberelli said, between laughter.
Though Weezer's "Blue Album" makes up the bulk of their set, The Undone Sweaters are known for tossing in original tunes and the occasional salute to what Tews joking called the "dad rock" genre, specifically a Steely Dan or Fleetwood Mac cover. "As a band and as a performance, we're always trying to find where exactly we fit in," Tews said.
Tews said audience members are usually surprised by just how dedicated they are to matching the songs lick for lick, despite cracking jokes in between. "When we play around New York, a lot of the audience has seen us play with other bands before or comedians who are aware of what's going on," Tews said. "We put a very serious effort into getting stuff right. We're not going to do something if it's not worth showing people."
Tamberelli added, "If you're looking for a good time and you like '90s chunky, sort of punky, totally nerdy rock 'n' roll, boy do we have the show for you!"
EDITOR'S NOTE: Shortly after interviewing members Danny Tamberelli and Jim Tews to discuss The Undone Sweaters' Saturday night concert at SteelStacks, my group, Blue Jean, was invited to open for the band. We said "yes," because, frankly, we love playing music. So, to be 100 percent transparent: This article was planned and scheduled before the booking and in no way did the latter justify doing this piece.
The Undone Sweaters perform 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem. Acoustic rock duo Blue Jean and comedian Tyler Rothrock will open the show. Tickets cost $10, $9 for ArtsQuest members. Information: steelstacks.org