"All of us have been in original bands, and it's a really tough scene," says Don, guitarist for Seattle's Mandonna, the all-male cover band playfully kicking the Material Girl in the pants. "So [we] were just feeling so tired, and we just wanted to do something fun and silly."
Mandonna hit the local scene with such scruffy good-guys-in-bad-drag cheer, you'd swear that, through the wink, they actually have the utmost reverence for their superstar subject.
"I've always been a Madonna fan," Cody, the band's lead singer, admits. "I had a girlfriend in college who was really into her."
Don is a little more wry with his affection. "It's funny, I've always been a huge fan of seeing her naked," he says. "And that's why we feel like we owe her tribute—she's done so much for us."
And the boys are giving as good as they get in this skewed musical romance. Mandonna—which also includes Dave on bass and drummer Mikk—know what's damn funny about the affair but have the savvy to come at it in an honest way.
"A lot of tribute bands will just copy the songs note for note," Don says. "And that's cool, too. But we knew that there was just no way we could do that with Madonna. And as soon as we abandon that, that's when the songs seem to turn out the best."
The foursome has found interesting ways to take the iconic hits and place them back into a less specific, mischievously kinetic realm. They've managed to make something like "Into the Groove" resemble an anthem that wouldn't sound out of place coming from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a task more challenging with some songs than others.
"'Vogue' was an albatross around our neck for months," Don says. "We tried it punk, we tried it ska—finally, we just gave up. And then one day we came across, like, a Korn riff, and it just unfolded."
By thrashing the songs around, the guys have removed the polish that keeps some people away from Madonna's oeuvre and relocated the rambunctious heart of the music that hard-core fans have always known was there. The result is a crowd with a lot of shit-eating grins, catching itself in the midst of some lopsided revelation.
"We go into [a song] and people don't know quite what it is," Cody says proudly. "And then we get to the chorus and people start freaking out."