"Why, you stuck up, scruffy-looking Nerf herder!" — Princess Leia in "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

"It was a cool name," said Parry Gripp, guitarist/vocalist for the Santa Barbara, Calif., quartet Nerf Herder. "It sounded neat."

Nerf Herder — which also features new bassist Justin Fisher, guitarist Dave Ehrlich and drummer Steve Sherlock — will play with the Bloodhound Gang at the Utah State Fairpark Horticulture Center on Wednesday, May 17. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door.

Gripp said Nerf Herder got its start when a bunch of kids from Santa Barbara got together and goofed around.

"For the first few years, it was easy for us to make music," Gripp said during a phone call from St. Louis, Mo. "We just played a bunch around town. We knew a guy who helped us make a CD, and the song 'Van Halen' was on it."

That song helped the pop-punk band's career and caught the ears of Arista Records, the home of Santana and Whitney Houston.

"That was the easy part," said Gripp. "We signed to Arista and toured. We did what they wanted us to do and had a good time."

However, said Gripp, the easy times were about to get hard.

"Once a CD doesn't sell well, big labels get a little strange," he said. "When we decided to record a new record, we submitted various songs to Arista, and they weren't what they wanted. All of a sudden we had to actually think about what we were doing. And eventually, the label didn't want us anymore."

After some label shopping, the band landed on Honest Don's, a subsidiary of Fat Wreck Chord and home of Chixdiggit, the Dance Hall Crashers and the Muffs.

"That was a good move for us," said Gripp, who cited such bands as Rush and Weezer as some of his musical influences. "It became fun again. It was weird how signing to a major label took the fun out of making music."

To Gripp, making music and having fun is the main goal of Nerf Herder. Not only is the band famous for the theme for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV series, but it also has the honor of having been called names by former Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar.

"We asked the band if they would like to be in our 'Van Halen' video," explained Parry. "We didn't actually talk with the band, but we requested the band."

Edward Van Halen and his wife — actress Valerie Bertinelli — consented, but Hagar put up a snit, according to Nerf Herder's press release.

Still, Gripp said he loves being in a band that plays its own brand of so-called "Nerf Core" music. "We don't make a whole load of money. But we're able to play live. And we're able to go on the road with the Bloodhound Gang. They're a bunch of cool guys, and we're really having a great time."

This time around, Nerf Herder has a couple of new faces in the band. Rental's bassist Fisher has replaced Charlie Dennis for this tour. The band also added new guitarist Ehrlich.

You can reach Scott Iwasaki by e-mail at [email protected]