Bassist Brian Ritchie sued lead vocalist Gordon Gano on Wednesday, saying he was deprived of credit for some of the group's songs and a proper accounting of its earnings.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also accuses Gano of trashing the band's reputation by allowing its signature hit, "Blister in the Sun," to be used in a Wendy's commercial.
Gano, reached by telephone at his Manhattan home, called the lawsuit "a complete surprise" — especially since the band still regularly performs and just returned from a tour in South Africa.
"We just played a really, really good tour," he said. "Since the early '80s, everything's really good. We're playing better than ever."
In the suit, Ritchie claims he founded the band in 1980, taking on drummer Victor DeLorenzo that year and Gano in 1981.
After releasing a self-titled debut album, "Violent Femmes," in 1983, the band gained fame with hits including "Blister in the Sun," "Add It Up" and "Special." It recorded at least 10 albums and toured the world at least a dozen times, the lawsuit said.
"This action is the unfortunate culmination of an ongoing intra-band dispute between Ritchie and Gano over Gano's misappropriation and misadministration of Ritchie's interests in the jointly owned songs and assets of the band, misappropriation of assets solely owned by Ritchie, improper accounting and nonpayment of royalties," the lawsuit said.
The Wendy's deal was a buzz-kill for the band's fan base, the suit says, causing one fan to comment in an online blog that after hearing "Blister in the Sun" in a commercial, "My ears perked up. Then my jaw dropped. Then my heart sank."
Wendy's is based in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.
The suit seeks a ruling declaring Ritchie half owner of the band's songs and an accounting of past and future royalties and unspecified damages.
Gano declined to respond to the claims in detail, except to say he wrote the band's songs with one or two exceptions.