From a strictly commercial viewpoint, Exude might have been smarter to include more rock parodies on its new album and capitalize on "Boys Just Want to Have Sex," the Cyndi Lauper spoof that brought the group considerable attention, radio air play and record sales in 1984.
But you'll find no such novelty tunes on "Play With the Boys," the band's first album that is the culmination of nearly three years' work.
In an interview this week at the quartet's garage rehearsal studio in Anaheim, lead singer and lyricist Frank Rogala said the band had no desire to do a follow-up to "Boys Just Want to Have Sex."
Some record company personnel, however, did expect Exude to come up with more humorous material. "I was kind of shocked when we finished the (new) record and took it to Greenworld (the independent distribution company that distributes records by numerous Southland groups). People were saying, 'What is this? This isn't funny.' "
The band members were particularly concerned about being pigeon-holed as a novelty band because their first success came with an upbeat, new wave version of the Glenn Miller hit "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."
Said saxophonist and keyboard player Vince Rogala: "We could do a funny record, and it would be better than any of the ones people are putting out now. But that's not what we wanted to do."
That's not to suggest, however, that "Boys Just Want to Have Sex" left no lasting impressions on the band, which also includes keyboardist Robin Canada and bassist Mike Wasnok.
In fact, Frank Rogala said he wrote several of the album's songs partly in reaction to the flippant attitude toward adolescent sex on their previous hit. So this time out, along with the group's characteristic layered synthesizers and energetic rhythms, Exude has a pertinent--albeit highly danceable--message for a society burdened with staggering numbers of teen pregnancies each year.
"After 'Boys Just Want to Have Sex' came out, that was fun and everything, but all of a sudden I was thinking, 'What am I doing this for?' Frank Rogala said. "Actually, I'm kind of proud of the song because it works on a lot of levels, and it's absolutely true as a sociological statement.
"But it was such a typical thing to do," he said. "I felt a little bit bad about treating sex as such a casual thing in a song like that. I taught human sexuality for a while at Central Michigan University, and I don't feel bad at all talking about sexuality. There are a lot of important issues that have to do with it. The title track of our album is about sexual responsibility."
That song, "Play With the Boys," is about a high school sports hero whose cheerleader girlfriend gets an abortion after learning that she is pregnant but never tells her boyfriend about the abortion nor the pregnancy for which he was responsible.
"It's a true story," Rogala said. "The reason I wrote it is that it all happened the way the song says. I found out through the girlfriend's friend that she was pregnant. I was really upset (at her boyfriend) that he was that stupid to do that. The thing that really made me mad was that she had gotten this abortion without telling him, so that after being stupid he didn't even have to pay the price or feel guilty about it. It was eating me up. So I sat down and wrote the lyrics. And after I wrote it, it was like this big relief. It was the first time I ever experienced that. It was out, and I didn't have this gnawing at me any more."
The group's philosophizing doesn't end with the LP's title tune or with the subject of sex. Beneath the catchy instrumental hooks and fetching chorus of "Get It Together," Rogala makes a pitch against drug abuse. And in "Billy" he explores some harsh realities that greet a young American who finds himself as a foreigner in a country where "anything goes, walls give out, ceiling explodes."
Those messages, however, may not immediately reach a lot of listeners simply because the album's predominant impression is one of bouncy rhythms and infectious melodies. Those qualities have made previous Exude records popular at KROQ-FM and other "new music" radio formats as well as with deejays in dance clubs.
Still, Frank Rogala wants people to listen to his words as much as to the music. "The reason I got into music in the first place is that I was the shining star of my high school and college. Everybody expected me to go into politics, and I was a great public speaker. I had a lot of offers, law scholarships. I got a real taste of political science and was very interested in it, but I found out that a personal vision is secondary to your career. You've got to worry about your constituents. You don't have as much of a voice as I thought you did. I had this childish notion of being President and doing what you want to save the world.
"So I realized what it was all about. At that point, everything that I did was very easy for me, so I thought, 'If I can do anything in the world, what would be the most fun?' "
The answer was obvious. "I'll be a rock star, that's what I'll do," he said with a laugh. "So I dropped out of school, took all my money, bought the band equipment and my parents had a heart attack. Everybody thought I was totally out of it. That was my whole motivation for doing this. These guys," he said, referring to the other band members, "are here for the music. I like to say it in words. I wanted a voice."
Before resuming more frequent live performances in coming months, Exude plans to add a drummer to its lineup. The quartet is also currently completing work on a pair of videos the band members hope will find a place on MTV.
Finishing the new album took longer than the musicians expected, but Rogala now believes the delays may have worked in the band's favor. Because many of the major labels are now requiring that video shows pay for the use of their clips, videos from independent labels may be in a better position to get exposure. "Nice guys that we are," Rogala said with a wry chuckle, "we'll let MTV have ours for nothing."
CENTER RING: Orange County's tongue-in-cheek punk funk band El Grupo Sexo will headline today's first concert in a new Friday afternoon local music series at UC Irvine. Along with El Grupo Sexo will be the droll "lounge music from Hell" of Mark Soden's Synth-O-Bar act.
"My personal opinion is that the local music scene in Orange County is getting better and there's a lot more to choose from," said Lance MacLean, events coordinator for the Associated Students of UCI (ASUCI), which is sponsoring the winter series. The concerts--spanning new music, folk and blues--will run from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. through March 7.
That time period "works well for students," MacLean said. "It's more of a happy hour setting. People might have plans to go out to places like Safari Sam's (in Huntington Beach), and we can't compete with that--at least, not yet. So we sort of get them warmed up and they can still go to something else later."
The free shows will be in the University Center's Backlot restaurant. Among the other acts that will perform over the next eight weeks are blues guitarist Buddy Reed (Jan. 17), folk singer-songwriter April Danielle (Jan. 17), R&B-soul; band Frankie S. (Jan. 24), blues band the Confessors (Feb. 21) and reggae group the Rebel Rockers (March 7).
MacLean said that the rock, blues and folk concerts will continue in the spring quarter, at which time there are plans to add a Thursday afternoon series spotlighting local jazz.
LIVE ACTION: Maynard Ferguson will perform Jan. 19 at J.H. McGaugh School in Seal Beach in a benefit concert to raise funds for the Los Alamitos High School and Oak Middle School jazz bands. Ferguson will give performances at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. For ticket information, call (213) 925-9002 or (213) 596-3648. . . . DIN will play the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach on Thursday. . . . The Meat Puppets return to Safari Sam's in Huntington Beach on Jan. 19, followed by Jonathon Richman on Jan. 20.