Whatever happened to the Rave-Ups?
That's the question band leader Jimmer Podrasky is always being asked.
A year ago, the L.A. rock quartet, which combines a bit of Dylanesque lyric consciousness with the straightforward energy of a Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, was a top pick of many local publications (including The Times) for stardom. But then it dropped nearly out of sight.
Podrasky's answer: The band was busy extricating itself from its six-year deal with Fun Stuff, the small independent record company that released the group's debut album, "Town + Country."
"We legally could not talk to another label without the fear of Fun Stuff suing us and the label," said Podrasky. "It was nothing against the job Fun Stuff did. But they had done all they could for us as far as making records and getting them distributed. . . . We wanted to make records for someone in a position to help us more."
Fun Stuff president Mark Eisenstein confirmed that though the last year saw some wrangling between the band and his company, there are no ill feelings now. "I think the band is wonderful, Jimmer is terrific," he said, adding that Fun Stuff will receive a portion of the Rave-Ups' future sales in exchange for releasing the group from its contract.
"I have nothing negative to say about them," Eisenstein said. "The band is clearly ready to move on. . . . We realize at this point the best thing for everyone is for the band to get out there and knock 'em dead."
Another frustration for the Rave-Ups last year was the John Hughes film "Pretty in Pink." Though the band actually performed two songs in the movie, both tracks were left off the hit sound-track album despite the fact that the film's star Molly Ringwald has been a big booster of the Rave-Ups. On top of that, some of the band members once worked in the mail room at A&M; Records, the company that released the album.
Still, Podrasky isn't bitter about either point as he and the band pursue a new label deal. "The music business has certainly let us down many times," he said. "But that's to be expected. There are always going to be ups and downs and, unfortunately, for the last year we've gotten the down end of things. But that's not what music is all about. I know we are no longer the new kids in town, but the band's not giving up."
BOOKASTA'S BRAINCHILD: Local rock fans have something new to read: Contrast magazine.
Even though Englishman Matt Johnsonall is on the cover of the just-out second issue, the focus is largely L.A. faves like Firehose, Mojo Nixon, Downy Mildew and Concrete Blonde. Also featured: an article written by Peter Case and Victoria Williams, an interview with the Dream Syndicate by longtime scenester Phast Phreddie, and the second installment of a regular column by Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell.
The magazine is the brainchild of Randy Bookasta, a 19-year-old Santa Monica College student who has virtually grown up around the local music scene. His father, Gary Bookasta, started KROQ-FM in 1972, and later initiated the station's new-wave format, which provided considerable exposure for local bands. The younger Bookasta says he started Contrast with art director Greg Allen because he felt many deserving L.A. artists seem to be ignored.
"I think there are a lot of bands that are overlooked in L.A.," he said. "Pop Art is on tour right now and getting a lot of coverage in (New York publication) Rockpool, but they never do very well in L.A. 17 Pygmies has followings in a lot of European countries."
Sold primarily in record stores in L.A. and across the country, the premiere issue's 5,000-copy run sold quickly and Bookasta is confident that the publication can grow into an influential force in the local music community. But he is less certain about its ability to ignite new club activity around town.
"There are only a few venues in town booking adventurous acts. . . . The Lhasa, Scream and McCabe's . . . that's about it," he said. "I think if bands could play more places there'd be more incentive to start a scene. People are more interested in dancing and don't really care about the bands--unless they come from England."
WHO PUT THE BOMP, AGAIN: Ten years ago, two other magazines certainly served as catalysts for local music: Bomp and Slash, both of which were affiliated with record companies with the same names.
But six years ago Bomp magazine folded, followed two years later by Bomp Records.
"Music in 1979 and 1980 was pretty much all dance music and it seemed like a real betrayal of punk," says Greg Shaw, the rock historian/writer and entrepreneur who started Bomp. "I just got fed up."
But guess what: Bomp is back. Shaw is again publishing a scaled-down version of the magazine and has re-launched the record label with an inaugural lineup of releases from the Lazy Cowgirls, the Raunchettes, the Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada and Lord John. There's also a 12-inch single by Lords of the New Church singer Stiv Bators.
Explains Shaw, who had stayed active with his '60s-oriented Voxx Records: "There's a strong worldwide garage-punk movement taking place underground. The type of ideals that were around in the '70s are beginning to resurface just as the ideals of the '60s are.
"A strong garage-punkoid movement is going to become evident in the future and this is the market I'm looking towards. I'm interested in bands that are trying to sell 20-30,000 records more than someone who's trying to sound like somebody that's already selling millions."
HOLY SISTERS, BATMAN!: Perhaps the most notable of the Bomp releases is the Holy Sisters of the Gaga Dada's debut, "Let's Get Acquainted," which is bound to shake up a few notions of just what a girl group is. Generally, the term has called to mind bright, poppy songs, sparkling harmonies and upbeat lyrics about boys, love and fun.Not so with the Holy Sisters.
Being females is where any similarity between the Holy Sisters and such sisters-in-rock as the Go-Go's and Bangles stops. Can you imagine Belinda Carlisle singing a song about a man beating up his wife next door, as the Holy Sisters do in "A Neighbor Screams"?
"I first joined bands to express my politics," says bassist Jill Fido, who hooked up with the band's founder, keyboardist/singer Mary Jean, three years ago in Santa Cruz, the band's original home base (guitarist Kim Sockit and drummer Zero Jessephski, Jr. complete the lineup).
It's not just the message of the songs that makes the band shatter the gender genre stereotype. The music is dark, rhythmic and carnival-esque, borrowing more from the original Wall of Voodoo than from the Go-Go's.
Even with the new LP out, Fido admits it's hard sometimes to be taken seriously, but as more people get acquainted with the band (which plays Al's Bar with Thelonious Monster on Wednesday) the non-believers are being won over.
"In some ways it helps being a girl band, and in some ways it doesn't," said Sockit. "I think it's been as much a help as a hindrance."
But on the positive side, Fido added, "Now there's a range of girl groups. . . . The Go-Go's, the Bangles and the Pandoras are all different from each other. I think we started another category."
NEWS 'N' NOTES: Coconut Teaszer is becoming one of the more interesting live rooms for a full range of talent, both local and imported. One name to keep an eye out for on the Hollywood club's schedule is Monday's attraction, the Eyetalian Sportscars, which features members of the Little Kings and Junkyard, plus whoever they can coax into playing with them. A recent gig featured teen-heartthrob Charlie Sexton--on drums.
One of L.A.'s most promising young bands, the Need, has changed its name to Divine Weeks. An album titled "Through and Through" is due soon on Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn's Down There label, distributed by Enigma. . . . Long Island transplants the Dancing Hoods won the best new band award at the recent New York City Music Awards. The Hoods can be seen in various L.A. clubs, with Rave-Ups bassist Tommy Blatnik temporarily subbing for original member Eric Williams, who apparently has decided not to make the move out West.
Tin Star's debut album, "Somebody's Dreams," which was released briefly last year on Wrestler Records, has now been reissued on producer Dan Fredman's own Unbreakable Records. The Kerry Hansen-led band, now with a slightly different lineup than when the album was made, is gigging around town and talking to major labels. . . . Suicidal Tendencies, whose "Institutionalized" is one of the best songs to come out of the L.A. hard-core scene, has a new album, "Join the Army," on New York-based Caroline Records. . . . Fade to Gray's recent six-cut 12-inch, "Bless This Mess," features an intriguing musical approach (sort of like what Oingo Boingo might sound like if it was good) and cover art by drummer J.T. Steiny, whose bizarre comic "Doots" can be seen each week in the Reader. . . . The Moberlys are currently shopping demos produced by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck.