Metal With Melody : Indica will help fill the bill at a thrash extravaganza tonight after winning a college battle of the bands.

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Indica is closer than most bands to living the rock 'n' roll dream. Actors dream of getting discovered. Rock 'n' roll groups dream of winning the battle of the bands. MTV, limos, the hits, the endless tours come later.

For Indica, it all may come sooner. On March 9, they were crowned America's best college rock band when they won the Dodge Rockin' Campus Bash National Finals in Daytona Beach. They won a $2,000 cash prize and a recording session in New York.

Remember when longhairs used to be mellow, dude? That's over--longhairs (who aren't Deadheads) now are to mellow as Roseanne Barr is to the swimsuit issue. Indica, named after a potent variety of California's No. 1 cash crop, will be a third of the bill at tonight's Thrash Metal extravaganza at the venerable Ventura Theatre. Also on the bill will be Kronix and Titanic. No Springsteen covers at this gig, just a lot of combat boots and earplugs. Indica does songs such as "Payback," "Shot in the Back," "Ludicrocity" and the ever heartfelt "Hate."

The band is powered by the wailing dual guitar attack of Joe Kocsis and Kirk Laron. Chris Ferrante is frantic on bass and Tyler Clark hits the drums. Pete Murray seems to inflict grievous damage to his throat as he growls out the vocals. And there is enough long hair flying all over the stage to make it look like hippies in a hurricane.

Murray, who hails from New York, originally came to California to go to school. During a recent phone call from Isla Vista, he discussed the life and times of his favorite speed metal band.

What's the difference between an Isla Vista band and a Santa Barbara band?

A couple of miles, I dunno. Isla Vista bands are a little more diverse, more accessible. There's like 30 bands here in a one-square-mile area. It's going to be pretty wild this weekend. Somebody screwed up the open container law. It expired. There's people drinking beer right now on the sidewalk in front of the foot patrol office and there'll be people drinking beer all over town tonight. This could last a day, a week or six months.

Are there a lot of places to play?

The Anaconda Theater is the main place in Isla Vista, although you can always play at parties. We've probably played the Anaconda six or seven times. There's five bands playing here somewhere every weekend. The Prime Directive in Santa Barbara is the only place that'll play music as heavy as us. We've had a hard time downtown because we're too loud.

Is Indica named after that illicit substance?

We're named for herbs used by the Indians for medicinal purposes.

How would you describe Indica music?

Thrash metal with a melody.

When you play, do people dance, just stare or run like hell?

It depends on the setting, but usually we get a mosh pit going. We attract a lot of our friends plus a lot of little thrasher kids.

Who are some of the bands you think are cool?

I like Slayer and Soundgarden. The other band members are into more traditional metal like Metallica.

Long hairs used to be mellow, not any more?

Longhairs are pissed--now they want to thrash.

How did Indica get started?

We all met at school, at UCSB. Three of us have graduated and two are still in school. There have been some lineup changes in the band, but we've had this lineup since October.

Tell me about the battle of the bands.

Well, they had this battle of the bands on campus. It was sponsored by the Associated Students Program Board, MTV and Dodge. The only rule was that you had to have at least two members of your band in school. There were a lot of local bands in it--Circus Life, Circus Frequency, the Sleepwalkers, but we won. Next, they sent our tape to UC Riverside, the next stop. They got something like 120 tapes and they picked five. We won that one too and went to Daytona Beach during spring break. There were five bands there from all over the country. We won that one, and we were on MTV and they said Indica on television. It was rad, man. By winning, we got to go to New York and record five songs. It was pretty killer, we stayed at my parents' house.

So are you guys almost rich and famous then?

Well, now we have connections on both coasts and people are starting to know who we are. Ugly Kid Joe got a lot of attention for Santa Barbara and we totally did, too. We still all have day jobs. When I can ditch my day job, I'll be one happy man.

So everything's going according to plan?

I dunno, man; it all happened really fast. There's nothing I'd rather be doing.

How many Indica songs are there?

We have about nine, plus a bunch of covers that we do when we play a party. Our perfect set lasts about an hour.

Why is speed metal so popular?

It just keeps growing, and it's more realistic as to what's going down. It's good riot music.

So have you been here long enough to be a Dodger fan yet?

Not yet; I'm still a Mets fan. Tyler and Kirk are from San Francisco, so they're Giants fans. Chris is from San Diego, so he's a hard-core Padres fan. Joe is from San Jose, so he's nothing.

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