MUSIC : A Band That Is Really Gnarly : The Orange County rockers play a wide variety of music that caters to Southern Californians’ love of dancing.
Much like the Ramones and the Smith Brothers, it’s easy to call the Gnarly Bros for dinner. The roll call reads Phillip Gnarly on guitar, Tracy Gnarly on drums, Bill Gnarly on bass and Brewster Gnarly on keyboards and vocals. You can catch all the Gnarlys in the act when they appear at the Calypso in Santa Barbara Saturday night.
Cool, boss, groovy, bitchin’, bad and gnarly are not a law firm, just different adjectives describing something that is marvelous, wonderful or excellent. Adjectives that the Gnarly clearly believe describe their band. According to Phillip Gnarly, a fan came up to them during a show, and with all the wit and wisdom of a guy who had drank his weight in beer said, “ ‘You guys are gnarly.’ There was our name.”
“Hipgnotic” is their album on Tiki Beat Records. Tikis, along with St. Christopher medals and woodies invoke images of Southern California 30 years ago, or before the Beach Boys invited the nation to join us.
The current SoCal soundtrack is not Bob Segar or Prince, and Bruce ain’t our Boss. Rather, the Grateful Dead--and the new generation of bands that attract Deadheads such as Phish, Blues Traveler and the Samples--along with reggae bands, surf music, ska and World Beat music has kept Southern Californians dancing.
“World Beat and reggae music have always been popular here,” said Phillip. “And surf music is popular in Jamaica. People who live on islands seem to like easy, laid-back music. People who live in Southern California, basically, live on an island.”
The Gnarly Bros’ part of the “island” is Orange County, which has no more orange trees, but some good waves and some good bands. Along with Common Sense, another band that plays here a lot, the Bros all came from the Laguna Beach-Dana Point area.
“There was a large reggae scene in Orange County when I was still in high school,” Phillip said. “The Rebel Rockers played reggae and ska music even before the Untouchables. There were just a lot of bands that played all the time down there; then the scene moved to Los Angeles.”
When the guitar player was nearly Gnarly, he was a member of the Bonedaddys, a World Beat outfit with a million members that dressed is if every day was Halloween.
“One thing about this band is that it’s a lot smaller than the Bonedaddys,” Phillip said. “Also, we play straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll, and just a wider variety of music such as 70s soul music, reggae and funk.
“The Bonedaddys had more African styles, and even some New Orleans music. World Beat music is just country music from all over the world. The Gnarly Bros are not a World Beat band. . . . Our music is very Californian and fun.”
Phillip said the Gnarly Bros came together three years ago when he had to throw a band together to play at a club called the Sandpiper in Laguna Beach. He called all of the musicians he liked from various other bands, he said, and it just worked.
“We still play there on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. People that like to dance come to see us because we play all types of dance music. It makes me feel uncomfortable when people just stand there and stare at us.”
They also play locally once or twice a month at places that encourage people to dance funny such as Metro Bay Club in Ventura and the Beach Shack in Santa Barbara--right across the parking lot from the Calypso.
They’ve also been as far north as Alaska, south to Mexico and even to Las Vegas, where people from Iowa mistake each other for movie stars. They don’t play much in L.A., however, despite the fact that Phillip lives there and spends his days doing session work.
“There’s a great L.A. scene, but there’s so many bands that play for free that it ruins it for the professional bands. A lot of the young bands aren’t that good, so you have to wade through 20 horrible bands to see one good one. A lot of it’s pay-to-play or play for free, and we’ve never done a free gig. Maybe to get signed, you need to know the right lawyer.”
* WHAT: Gnarly Bros.
* WHERE: Calypso, 514 State St., Santa Barbara.
* WHEN: Saturday night, 9-ish.
* COST: Three bucks, max.
* FYI: 966-1388