April 22, 2002

Hitting The Skids: The Band from Ignoreland

The Mojo Wire hasn't heard of you either.
Originally posted to www.themojowire.com on 1/16/99.

Adam Hill is on a roll. Five beers after his band, the Mojo Wire, has finished a gig at the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, the frontmanly singer-guitarist has forgotten the screwups and PA malfunctions of the performance and is holding court with his friends on the balcony of his Isla Vista, CA apartment. Adam, 20, joins drummer Bryn DuBois, also 20, in telling tall tales of the band's previous shows while Bryn's brother, bassist Keir DuBois, 22, and guitarist Joe Zulli, 19, look on and occasionally throw in comments of their own.

The drummer, who has refused alcohol tonight after a hideous hangover from yesterday, carefully translates Adam's increasingly surreal flights of fancy for fellow revelers and reporters alike. It sounds something like this:
Adam: Did I ever tell you about how we found Jesus? Yeah, we jammed with him! We found Jesus the other day. No, not in the religious sense- we saw him at a party-"

Bryn (interrupting): "Actually, it was just a friend of ours named Chris who lives a few blocks away. He has long hair and a goatee and looks a lot like Jesus, but is not in fact, the Son of God."

Adam: "Whatever. Anyway, yeah, we saw him at a party and he was playing the drums. We jammed with him all night and it was really cool because, well— hell, he's Jesus! You can't be cooler than that. We'd been struggling for a drummer at the time and Jesus would make a great drummer! He's Jesus! He would get all the women!"

Bryn: "Did I ever tell you about the time Adam got so drunk that—"

Adam: "No! No no no no. Not for our first interview, you asshole!"

Adam's apparent concern over his and the band's public image isn't in danger of inflating, however, as both soon forget about the potentially embarrassing saga of "Will Adam Drink It?" once they're asked about their performance. Bryn thinks they did okay but would have rather had a longer set to stretch out the tunes and get musically looser.

"If we'd been able to do that," he says, "we might have pulled off a really great show."

Adam is less optimistic. "If we had a better PA we could have pulled off a show, period," he answers.

Their roommate Ryan Hart disagrees. "I thought they were good," he argues, "for, you know amateurs." The band hoots and hollers at this cruel statement of truth. "No no," Hart qualifies, "I mean, I hear them practice all the time, enough so that I can sing all their songs at the shows, but that didn't help at this party because of the technical difficulties."

He shrugs. "Mostly no one knew them, so everybody looked at me like I was a choade for booking them."

"That and you distracted all the babes," retorts Adam.

Joe is nonplussed about the show. "I dunno," he responds coolly. "I.V. isn't really our scene anyway. Not like we have a scene- all the bars downtown have aggressively rejected our demos, so we have to stoop to the awful shame of frat party shows." He glares at Hart with less-than-mock derision, but the SigEp man has already moved on to other, less cerebral pursuits over at the beer bong.

The slump of tonight's gig is simply another check on the Mojo Wire's slowly burgeoning performance sheet. Like many neophyte college bands, they play wherever they can, rarely for a crowd bigger than their gathered friends at a party and never for any money (though not for lack of trying).

Bryn explains, "One time we played this, like, company Christmas party for one of Keir's old jobs. It got progressively worse every time they told us to turn it down."

His brother agrees, "Yeah, I got us into a no-win situation there. It was at a Holiday Inn down in south Orange County with lots of old people in the crowd." Keir cracks up at the thought of it. "I think that's enough for corporate sponsorship for a while," he laughs.

Still, the band tries its hand at most anything; Bryn recalls that their first gig "was on the deck of a forty-five foot boat in Newport Harbor, for a Christmas parade. It was cold as fuck and we had to play "Wipeout" about eighteen times for a group of ten-year olds dancing what they thought was the twist. It looked like the seven dwarves on LSD." That was in December of 1996, seven months after Adam, Keir, and Bryn (then playing guitar) got together with drummer Kevin Nerison in Dana Point, CA to play blues and surf songs in a band they called the Clap.

"That was a great band name," says Keir, preposterously. When asked about how they came to name themselves after a venereal disease, he added, "It was funny! I mean, can't you see the marquees of places we'd play? They'd say 'Come catch the Clap tonight at 7pm!'"

After switching from their first name ("it was...unpoetic," muses Bryn) to the current moniker, swiped from Hunter Thompson's annoying fax device, the Mojo Wire began writing their own material in a bluesy vein and, for variety, absorbed several classic rock and roll covers. "We do a mean 'Margaritaville'," brags Adam, an unapologetically diehard Jimmmy Buffett fan. "We also played a lot of Clapton back then, and some surf covers too."

Keir was already attending school at UCSB when the group formed, and by the time Adam and Bryn made it into town, they had dozens of tunes, but were now drummer-less. By chance they recruited next-door-neighbor Brandon Klopp for a few months to fill the position. "Oh man, he could play," says Keir. "He made the three of us actually sound good. I mean, after we got him, we played well enough to throw keg parties just to show off." He deadpans, "We attracted dozens of people!"

"No," Bryn replies, "I think a big part of the attraction was the kegs-" (his face lights up suddenly) "...like the one you let get stolen!" This reminder is loud enough for all on the balcony to hear and then remember well enough to verbally pound Keir into the ground all over again for his stupidity.

"In any case," Keir continues, unfazed, "we actually recorded two demo CDs with Brandon- he had a DAT machine that made it pretty easy- but eventually he moved and we stayed and that was that."

Wasn't the band sorry to lose a great drummer? "Well, yeah." says Adam. "Of course," agrees Bryn, "but I bought half his old drum set before he left." Adds Keir, "Besides, his favorite band was Toto. That just didn't fly with me."
Adam looks hurt. "I like Toto..." he counters meekly.

The band chuckles quietly. The imminent completion of Seaside Hamlet Skids, their long-delayed third album, keeps them in high sprits. The new disc, now scheduled for release on April 20, will represent the culmination of a year's worth of gigging and recording. Bryn notes that the album's sound, however, may not resemble the band's current messy garage-rock leanings. "We started the initial demos for it back in June of last year," he says, "right after Adam and I got back from several escapades in Baja, one of which had us testing out the newer material around campfires with field-tripping high school students."

Recording for what would become the album commenced in September, with the help of sometime Mojo drummer Nerison. "We tracked about half the instrumentals at Kev's place in Laguna Niguel," recalls Keir. "However, only four songs ended up on the final sequence: 'I Fly Free,' 'So Cold,' 'The Shivering Sand,' and 'Wipeout.' Doing the surf cover was great. Ever since then we've been rotating it in and out of our set along with other classics like 'Pipeline' and 'Miserlou.'"

The remainder of the album was pieced together from various subsequent sessions at the band's base, the Bedrock in Isla Vista, where Bryn, who had been overdubbing guitar parts as the band's original co-lead guitarist, suddenly was pressed into recording drums as well. Adam notes that "the reason the album is a little quieter-sounding than the first two is that, in addition to basing it around the more acoustic and reverb-heavy surf tunes, we also had Bryn just beginning to learn to drum, so we didn't want to stretch his ability too much yet."

After the departure of second drummer Klopp, the Mojo Wire played a few gigs as a trio before conscripting Zulli as lead axeman. "What can I say?" said Joe. "Without me, their sound was so fragile it practically blew away," referencing one particularly cold show in November 1998. The overall Mojo Wire sound has become dramatically blunt ever since the Alice in Chains fan took over lead duties. "I really like it this way," notes Keir. "We get to show off how muscular some of this new stuff really is, in addition to bashing through the older, bluesier material.

The band's live shows, like the one they just finished, have nevertheless taken on an unhinged quality that none of the members seem to be able to keep under control. "It's an absolute crapshoot every time we get on stage now," notes Bryn, "whether we're playing frat parties or pizza joints or keggers or whatever. This lineup isn't made for prime time, and we're glorying in that." He laughs and returns to re-capping the ups and downs of the night's SigEp gig with the rest of the band and their friends, and everyone stays busy talking, playing and drinking late into the night.

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