ABOUT THE 88
by Natalie Nichols
1. The 88 is a throwback/modern rock act that mines the past like the White Stripes or the Strokes, but, instead of rooting through early rock ’n’ roll or ’70s punk, chips away at the veins of quirky British smart-pop.
2. Listening to the band’s debut album, Kind of Light, is like eating multi-colored Life Savers one after the other – it’s all pretty sweet, yet definitely varied, with notes of tart yellow, tranquil green, jaunty red, and psychedelic orange.
3. The 88’s songs are written by singer-guitarist Keith Slettedahl.
4. He went to Calabasas High School with keyboardist-guitarist-producer Adam Merrin.
5. With drummer Mark Vasapolli and bassist Carlos Torres, they formed the Freeloaders.
6. When multi-instrumentalist Brandon Jay joined up, they became the 88.
7. The band’s name comes from a French Kicks song.
8. They thought the title was about a piano (88 keys), but it actually references NYC’s 88th precinct.
9. (It’s also the speed that Doc had to reach in Back to the Future: 88 mph.)
10. Their clever, odd-yet-melodic tunes are too often compared to the Kinks.
11. But they evoke multitudes: Beatles, T. Rex, Bowie, XTC, Elliott Smith, etc.
12. So give up playing spot-the-influence and just groove on their quirky hooks.
13. “Elbow Blues” is a standout tune: propulsive melody, fluttery piano bits, lilting vocal harmonies. Dig it.
14. Hollywood concurs. A video of the song will play on a TV in Get Shorty 2: Be Cool.
15. In fact, the 88 is all over TV and movies these days.
16. “How Good It Can Be” was in an episode of The O.C., and it’s on the soundtrack (out March 30).
17. “They played it at the very beginning of the show,” reports Slettedahl, “so I didn’t have to watch the whole thing.”
18. That song was also in One Tree Hill.
19. “Coming Home” will be in the Ben Affleck flick Surviving Christmas.
20. “It’s always weird,” says Slettedahl. “‘No Use Left for Me’ got played in a bar scene in JAG. It was like, how would they pick that?”
21. Danny Benair, of music marketing company Natural Energy Lab, hooked up their first TV placements.
22. (Benair used to be in L.A. psych-pop act the Three O’Clock.)
23. The 88 has also charmed NPR, which included “Kind of Light” on its new All Songs Considered 4 compilation.
24. And the players are charming indeed in the spiffy suits they always wear on stage.
25. “It makes us look like a band,” Slettedahl says. “Otherwise, we all look very different.”
26. Plus, it’s transformational: “You know how Gene Simmons talked about, when he puts on the makeup, he changes?” asks Slettedahl. “It’s kinda like that.”
27. They took their suits with them to Austin for South by Southwest last week.
28. They played, like, two gigs a day there. And about a half-dozen shows en route – their biggest mini-tour ever.
29. Keith and his girlfriend learned to silkscreen so they could make tour T-shirts.
30. The farthest from home they’ve played is Washington, D.C., for the Lance Armstrong “Tour of Hope” cancer benefit last November.
31. “Seeing ourselves on a giant video screen was very trippy,” recalls Slettedahl.
32. Even trippier, the concert was in a park next to the White House.
33. Did W. attend? “Not that I could tell,” says Slettedahl.
34. But they have had famous fans, including Kiefer “24” Sutherland and the late Elliott Smith.
35. In fact, they backed Smith on a couple of his gigs last year.
36. Slettedahl had a weird dream before one show, involving a restaurant, the keyboard, and the Lakers.
37. Not surprisingly, then, the 88 was among the saddened artists playing tribute to Smith last November at the Henry Fonda Theater.
38. They did “Stupidity Tries,” “Can’t Make a Sound,” and an unrecorded tune, “King’s Crossing.”
39. “It was just sad,” says Slettedahl, who is friendly with Elliott’s sister Ashley. “You just feel terrible for everybody.”
40. They also played some Johnny Cash tunes during the Getty’s tribute to the Man in Black last year.
41. And they also are all members of wacky Silver Lake kids’ group Gwendolyn and the Good Time Gang, currently making 12 videos for a DVD of its self-titled debut.
42. Somehow, the 88’s still managing to write new tunes for another album.
43. In the meantime, KCRW (89.9 FM) and Indie 103 (103.1 FM) are still
rockin’ the old stuff.
© 2003 Southland Publishing,
All Rights Reserved
TOP 10 ALBUMS
by Natalie Nichols
|The 88, Kind of Light (EMK). Local lads make clever, melodic rock that's oft-compared to the Kinks but actually sounds very, very now. Yay for "Elbow Blues"!|