April 1

THE 88
Getting heard above the L.A. rock din

With the large number of bands that make the pilgrimage every year to
Los Angeles for their “big break,” it can be hard for the
few (remaining) locals to be heard, especially with the low percentage
rate of those that are any good. But The 88 have been doing a respectable
job at getting their eclectic pop-rock to L.A. audiences. Their debut
album, Kind Of Light (EMK Records) has already garnered coverage
in the pages of “Rolling Stone,” the “L.A. Times”
and “L.A. Weekly,” and regular live stints like a month-long
residency at Spaceland have helped to nurture an ever-growing fan base
(which includes “24” star Kiefer Sutherland; recalls singer/guitarist
Keith Slettedahl on meeting his new fan, “The little kid in me was
like, “Oooh, TV guy!”). Though the band’s profile is
aided by the presence of Brandon Jay (a.k.a. local cult figure Quazar),
The 88’s popularity has more to do with their songs, which is how
Weezer would sound if they spent less time obsessing about underage girls
and more time listening to Kinks records. Slettedahl remains admirably
lowkey about his music. “I like songs. I’m not as concerned
with how they’re dressed up,” he notes. “I mean, obviously
for me personally, I like a certain kind of sound, but there is a song
in all that stuff. Bad modern country or modern pop stuff, a good song’s
a good song.”

Slettedahl’s history is a unique though humble one. He didn’t
pick up a guitar until after graduating from high school, and was 24 before
he wrote his first song. It was after many a practice session with former
classmate and future 88 piano player Adam Merrin that the idea to form
a band slowly took hold, and the result was The Freeloaders. But after
many years of basing themselves around mediocre songwriting (“They
were more excuses to jam than actual well-written songs,” Slettedahl
admits) that he worked up the courage to move past the songs-by-committee
approach and lay his own compositions on the table. The decision was not
an easy one, given his almost overriding self-consciousness. But thankfully,
he did, and the band was changed irrevocably. First, though, Slettedahl
had a lengthy drug addiction to beat, but after doing so, Brandon Jay
joined the fold, and suggested a name for the band while he was at it.
The Freeloaders morphed into The 88, which was taken the name from a French
Kicks song (one of the songs on Kind of Light, “No Use
Left For Me,” has a distinct Kicks sound).

Being that Slettedahl is now known as a hyper-prolific songwriter, it’s
an easy guess that another album will be forthcoming. So will it be made
up of the backlog of material that didn’t make it onto Kind
Of Light
? “Well, I think it’s going to be mostly newer
[material], because I’m always most interested in what I’m
doing now. I’m always thinking the new stuff is better than the
other stuff.”

The 88 will perform at the The El Rey Theatre on March 27 with Superdrag
and Ozma. For more information, visit www.the88.net

Campus Circle July 23
by Lauren Horwitch
Amoeba’s Homegrown Summer Showcase at The House of Blues

Next up, the great 88 continued to build their reputation as one of the
most consistently awesome live acts in town.Maybe I’m a sucker for
band members in suits, and it’s arguable how “underground”
they are now that they’ve graced the pages of Rolling Stone
and The Los Angeles Times, but the pure frenetic joy these guys
broadcast across a dance floor cannot be denied. And it’s always
good to see their frontman/guitarist Keith Slettedahl beaming like a beatific
Buddy Holly. The highlight of their set (and the entire evening) was a
spirited cover of “Suffragette City” led by an honest-to-goodness
Amoeba staff member. The 88 sunk their collective teeth into the familiar
riff, shaking up the crowd. I’m sure the fuzzy headed employee did
Amoeba management proud. Just one word of advice: Next time, don’t
forget the “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!”You came this
close to getting your cool card revoked on that one,my dear.


Campus Circle July 23
by Steven Hanna
August 1 @ The Derby

My regular readers, all two of you, have heard me rave about Eleni Mandell
before, and I’ll gladly do it again.Heck, I could fill this entire
column and several more singing her praises, but that
would be quite a slight to her superb openers the 88, who are richly deserving
of a column or two of their own. Local and close to magnificent, the band
has been rocking the stereos of those
smart enough to have picked up their sharp debut CD Kind of Light –
but they’re best live. Keith Slettedahl is a powerhouse and the
band’s early-’80s Elvis Costello vibe is positively irresistible.
It’s a bit odd for them to be playing to the typically-stuffy concertgoers
at the Derby, but maybe the 88 will loosen folks up for a change. It’d
be worth stopping by to see.