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Dramarama Getting Its Act Together

November 06, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

Dramarama has split up.

No, the locally based rock band is still quite intact, as you'll be able to see tonight at the Hollywood Palladium (with the British group the Bolshoi) and Nov. 20 at Fender's in Long Beach. But its six members recently decided that it was time to go forth from the Burbank house they'd shared --Monkees-style--for the past year and live separately.

That decision marks the only major alteration in the group's life style since it moved here from Wayne, N.J., more than a year ago at the suggestion of KROQ-FM deejay/scenemaker Rodney Bingenheimer.

When Dramarama hit town, the band was hot . KROQ was featuring the urgent "Anything Anything" (from the band's independent debut album, "Cinema Verite") in high rotation and its packed concert appearances were attended regularly by eager record company scouts.

"Sure thing" was the word about Dramarama--quite a heady experience for a band that was founded in 1982 by singer/songwriter John Easdale and bassist Chris Carter as an outgrowth of their alternative record store, Loony Toonez.

That's the kind of a buzz that normally leads to a contract with a major label. Yet Dramarama--which is managed by Avalon Attractions, Southern California's largest concert promotion firm--doesn't have one.

"We could sit and figure it out all day," said Carter, 27, in the living room of his just-purchased Sherman Oaks condominium. "But the fact is we're not signed."

One reason, Easdale and Carter suggest, is that Dramarama had little live experience when it moved to California.

"We basically came out here with four or five shows under our belt," Carter recalled. "And then suddenly we're doing the Whisky with all these record company hacks in the audience."

Unsure of itself, the band tried to be theatrical on stage, using banks of television screens and other gimmicks to spice up the shows. "But we weren't polished enough," Carter said, admitting that the attempts were pretentious--and just plain wrong for the band's straight-ahead, tuneful guitar-based rock.

Another reason is that is that the band tends to fall between conventional categories. It's music, influenced by the likes of Mott the Hoople, the New York Dolls and T. Rex, is not quite rough enough to be characterized as underground, but neither is it trendy and glossy enough to be mainstream.

Still, some record companies reportedly remained interested.

"We were approached by a lot of people," said Easdale, 25. "We went into the studio with one producer and spent a hellish afternoon playing him all our songs. Then we got money from Capitol Records to make demos and they wanted to give us more money to make more demos."

Instead, the band decided to use its own money and record on its own again--a decision they now say was smart. "If we'd taken the money from Capitol, we'd probably still be waiting to hear how they liked the demos," Easdale said.

The band's new album, "Box Office Bomb," is earning the same kind of critical praise that greeted its first LP. But also like the debut, this album was self-produced and released (on the band's own Questionmark label).

Meanwhile, the band has been able to focus its live approach, shedding the theatrical trappings. Explained Carter, "Now, you'll find us more like the Replacements. We come out with our guitars and just play."

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