Well, there's art rock--you know, Brian Eno, The Moody Blues, XTC and like that--but how about smart rock? The local rock trio, the I-Rails, features two members who moved here from Visalia. Now that's smart.
Bass player and singer Chris O'Connor and guitarist and singer Jeff Sparks met in school in Visalia, then moved here like everyone else. With drummer Tim Lauterio (a local), the I-Rails have been around for three or four years. The band is in the process of recording its fourth tape, which will be titled "Panharmonium." It surely will be original, hard-driving rock with no Megadeth covers. O'Connor and Sparks offer some happening harmonies that make the I-Rails worth the drive.
But remember, fun is never a four-letter word when the I-Rails play. Often, the band members take requests from the audience and they can do just about everything from "Purple Haze" to "Sesame Street" and stuff even stranger than that, especially by the last set.
In a recent interview, the members described their life and music.
Where do you guys play?
O'Connor: Pretty much around here--Charlie's, Alex's Cantina in Santa Barbara, occasionally a gig at The Carnaval Club and, if we're lucky, the Ventura Theater.
Sparks: But we're not very lucky. No one seems to be very interested in us. Our fans actually want to save the world, but they'd rather sit in Charlie's and drink.
Describe the rather extensive I-Rails discography.
Sparks: We had two tapes that we barely released--about 200 copies each. I don't even have copies of them. Then we put out a single record. The last tape, "Nine Songs From Nowhere," sold out all 700 copies. I don't know if we'll make more; it's a hassle.
O'Connor: Fame is unnecessary for a band of genius.
If nobody hears your stuff, how do you get signed?
Sparks: You don't get signed from Ventura. We just want to play and make good tapes.
O'Connor: Mass acceptance is not a sign of quality. The thing is to create great things and, somehow, they will be heard.
How did the band get started?
Sparks: We knew each other at Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, even before that.
O'Connor: Yeah, Jeff taught me how to play guitar in fifth or sixth grade. Then, later, we moved down here in 1986. We wanted to be near L.A., but not in L.A.
Describe I-Rails music.
O'Connor: Well, we want to be totally credible as a . . . rock band, and still be subtle. We don't want to get stuck. We're not afraid of any style of music. We don't rule anything out.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Sparks: The third Replacements' album, Husker Du, R.E.M., stuff like that.
And what are you guys in it for?
Sparks: Hey, we're artists, you know.
How come nobody dances much anymore?
Sparks: Well, they used to. I think it's directly proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. Also, there's more dancers on weekends.
O'Connor: And let's not forget the introspective, retrospective and intelligent songs.
Sparks: Let's not.
What's the best thing about being local rock gods?
O'Connor: Well, it sure ain't hauling all this equipment around.
Sparks: It sure ain't getting drunk and then having to go to work the next day.
O'Connor: It sure ain't playing the same hole-in-the-wall places all the time. But we just keep playing anyway.
So the I-Rails still need day jobs?
O'Connor: Sure. I'm an air-traffic controller, Jeff works for Patagonia and Tim drives a Miller beer truck.
What was your strangest gig?
O'Connor: We played Zenon West in downtown Ventura one time and the heavy metal fans wanted to kill us.
What do the I-Rails want to tell the world?
Sparks: Don't listen to the radio.
O'Connor: Unless you like it.
Sparks: MTV is the truth.
O'Connor: Buy whatever the radio plays.
Sparks: Support your government no matter what they say.