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MUSIC: JELLYFISH : Set Adrift : A Bay Area quartet with a singing drummer hasn't learned that bell-bottoms are out of style.

October 25, 1990|BILL LOCEY

Jellyfish--that swimming gelatin dessert from hell that stings like the whip of Indiana Jones, thus messing up an otherwise idyllic day at the beach--right?

Sure, but Jellyfish is also this week's happening band you've never heard of. The Bay Area quartet will make its local debut at The Pub Saturday night on the campus of UC Santa Barbara.

The band, looking like flower children 21 years too late for Woodstock, is on tour in a thinly veiled effort to sell copies of its debut album, "Bellybutton."

And so much for objectivity: It may just be the album of the year--great vocals and witty lyrics. What else is there? The vocals are reminiscent of and as good as the Beatles, Shoes, Queen, XTC and others for whom neatness counts.

The band has been together for a year or so and has a video--"The King Is Half-Undressed"--on MTV.

"We started doing demos on a home tape recorder about a year ago," said singer/songwriter Andy Sturmer in a recent telephone interview. "We shopped our tape around, and by some computer malfunction, a lot of companies wanted to sign us. We played the first time after the album was released and recently completed a tour opening for World Party. The current tour will be our own."

Jellyfish has been around long enough, however, to have been someone else. Half of Jellyfish was in Beatnik Beatch, who once opened for Bananarama, whose music resembles the soundtrack for a Bubblicious ad.

"It was just we were really unhappy and wanted to do Jellyfish more," Sturmer said. "Roger (Manning) and I were writing Jellyfish songs when we were in the other band. There was a lot of back-biting going on. . . . It was really Chris Ketner's band. And that gig with Bananarama was the worst concert of all time--band members were trying to play badly and succeeded."

Sturmer, the golden-voiced lead vocalist, is a rock 'n' roll minority--the singing drummer. Sure there's Don Henley (if Mojo Nixon lets him live), that guy from The Romantics, Phil Collins, and not a whole bunch more. "And I bet I'm the only one that stands up too," Sturmer said.

A famous rodent philosopher, Bugs Bunny, once observed, "Never take life too seriously; you'll never get out of it alive." Jellyfish, flippant with a capital "F," has a bio that reads like a missing chapter of "Alice in Wonderland." It is rife with cartoon references.

"Although Bugs offers a philosophy to live by, we like real live cartoons," Sturmer said. "Most of our fans are into cartoons and generally watch too much television."

Probably from the '60s. Perhaps that little digital watch that came in the cereal box stopped, or else Jellyfish really doesn't know what year it is. Or maybe the Navy was right all along, bell-bottoms are in.

"Bell-bottoms never went out," Sturmer said. "Just the other day, I saw this biker wearing these killer elephant bells. He bought them in 1976 or something. If it was still 1976 or so, our dream gig would be between Sweet and Badfinger."

So into their music Jellyfish is even beyond sports. "The Niners? We're not into sports at all; we're too uncoordinated," Sturmer said. "We were always the last guys chosen in gym class."


Jellyfish at The Pub at UC Santa Barbara, Saturday, 7 p.m. Tickets are $5; $3 for students. For more information, call 893-4457.

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