T.S.O.L. spelled backwards is "lost," as in lost their record label.
That's nothing new for this hard-rocking outfit that has 10 albums on six different labels, but is now temporarily unsigned. That situation probably won't last too long since T.S.O.L. (originally known as True Sounds of Liberty) is one of the most popular L.A. bands.
"Well, we were on Enigma," vocalist-guitarist Joe Wood said in a recent phone interview. "But that doesn't matter anymore--it's all over for them. They're out of business. A lot of labels have expressed interest in signing us; we're just waiting for the best deal."
Wood is clearly unconcerned. Rock 'n' roll is what T.S.O.L. has been doing for a number of years and, judging from the size of the crowds, their future seems secure.
"I decided to become a musician when I saw The Germs play at The Masque in L.A. in 1978 or 1979. I figured if they can do it, I can, too. I started my own band the very next day."
For the first 10 years, T.S.O.L. was a punk band. Today, the members are these rock 'n' roll leather guys, a sort of AC/DC with a touch of the blues.
"I guess the band used to be more image-conscious, but not any more," Wood said. "We're just a rock 'n' roll band. All those stupid categories, who cares? Before, people thought we were punkers; now we're supposed to be metal. People like to put bands into categories--and we're in a metal box now, but we're really nothing but a rock 'n' roll band . . . when we play, we just get up and do a nice sweaty set."
Wood has this loud, gritty voice that sounds as though he's inflicting grievous damage to his throat; perhaps he's just earning enough money for a down payment on a voice box when he finally does blow a hole in his neck from too much rock 'n' roll. Come to think of it, Wood sounds a lot like the lead screamer in AC/DC, only a bit mellower.
"I've done five T.S.O.L. albums in six years," Wood said. "Our latest album, 'Strange Love,' is doing very well--it's our best yet."
T.S.O.L. crowds can be a little--what's the word-- rambunctious. The slam pit will be slamming--that's when young males crash into each other really hard, and girls had better be tough or watch out. It's not at all like the Charleston contest in "It's a Wonderful Life" when members of the opposite sex actually danced together.
A flak jacket would be appropriate for this show. William James wrote about the "Moral Equivalent of War"; this could be the "Musical Equivalent of War."
"People's expectations of what they think we should be doing can be pretty bad sometimes," Wood said. "We've been around for a long time, and I do at least one song off every album that I've been on. I don't do stuff that the other singer did. That's his stuff, and I don't do his stuff.
"That's not just my attitude, but how the whole band feels. Anyway, when we play, people call out songs for us to do. If I did one, then I'd have to do another, and it would never end. Some of these people just come to have a miserable time. Some of these people just haven't grown with the band--it's not 1981 anymore. I think music is the purest, most direct, most expressive form of communication. We just pick up our guitars and play. That's all there is to it. Whatever comes out, comes out."
T.S.O.L. will play Tuesday night at the Carnaval Club in Santa Barbara, a venue they frequent. "We like it up there," Wood said. "This will just be a one-shot deal--we'll play, then drive home to L.A. after the gig. We've already done three U.S. tours this year; then we try to play a couple times a month around Southern California."
The future for the band is pretty easy to predict: more hard-edged rock 'n' roll, more leather and more albums.
"We'd like to open for ZZ Top or AC/DC and do a national tour," Wood said. "For now, we just want to reach as many people as possible with our music, but never compromise our principles. I want to just write what I want to. We're doing OK, better than the Rams--they're hurtin'."
WHERE AND WHEN
T.S.O.L will be performing on Tuesday at 9 p.m. at the Carnaval Club, 634 State St., Santa Barbara. This is a show for 18-year-olds and older. Tickets are $12. For more information, call (805) 965-8422.