How many bands can you name in which every player has a military rank? Heavy on the brass, all four of the members of Santa Barbara's Official Resistance are officers. Colonel Vince Dirt is the singer, Colonel Doug Gutner is the guitar player, Major J.D. Aster plays bass while Captain Bart Tompkins beats out that rhythm on the drums. This group is prepared to be the official soundtrack for our boys in the desert.
"It's not really a military thing, but more a brotherhood thing," said Dirt in a recent interview. "They're just nicknames."
A good deal of rock 'n' roll success has to do with "the look." Talent is fine, but that's incidental. Elvis invented "the look." Poison and a zillion of those metal bands have "the look." Milli Vanilli had "the look," if little else.
Santa Barbara's hard-rocking quartet, Official Resistance, has not only "the look" but also the attitude. Swaggering frontman Dirt has lots of tattoos and often strips down to the waist and gives his impression of The Illustrated Man. Gutner, on guitar, also strips to the waist, becoming the blond guitar god. And by the time half the first song is over, five or six young, single females are usually dancing in front of the stage--a sure sign of rock 'n' roll success.
Official Resistance? What's there to resist in Santa Barbara? Is your espresso cold? Is the weather too perfect?
"We're resisting anything worth resisting," Dirt said, "especially unintelligence. We got the name from this PBS special on El Salvador. Anyway, there was this band called Official Resistance in this Salvadoran village playing away while the village was being shelled--like everything was blowing up everywhere--but the band just kept on playing. We just took the name."
The band has been around since 1988 and plays several times per month at the usual locations in Ventura and Santa Barbara. Its tape, "Resist This!," is selling well, and its second tape should be ready next month.
"We play in Santa Barbara at Felix's, Joseppi's, Zelo's, the Carnaval Club, both Alex's and in Ventura at Charlie's and Club Soda," Dirt said. "We are one of only about 10 local bands that play more than twice a month."
Three-fourths of the band is made up of Santa Barbara locals. Gutner grew up in Venezuela, where his parents worked for the embassy.
"I went to Dos Pueblos High School with J.D.," Dirt said. "After high school, J.D. went back to Boston to study drama, while I just hung out in Santa Barbara. When he came back, we hooked up, then we met Doug at a party and started playing as the Larva. Then we put an ad in the paper for a drummer. Bart was the 13th drummer to try out and he got the job. We've been Official Resistance since September, 1988."
Official Resistance is a hard rock band with no R.E.M. or Kenny Loggins covers. They have 35 or 40 original songs, most fast and loud. The covers they perform are of the hard-edged variety by artists such as the Stones, Iggy Pop and U2. "Our music is just basic rock 'n' roll music," Dirt said.
Not a scooby-doo/the sky is blue/I love you band, Official Resistance writes real lyrics about the Big Issues--ignorance, the mistreatment of old people, democracy in Central America, drug abuse, complacency, things like that. The band has played benefits in Santa Barbara for Salvadoran relief funds, animal rights, voter registration and Toys for Tots, not to mention an acoustic set at a retirement home.
"The voter registration show was pretty bizarre," Dirt said. "We were playing on the steps of the courthouse, and Lagomarsino was hanging out in front of our giant Official Resistance banner. It would've been a great picture. I think we were the only ones there who were registered to vote."
The band has the traditional goals in mind: more gigs, more money, and of course, the big-label deal. "We'd just like to reach more people and try to do some moral good in the world. . . . But it's tough--there's a lot of apathy out there. It's only entertainment, and we're just a rock 'n' roll band."
WHERE AND WHEN
Official Resistance will perform at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Alex's Cantina, 633 State St., Santa Barbara, For more information, call 966-0032.