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MUSIC THE TEARAWAYS : Groovy Again : The Tearaways may sound like the '60s, but the band says that lyrically and thematically, its music is very modern.

December 27, 1990|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Imagine for a second that the chintzy little watch-without-hands the gas station gave you stopped being digital and timely, your Reeboks turned into moccasins, and the TV went into spasms leaving only Nick at Nite. You probably wouldn't know what year it was.

It could almost be groovy enough to be 1966 again. Pop/folk rockers, the Tearaways, could be the soundtrack. They're pretty hippie trippy, a generally ultraviolet, Beatlesque quartet that will inspire you to dig out those bell bottoms and get, well, groovy.

The Tearaways, the Santa Barbara band for whom neatness counts, is also, in a different configuration, Pat, Fin & Greg, whom we wrote about earlier this month. Before that, they were the Volcanoes. Confused? Greg Brallier and Fin Seth used to be the brains behind the Volcanoes, a pop-rock band from a few years back who made lots of fans and one good album. Now, Brallier and Seth, along with guitarist Greg Milliken are Pat, Fin & Greg, who do mostly covers of '60s songs.

The Tearaways are Pat, Fin & Greg without Greg, but with Jesse Benenati on drums and his brother, Perry, on keyboards. The Tearaways do their own stuff--guitar-driven folk/power pop with great harmonies--and have 58 original songs. About 57 of them would have been big in the '60s, but according to my cheap digital watch, it's the '90s now.

"Hey, we have a really modern sound," protested Brallier during a recent interview at a Montecito nightspot where one feels left out without a real estate license, a black jacket and a fistful of foreign beer.

"We're not these neo-hippies, and we're not Grateful Dead kids," said Brallier. "We were really young during the '60s--we just had really hip parents, that's all. Lyrically and thematically, our music is very modern--it's 1996, not 1966."

If their watch did not stop in 1966, then what about those clothes? Brallier dresses like pop rocker Syd Griffin (of the Long Ryders) who dresses like Gene Clark of the Byrds. The band looks like a bunch of rocking flower children.

"Well, I suppose we have that basic American rock 'n' roll look," said Brallier. "Fashion was influenced very heavily by the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and some of those other mid-'60s California bands. There's still a certain stigma associated with the way we look. It's the dreaded stereotype--people seem to have to pigeonhole things. As a musician, people assume we sit around and do drugs all day; we don't work, and there's no work involved with what we do."

With so many different lineups, Brallier and his writing buddy (and roommate) Seth, manage to stay quite busy. It is hard to imagine how they found the time to dig that big hole in the ground under the house they live in.

"It took us two months--12 hours a day, pick and shovel, pickin' and grinnin', pickin' and not grinnin'; it was just like one of those World War II escape movies," said Brallier. "We dug our own rehearsal room and recording studio under our place."

In addition to being sartorially splendid and able to dig large holes in the ground, there's that music. The Tearaways' music is heavy on the hooks, and the vocals blend together very smoothly.

"Volcanoes' music was a bit more quirky while Tearaways' music is more melodic," said Brallier. "Pat, Fin & Greg is a lot of fun for us, but the Tearaways are a lot more serious. Fin and I spend our days writing and rehearsing Tearaways stuff. We write everything on acoustic guitar, then we get the guys in the band over here to flesh it out. We practice as the Tearaways twice a week and we play five or six times each month."

And these guys have fans, a lot of them. Brallier and Seth send out more than 500 monthly mailers listing both Tearaways and Pat, Fin & Greg gigs.

"When people see the band they go 'wow' because as the Tearaways, we really beef it up," said Brallier. "We play music that you can sing to--you get a feel for it very quickly."

But if you don't go, you don't hear. The Tearaways album--you know, the one in record stores right between the Tail Gators and Tears For Fears--is like Milli Vanilli vocals. It's not there. There is no Tearaways album, no tape, no CD, just Tearaways gigs. At least they won't need an accountant, or even a record player.

"We want to make albums--great albums--we already have the titles," said Brallier. "And we want to keep writing great songs, and we want to get signed although we really don't know what it takes to do that. It takes too much time and too much money to do an album."

When the Tearaways play Alex's Cantina on State Street in Santa Barbara, they convert a number of drinkers into dancers--no mean feat, since there's no dance floor. Tearaways' music, which sounds as if it could be outtakes from the Beatles' "Revolver" album, will be on display next on New Year's Eve. That's when you can hear "Black and Blue," "I Want You," "Nowhere Left To Turn" and all that sweet folk/pop rock.

"Our music makes people feel great," said Brallier. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

WHERE AND WHEN

The Tearaways will play at 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve at Alex's Cantina, 5918 Hollister Ave., Goleta. For more information call 683-2577.

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