No one will die laughing at an Expression gig, that much is certain. The band probably had any sense of humor surgically removed at birth. Only the scars show in their music, most of which is pretty serious stuff dealing with The Meaning of It All. One song titled "The Gutter" rhymes words like illusion , confusion , intrusion .
The Usual Suspects are targeted: politicians, teachers, the cops, you know, the Establishment and all that. The band doesn't ask the listener to party until you puke but rather simply to think. Well, it sounds easy anyway.
Expression is fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Miller, a graduate of that local hotbed of rock 'n' roll, Ventura High School. Another Ventura High Cougar is bassist Dave Girtsman, who used to be in Plato's Cat. Girtsman replaced bass player Mike Boone, who left the band for more school and the ever potent musical party-ender, creative differences. Mike Torres, the third and final Cougar, still hits the drums. The band has a new self-titled tape that is selling a bit less than Vanilla Ice, but hey, they're locals.
The band does a pretty fair job of packing Charlie's in Ventura. They've been around as long as those local loco rockers, Raging Arb & The Redheads, or about eight years if you're keeping score.
Expression will be at Charlie's tonight. The music is hard-edged and thrashy, direct from the garage to you, and only the very drunk dance. Most people sit and stare. Miller recently agreed to sit and talk.
How's the tape doing?
We made 500 copies and we're about to break even. It's selling steadily at Salzer's and Wild Planet. Right now we're playing about five times a month.
What's your pre-Expression musical background?
I got a Mickey Mouse drum set for my fifth birthday, and I was playing drums when I went to Cabrillo Junior High. There's always been a lot of music around our house. My dad got me a guitar when I was 7. He's played music all his life. He taught me how to read chord charts, plus I took lessons at John's Music. From there it was all downhill. I started my first band when I was 14: No Serenity. That's where I met our drummer, Mike. No Serenity was a punk band. Mike and I left that band to form Ground Zero, another punk band. After that was another band, Narthex Structure, which was sort of melodious punk and not really too much different from what we're doing with Expression.
What happened to all those punks? Did they get their realtor's licenses or what?
People like that have gone to school, got jobs--well, everybody's spread out and moved out of town. A lot of them I don't see anymore. But the ones that I grew up with still come to the shows.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Frank Zappa and a lot of other stuff, really. I like Bruce Gilbert of Wire a lot. I like the Throwing Muses, Tom Waits, the Breeders, and as far as local bands are concerned, I like Toast.
Can music change the world?
It's true that music can have a great deal of influence, but Expression songs are more personal than political. I write songs about what I see, what I do, and things that have happened to me.
What's the best and worst thing about being a musician?
Music is an emotional outlet for me--it's better than going out and getting into a fight. The worst thing about playing is that you end up entertaining a lot of people that don't really care what you're doing. You're up there spilling your guts out, and they're sitting there drinking themselves into oblivion and they don't care. Then, other times, people will come up to me and say, "Yeah, man, I know what you're talking about because I've experienced the same thing."
How would you describe Expression music?
Experimental--that's the way I look at it. We do mostly originals. Just two covers: a Rod Stewart song and B. B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone."
Can a band "make it" out of the local scene?
I don't know. I've been trying to get into the Ventura Theatre for a long time. I left them a tape, but they never return my calls and they wouldn't let me talk to Pilgrim, the guy that books local bands. . . . I just want to play music, that's all. I just like it. Even if I had a 9-to-5 job, I'd still play in places like this.