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MUSIC LOUD SUGAR : Rousing Cane : The band brought its brand of psychedelic retro rock from Oahu to Los Angeles a few years ago.

June 20, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The harmonies are sweet, but how loud they are remains to be seen. Loud Sugar will be headlining a three-band bill at the Anaconda Theatre in Isla Vista on Saturday night. The group doubtlessly wants to sell you a copy of its self-titled debut disc, probably as much as its label SBK does.

Record companies go to great lengths to try to coerce reviewers to listen to their bands. A Bay Area band named Lard once sent out a Baggie of lard along with the album. Yuck.

The mail has spewed forth other treasures, such as Run D.M.C.'s life-sized face stapled to a stick, a first aid kit, plastic cube paperweight calendars, a raincoat and tons of bios by writers who know a lot of adjectives but not much else.

In honor of Loud Sugar's first single, "Instant Karma Coffee House," SBK sent a bag of coffee with a little plastic flower stuck to it and a couple of little paper bags of sugar common to coffee shops.

It was the worst coffee in the Western Hemisphere. It was so strong I stayed awake for three days, and it took two of those days to get that grimace off my face. Then again, it's the thought that counts, and the band is much better than the coffee.

"We play very melodic pop stuff," keyboard player Eddie Bydalek said during a recent phone interview. "We're like the Beatles meets Earth, Wind & Fire. We're kind of loud and the band is very intense live."

The band started on Oahu when four of the band members met in high school. Musically, Hawaii is much like a big Holiday Inn, except with more trees, and the band ended up playing all Top 40 cover tunes for tourists.

Bidding aloha to all that, the band relocated to Los Angeles where, in the last five years, it has played just about every venue in the 213 area code. And they have a lot of Bruin fans.

"We've probably played every dive bar, every big club and all the low-key places in between," Bydalek said. "We've done the Whisky, the Roxy, some of those pay-to-play places. We've been sandwiched between heavy metal bands a couple of times and, usually, the response was good--I think the people like the different flavors. Also, we've played at a lot of frat parties at UCLA, where I think we've made a lot of fans for life."

Because Loud Sugar plays power pop rock where the musicianship is tight, neatness counts and the singers can sing, they face the inevitable tag of "retro rock" where they are just recycling grooves from 1966. And the album does have a certain psychedelic look to it, the hippie-trippy lettering, the photos that appear to be melting, the Day-Glo colors make it all look like a new Seeds album.

"Retro rock does have a certain negative connotation to it. A lot of people, without listening, will label us a retro-psychedelic band trying to cash in on a movement. Other people compare us to The Turtles. All of our musical influences are from the late '60s, early '70s, plus we like U2 and INXS from the early '80s. But we're more than that. There's eight of us when we play--we have a three-man horn section."

And unlike most '60s bands who wanted little more than to get high, get across and get down, Loud Sugar wants to get along--with the planet. Yup, it's music with a message. They call it "sexy ecology."

"Our music relates to planet Earth," Bydalek said. "Our outlook is pretty much summed up in the lyrics of 'You & the World,' a song about an affair between man and the world. It's about love and sex relating to Mother Earth. I think music can open people's eyes because it can reach a lot more people than politicians and celebrities can."

Loud Sugar will be playing with a guitar pop rock band out of Chicago, Material Issue. Opening will be local thrashers Rogue Cheddar. Sounds like a college radio-alternative music dream gig and the Anaconda has the largest dance floor of any venue between L. A. and the Bay Area--sounds like a hit in the making.

"I think the band would agree when I say that live performances are our strength," Bydalek said. "No matter how bad a place is, no matter how crummy the sound system is, no matter how much money we make, if we connect with the audience, that's the important thing."

* WHERE AND WHEN

Loud Sugar, Material Issue, Rogue Cheddar, 8 p.m. Saturday, the Anaconda, 935 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, 685-3112, $10.

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