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Northern Exposure : Canadian rockers, whose Elvis-related tune earned an 'explicit lyrics' warning, arrive Saturday in Ventura.


The Odds, a gang of rockers from Canada, are creating something of a stir with the 11-zillionth Elvis-related tune since the guy died.

"Wendy Under the Stars," however, isn't as much about the King as it is about a young man and an older woman named Wendy, and what they were doing under the stars the night that Elvis died.

Wendy's performance was for a horizontal audience of one--songwriter Steven Drake. His description of the event was enough to prompt a "Parental advisory--explicit lyrics" sticker on the band's debut album, "Neopolitan."

The album has introspective, clever lyrics, spiffy vocals by Drake and Craig Northey--hey, it's another cool north-of-the-border band. The Odds have been touring with Warren Zevon, another very witty (and very bent) writer and rocker.

The Odds get to play twice every night, opening the show on their own and then returning as Zevon's backup band, so if practice does indeed make perfect, then the Odds must be approaching musical nirvana. They arrive Saturday night at the Ventura Concert Theatre, with local singer-songwriter Michael On Fire signed on as opener for the openers.

In a recent phone interview, Drake discussed the life and times of his favorite band.

Why are there so many good bands in Canada?

I think it's mostly in being so isolated. There's nothing to do except practice. You learn to play your instrument before you learn to drive.

How's the album, the tour and all that?

We're doing it. It's going really well. Right now I'm in a phone booth in St. Petersburg, Fla., right across the street from the Salvador Dali museum.

So you guys are rich rock stars now?

How do you know when you're a star? The way you dress? We can't even afford a Harley.

Your bio says that "The Odds have been the subject of a growing critical 'buzz. ..."' Is that good or bad? How long do you buzz? Have you seen a doctor about this?

I have no idea about that stuff. For us, it's just really great to be out there traveling around and playing for the people. Let me put it this way: You've written a song in your basement, and it's very personal. Then you look out there and you see people who actually know the words--people you don't know, people you know nothing about. It's a weird feeling.

Where'd you get the name?

It's just one of those things.

How did the Odds get started?

The bass player and I had been in band situations that had fallen apart, but when we started this band in 1987, we had the feeling that something would become of this. Within two months, we had become a band. We just try to keep it simple because we've all had things fall apart before.

Describe Odds music.

The Odds try to keep the philosophy that we don't do songs that wouldn't work with an acoustic guitar around a campfire. We do songs that you can sing. I guess we're members of the English Pop Commonwealth.

So was "Wendy Under the Stars" the zillionth Elvis song?

Well, it was the first for me. It's true too. The real Wendy is alive in Canada.

What's the best and worst thing about being Odd?

The best thing is being able to play music for a living. The worst thing is being away from my daughter.

What was your strangest, or Oddest, gig?

We played in Dawson City in the Yukon, "The Land of the Midnight Sun." We operated with wigs and pretended to be two different bands, and they never knew the difference. Sometimes, we were the Dawn Patrol, a '60s cover band, then we'd go in the dressing room, take off the wigs, then come out with new guitars as the Odds. Playing on Vancouver Island was pretty strange too, with all these bikers and their curvaceous 200-pound women.

What would be your dream gig?

I don't know; the musical dream tour and the monetary dream tour are two different things. It would probably be with INXS. . . . I guess it would be OK to get on one of those big rock tours. Still, I wish Miles Davis was still alive. Wait a minute. Chet Atkins. I'd love to hang out with Chet for a while.

Complete this sentence: It's only rock 'n' roll but . . .

I like the dot-dot-dot thing. . . .

Rock talk:

* All dreaded up and nowhere to go? In Ventura, there are now three regular reggae shows each and every week, mon. Thursdays at Club Soda and Sundays at Charlie's, then two blocks up the street at the Bombay Bar & Grill.

* Did you see the Mudheads recently at Garfield's or at the SLO Brewery in San Luis last weekend? If you didn't, you'll have to wait for a while--it looks like a Mudless spring. Singer-songwriter extraordinaire Bill Coffey is going to Idaho for three months. Anyway, as you are reading this their second tape should finally be available. Getting rid of the stoplights on U.S. 101 in Santa Barbara went faster than the making of this tape.

* On the subject of tapes, Ventura rockabilly rockers J.D.'s Last Ride have just released their five-song debut recording.

* Still more on the subject of tapes, more or less. Ventura County metalheads Cirith Ungol and their label, Restless, were recently divorced. The band is currently seeking a European distribution deal.

* Charlie's in Ventura, long a lonely supporter of local bands, is back with a seven-nights-a-week live music schedule again. Support your local music scene and stop sniveling about the drive to L.A.

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