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MUSIC / ROGUE CHEDDAR : Sharp Sounds : The band insists that fans, drawn by its aggressive music and flippant lyrics, stay vertical.


Imagine a group of storage garages with no storage, just garage bands all wailing away at once. The place no doubt gets a Christmas card from the Edison Co., perhaps every week. The electric bill is outside the law of gravity. That little black thing that goes around on the meter dial is moving so fast it's just a blur.

This particular Isla Vista location is the garage-band home of Milgrim's Pilgrims, Leadhead, Indica and current MTV faves, Ugly Kid Joe, and a zillion other bands. The Ugly band, in keeping with its status, practices with the door open.

Rogue Cheddar isn't on MTV and keeps the door closed. Maybe it's to get away from the poster people--putting up posters and being in a band seem to be the two main jobs in Isla Vista. Every flat surface is covered--some several inches thick--with posters advertising band performances. The telephone poles seem to be held together with staples.

"Isla Vista is a feeling," said Rogue Cheddar bass player and film studies major Tom Csicsman. "It's happening, I.V. is always happening. It's a spawning ground for bands, and you can always play in I.V. You just drag your stuff around and knock on a door and ask 'Please, can we play?' A lot of bands come and go. There was this Jewish band called Zion who did songs like 'I Want My Foreskin Back.' Some of them were really funny."

Well, Rogue Cheddar isn't in it for the humor, beer or the babes and none of them look like Bon Jovi. Rogue Cheddar just makes hard-edged, yet kinder, gentler rock 'n' roll and it's a wonder they can even do that. Drummer John Collins has a day job, and guitarist Darryl Sweet and bassist Csicsman are both full-time students at UC Santa Barbara, taking 35 units between them. It's a wonder they have time to sleep, let alone rock or meet girls.

"People may think we're oversexed, but it's actually impossible to meet anyone at a gig," Csicsman said. "You set up, have sound check, then there's maybe half an hour to quaff a beer. Then you play, then everybody leaves and we have to take all this stuff home."

"Girls basically snub us," added Collins.

Audiences don't. Some bands prefer small audiences and like a good slam pit. Rogue Cheddar prefers, even insists, on a vertical audience.

"We'll just stop playing and stop the pit," said Csicsman. "None of that stuff, we want everyone vertical. Otherwise, people just get tagged and it's really obnoxious."

"That's right. When it's vertical, it's fun," said linguistics major Sweet. "People may not understand where we're coming from because we have a punk element in our music. Even if they don't mean to get hurt, they can. That's not too cool."

The music is pretty aggressive, but the lyrics of the songs are mostly flippant and funny--when you can hear them over the wailing guitars. How serious can one get over songs such as "Smelly Shoes," "Gangly Man" or "Bad French"?

"For awhile, we were a surf band, neo-surf maybe," Sweet said. "Now, we've been called 'pop with fangs,' which I think is pretty good. A lot of our songs are like love songs, but you can't tell because they're all distorted, and I'm screaming. I do most of the lyrics, then Tom and I come up with a riff, then we'll arrange it and bring it to John, but we don't tell him what to play. They're all happy songs."

The band has been around for 2 1/2 years, or long enough to record four tapes with a fifth in the works. Yet no MTV dreams.

"There's no time to do anything while we're still in school," said Csicsman. "We haven't had time to package anything and we haven't sent anything to anybody."

There was barely time to come up with a goofy name for the band.

"It was a Tuesday and we had our first gig on a Friday," said Sweet, "and we had to put something on the flyers. Some bands here change their name every week but we chose 'Rogue Cheddar' because it wasn't offensive."

There will, however, be plenty of time to rock at the Pub show.

"This should be a real good show for us, and the opening act, the Graceful Punks, reminds us of us two years ago," said Sweet. "We always have fun when we play."

Csicsman agreed. "If you're not having fun, why are you doing it?"


Rogue Cheddar, Graceful Punks; The Pub, UCSB; tonight; two bucks if you're a starving student, three bucks if you're anybody else. For more information, call 893-4457.

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