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ROCK 'N' ROLL : Harvest of Jams : Evil Farmer, whose fans like to tape the group's live shows, never plays a song the same way twice.

April 15, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Evil Farmer is a trippy Santa Barbara quartet that plays esoteric, technically proficient rock 'n' roll music. Rory Calhoun in "Motel Hell" was an evil farmer; to pigs, Farmer John is too.

These guys are unusual because they're actually doing what they're trained to do. Evil Farmer is four guys who studied music at UCSB and are applying what they learned. Stop the presses! Education really works!

Evil Farmer doesn't have a tape; instead, after a few years on the local scene, it has many tapes. Nothing for sale, but its fans often tape its live shows. The band will headline the Brewhouse on Saturday night. Opening will be bluesy rockers Electric Blue.

The band is like the Grateful Dead in that it never plays the same song the same way twice, and it jams endlessly in a jazzy sort of way. Unlike the Dead, there are no Evil Farmer shirts. Paul Moore sings and plays keyboards that are reminiscent of the Vanilla Fudge version of "Season of the Witch," which is sufficient reason to put this band high on the Hippie Trippy Scale. Dan Zimmerman is the guitarist, while Ari Gorman, an actual S.B. local, is the bass player. David Brogan is the percussionist, and he also sings.

Brogan spoke about his band during a recent phone interview.

Where did the name Evil Farmer come from?

Nowhere, really. We were just sitting around brainstorming, and it just popped up. It doesn't really mean anything.

How did the band get going?

We all met in the music department at UCSB. We just started practicing at another one of those little storage places. Our guitarist still had the keys from the first time he'd rented it, so we were squatters, but the landlord found out and left us a note.

When did you decide to become a musician?

I was in fifth grade and I came home from school one day in Tulare with a piece of paper that said "If you would like to play an instrument, check here." I started to get into the drums, but I think my mom had always seen something in me when I was banging on pots and pans or something. I was in marching bands and later got involved in writing. It really took off, I think, once I quit taking piano lessons in junior high. Tulare is isolated and there's not a lot to do, but it was a good place, musically, to grow up. I was lucky to have friends that turned me onto the trippy stuff.

What do you think of the Santa Barbara scene?

Most of the clubs aren't that great, acoustically. The Pub on campus was the best, but it's closed now. Musically, it seems to be going off because there are more bands than ever. But club-wise, it's not happening because there's not enough places to play. We're lucky to be established enough to get gigs. In I.V., there's no clubs, but you can play anywhere where there's a keg.

How would you describe Evil Farmer music?

Structurally, we're very open as to what we can do in a song. I don't want to compare it to the Grateful Dead, but we are jam-oriented. Each song varies. The basic structure is set in stone, but we change other things. A lot of this goes on during a song, and the same song varies from gig to gig. For the chords and harmonies, we draw on our knowledge of jazz. We're out of the power chord thing. I studied music composition, which has helped me more indirectly than directly. I've learned a lot more by just listening to records.

What are Evil Farmer songs about?

Some are about corporate control of your mind and invasion of your privacy. Others are real innocent love songs, but not typical love songs. Others are about alien abductions and out-of-body experiences. Paul's songs are kind of hard to figure out while mine are sort of in the New Age occult realm. He writes about 60% of the songs and I write the other 40%. If I write a song, I sing it. So far, we have about 20 songs.

Do Deadheads go to your shows?

We don't get Deadheads, but a lot of musicians. We have a pretty good-sized following, especially on campus. Sometimes we play on campus at the annex, but we don't do parties much anymore. It varies from gig to gig, but sometimes people just stand and stare; other times, they dance through all the songs no matter how long or weird they are. It really depends on us. It's nonverbal; we never say we'll be danceable on a particular night. There's nothing planned; sometimes we just go off into deep space.

So are you in it for the groupies and free beer?

Not for me. It's not about getting attention or groupies. I've got this music inside me that I have to play. It's cool to play in front of people instead of just practicing. I'm also into it to give something to people because life can be a drag sometimes.

So where's the Evil Farmer shirts and tapes and all that?

There's no shirts; we're working on our songs instead. We're not into the marketing end of things. We don't have an official tape, but there's 20 or 30 of our tapes floating around that people recorded at our gigs. That way, we're sort of like the Dead.

So is a demo in the works?

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