YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

MUSIC : 'Rotten Rubber Band' Slings Its Way Into State : A two-member group from Texas finds a new home on the range in Santa Barbara County.


Santa Barbara's yearly blowout, Old Spanish Days--known by locals as Fiesta--always attracts huge crowds, many of the staggering persuasion, and a lot of traffic as tourism becomes torture for the locals. The descriptive word for all of it is a Spanish word that truly captures the red, white, blue and green spirit of Fiesta-- dinero. Si, money.

Hotel and motel rates, newspaper ad rates and even cover charges at local rock venues go up during Fiesta Week.

But there is a low-budget alternative to the State Street zoo in the Rotten Rubber Band, which makes its Art's Bar debut tonight. Now Art himself, who hates anything loud, should love this band. With only a guy--John (Stymie) Tubbs on guitar--and a girl--Tex Lewis the percussionist--the band's sound is in the Art-happy range, and figuring out the take on payday is a snap.

The Rotten Rubber Band started out in Dallas, and used to play in places like Corsicana. Recently, they relocated to Carpinteria, confirming an apparent yet troublesome assumption: They're the last two to move to California. Texas is empty now.

"I think they're all out here now," Tex said. "We're so glad to be out of Texas. It's over a 100 degrees back there and 72 degrees here. Dallas is real swampy, really humid and there's a lot of mosquitoes."

They moved west in April, and now live near the beach.

Carpinteria has fewer Cowboys' fans and better waves than Dallas. So what's the first thing tourists do? Look weird on the beach.

"At first, we went to the beach everyday, watched the sundowns, all that," Tex said. "We even took our dogs and cats. Hey, do you know it costs 85 bucks if they catch you with your dog on the beach? That's almost as bad as buying a Marks-a-lot (felt-tip marker). They wouldn't sell me one at Von's.

"Hey, we're from Texas, we don't understand this stuff. We didn't know they were used for graffiti. They finally sold me one. Now we have a song about it called 'Black Market Marks-a-lot.' "

Anyway, enough geography lessons and the culture shock of moving west. The first thing one notices about the Rotten Rubber Band is Tex's drum kit. Suppose the Beverly Hillbillies crashed before they made it to the Golden State--the rubble afterwords would look a lot like Tex's gear.

There are two plastic trash cans turned upside down, plus a lone conga--that's the drum part. For percussion, she hits cowbells, a cymbal and a three-foot wind chime that makes a noise a bit like a scene change during an episode of "Charlie's Angels."

The bells and accessories are mounted on a dolly. There's also a small step ladder with flashing red, green and blue lights. Most bands have their name on their drums, but these trash cans are bare.

"Well, we used to have a sign, but I guess it fell off," Tex said. "We need to get some stickers."

Also pretty strange is Stymie's guitar, or whatever it is. Sometimes it sounds like a booming, heavy bass; other times, it's just a plain ol' guitar.

"It's a handmade guitar," Stymie said. "It's halfway between a bass and a guitar, which gives me two different sounds when I play."

The Rotten Rubber made their Santa Barbara debut last week at Toes Tavern on the big stage, under the television constantly showing classic surf videos. The band has over 40 original songs, but learned a cover--the Surfaris' "Wipe Out"--in honor of their hosts.

"We do a mix of Texas blues and dirt floor rock," said Stymie, the group's songwriter. "It's real primitive, I think. My songs are about women, drinkin' and hangin' out in bars. If I wasn't doing this, I'd probably be in prison."

Their "prison" now is a grand a month in rent, and no day jobs. And since they even brought the dogs and the cats, the move may be permanent. So how do the new pardners on the block get work?

"There was a good healthy scene in Texas," Stymie said. "There were lots of bands getting signed and lots of places to play. We used to play everywhere between Austin and Stillwater. But since we didn't know anybody out here, we just drove around to see what was happening. We've played a few times in L.A., but we want to play more around here. Then we want to record more of our own material."


Rotten Rubber Band at Art's Bar, 2611 De La Vina St., Santa Barbara, 569-0052. Tonight 9 p.m. Free.

Los Angeles Times Articles