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If There Are Just 3 Guys, How Come 1 of Them Is Named 13? : This and other musical questions may be answered when San Pedro's Constant Llama performs Wednesday night.


San Pedro's Constant Llama is a band that consists of a couple of Joes and a guy who sounds like he fell off a personalized license plate. Joe Jones sings and hits the drums; Joe Dean sings and plays bass while Tom 13 sings and plays lead guitar. Tom 13? Maybe Bob Seger was more prophetic than he knew in his "Feel Like A Number" song.

Constant Llama plays very tight, three-minute, hook-filled rock songs. You can hear them Wednesday night when they play at the Midnight Hour in Ventura. Their new CD, "Will Play for Food," contains songs about Rodney King, the hole in the ozone, and the inevitable and endless fiasco with Ms. Wrong. Best, however, is a self-explanatory no-brainer, "Stick It in the Middle."

Speaking from their groovy practice site in San Pedro, the Llamas discussed their band, which is named after a South American ruminant.

So what happened to the first 12 Toms?

13: They were killed in a meat grinder accident.

Jones: Naw, he's really got a 13-inch foot; there's 13 letters in Constant Llama, and he was born on the 13th day of the month.

Right. So who's to blame for the name Constant Llama?

Dean: It was made up spontaneously during a van trip. A llama is a beast of burden whose consistency is the key.

Is there a San Pedro scene?

13: Sure, there's some cool bands. The Del Rubio Triplets are from San Pedro; so were the Minutemen. There's a cool coffeehouse scene here.

So the band hits the road a lot?

13: You have to play as much as you can as often as you can. Never say no to a gig. We've been as far north as Northern California and as far east as Las Vegas and Phoenix. We go until our money runs out.

A lot of local Ventura bands think they need to go to L.A. to play. Do they?

Jones: No. Stay where you are.

Dean: I think it's good to go to L.A. just to see what the other bands are doing.

13: There's a lot of cool places to play, but I don't think you should wait to be discovered. In L.A., everyone tries to figure out the newest fad. For a while, it was Metallica, then the Chili Peppers; but I think you have to just do your own thing.

What do you think Constant Llama music sounds like?

Jones: It's a psycho country thing.

Dean: As the newest member, I look at it from an outsider's perspective, and I think it's sort of a San Pedro SST sort of thing. I don't mean the punk stuff on SST Records, but more like their country stuff.

13: We like to claim everything. I have a lot of country influences while Joe drummed for a heavy metal band. So I see us as a country/psycho/space music band.

Why a trio?

Jones: There's lots of reasons, but mostly, it's easier when we get paid plus we can all fit in one car. There's other cool trios such as ZZ Top, the Minutemen, Firehose and the Meat Puppets.

Is "Will Play For Food" the only CD?

Jones: We have a bunch of four-song tapes, but only one CD. We actually did play for food last night. We played at UC Irvine for four pizzas. We've done that quite a few times.

So I take it there's no day jobs.

13: We dabble a bit in various things.

Jones: I don't work, so the coolest thing about being in the band is that it gives me something to do that day. Otherwise, I'd probably be a really good surfer.

How did the band get started?

13: My girlfriend--she's my wife now--introduced me to Joe at a gig at Fender's Ballroom in Long Beach in 1988. It turned out we only lived two blocks apart. I was looking for a drummer and he was looking for something. We got our first gig after the first night of practice.

Jones: Yeah, you've heard all those stories about how Led Zeppelin clicked at their first practice. It was the same with us. We had our own little style, and it was just flowing.

So how does Constant Llama get signed?

Jones: We're more interested in putting out our music, and just getting out there to play. We don't have to wait for someone else to get excited because we're already excited about our music. There's going to be a Minutemen tribute album coming out soon with a lot of established bands on it. We're going to have a song on it too.

Your bio sheet lists a lot of radio stations that play your stuff. How does an unsigned band get on the radio?

Jones: Usually, we just approach the music director and basically just do it ourselves.

Is there a basic Llama fan?

13: That's hard to say. Our crowd is usually friendly and easygoing--no posers.

Jones: A lot of flannel and a lot of hair, that's us. Everyone is getting into flannel, but people have been wearing flannel in San Pedro for 20 years.

Bill Locey, who writes regularly on rock 'n' roll, has survived the mosh pit and the local music scene for many years. Write to him at 5200 Valentine Road, Suite 140, Ventura 93003, or send faxes to 658-5576.


* WHAT: Constant Llama.

* WHERE: Midnight Hour, 281 W. Main St., Ventura.

* WHEN: Wednesday night, about 9 p.m.

* ETC: For more information, call 641-2112.

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