Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Offspring: On the Verge of Full-Grown Success : Pop music: The outlook's bright for the O.C. punks, whose single 'Come Out and Play' is getting tons of airplay and whose record sales are zooming.

May 07, 1994|MIKE BOEHM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CYPRESS — As 1994 began, the Offspring were just another obscure punk band hoping they could make it to the next gig without a mechanical breakdown.

The bus motor would seize up on the road to Bakersfield. The transmission would give out en route to Arizona. When they finally got the engine rebuilt, the four band members drove across country on a winter tour, shivering all the way because they couldn't get the heater to work.

"It was awful, but it would cost too much to fix it," said drummer Ron Welty. "We were punk about it."

With its school bus body still bearing the green paint job and Holiday Inn logo from its previous incarnation as a hotel shuttle, the Offspring's chariot now sits ready in a cul-de-sac in a peaceful suburban subdivision. This time it has to be in good working order: Suddenly, the Offspring appear to be going places.

A few weeks ago, alternative-rock station KROQ put the band's song "Come Out and Play" into regular rotation, playing it every three or four hours. That rare break for a punk band on a small, independent label already is having a ripple effect. Following KROQ's lead, stations around the country are picking up on this insinuating, deftly constructed track. The Offspring's fortunes had been on the rise even before "Come Out and Play" started generating numerous request calls from KROQ listeners. While band members Welty, Bryan Holland, Greg Kriesel and Kevin Wasserman were trying to stay warm on their bus last winter, sales of their 1992 release, "Ignition," were heating up. The Offspring's label, Epitaph Records, had managed to place several songs from the album with producers who make action videos for fans of surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding.

*

The payoff was almost immediate. According to Holland, the band's singer and songwriter, in a matter of four months sales shot from 16,000 to 46,000--an impressive total for an independent punk release.

"We were selling to the punkers, and we hit this group of people we didn't know existed," Holland said. "They're real enthusiastic, and there's tons of them. It's a pleasant surprise."

There was only one drawback as the Offspring began delving into surf-skate-snowboard culture: Newly introduced to the sport, Welty broke his right arm about a month ago on a snowboarding run at Big Bear. He was punk about it, though: When the Offspring were flown to Valdez, Alaska, recently to play at a snowboarding convention, Welty, who couldn't hold a stick, kept the beat by attaching one to his cast.

When "Smash," the band's third album, came out in mid-April, there was a substantial corps of new fans waiting for it. Andy Kaulkin, Epitaph's marketing director, says 75,000 copies have been shipped to stores.

The label, which has been hailed for its ability to top the 100,000 sales mark with hard-core faves Bad Religion and Pennywise, smells the possibility of a hit that could cross over to the much larger alternative crowd (as always, MTV will be the final arbiter of that). Billboard's "Heatseekers" chart, which maps the progress of new and developing artists, pegged "Smash" as the hottest-selling record in that category in the Pacific region last week and placed it at No. 16 nationally.

Major labels are already sniffing around, as they have been wont to do with promising indie bands since Nirvana showed how lucrative a melodic, punk-leaning sound could be.

The Offspring don't seem to be letting any of this go to their heads. Sitting around a table last weekend in the pleasant, walled-in back yard of the home where bassist Kriesel grew up, they came off as a relaxed, down-to-earth, good-natured bunch who are eager to see what happens next but have no great hankering for rock stardom.

After playing in obscurity for most of their 10-year existence, the Offspring see a touch of absurdity in their suddenly unfolding success. Wasserman was nonplussed after Holland finished quoting the band's KROQ airplay statistics: "A tinny little punk band from O.C.?"

The Offspring seem an unlikely bunch to be playing punk rock, let alone making a success of it.

*

With his long, blond hair and pink and dimpled cheeks, Holland looks more like a candidate to play John Boy in a remake of "The Waltons" than somebody you'd expect to see howling above a teeming mosh pit. At 28, he is a doctoral candidate in microbiology at USC, but if he ever went back to the band's common alma mater, Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, the cherubic rocker would probably be asked to produce a hall pass. He uses "Dexter" as his stage name: "I thought 'Dexter' was cool, because it's geeky," he explained.

Lead guitarist Wasserman, 31, wears eyeglasses with thick frames, and his hair falls far down his back--two things he has in common with that bona fide geek, Garth of "Wayne's World" fame. Drummer Welty is 23 and boyish despite his Vandyke beard. Kriesel, 29, has intense, deep-set eyes and a clipped haircut, making him the only member who looks the punker type.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|