Complaining about the L.A. music scene has been a favorite pastime of club-going locals for a decade, ever since the punk-rock and new-wave boom faded. The entire scene is dead or the clubs are too expensive or the bands all suck.
Although some of the whining is valid (e.g., the part about overpricing), a wealth of bands has emerged recently to spark a renewed vitality in the city's rock clubs. Extra Fancy, PopDefect and Glue are some of the key names, but leading the charge are the Geraldine Fibbers.
In its nine-month existence, the quintet, which plays Sunday at Al's Bar, has built a substantial underground following. It became the object of a major-label bidding war that ended this week when the band decided to sign with Virgin Records.
"Everyone always complains there's no good bands in L.A. now," says Carla Bozulich, singer and guitarist of the low-fi country band during an interview at her Echo Park duplex. "I've been going to clubs for a long time, and there's currently a really good scene. But it's hard to appreciate because this is L.A., and you can never have too much."
Bozulich's previous band, the industrial/erotic dance trio Ethyl Meatplow, was a master of over-the-top entertainment. Its heavy beat and titillating stage antics were a far stretch from the subtle, spare, down-and-out appeal of the Fibbers.
"Ethyl Meatplow was an overwhelming sensory attack and also a really good release for anger and sexual tension," says Bozulich, 28. "It was like throwing a controlled tantrum every night. Ethyl Meatplow was so out there that when I got on stage, I would literally shift into another personality, so I never felt stage fright or shyness.
"But it lacked for me the elements of this band. Now it's all a little harder and more real. The words and feeling are really important, so it's like I'm having an intimate conversation with the audience. It's kind of scary."
Bozulich, who grew up in San Pedro, started the Fibbers during the last days of Ethyl Meatplow at the beginning of this year. The other members are guitarist Daniel Keenan, drummer Kevin Fitzgerald, violinist Julie F and bassist Bill Tutton.
Swinging from extreme to extreme is something Bozulich feels has kept her alive as an artist and that makes the Fibbers' sound alluring. She's even come up with an oxymoronic catch phrase for its sound. "I call it psycho-pacifier music. It reflects pain and mental distress, but at the same time it feels soothing and good. A complete piece of art or music should have contradiction. Taking something very beautiful and something very ugly and having them work together. That's what I consider my best stuff."
Rent Party: The Fibbers' Sunday show at Al's is a benefit for Millie's restaurant in Silver Lake. The eatery, which is having problems paying the rent, is a popular hangout for arty types and musicians, many of whom are in the bands that will play Sunday. The show will run from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. and will feature such bands as the Ringling Sisters, Possum Dixon and Tutti Troppo, and there will be food from Millie's.
\o7 * The Geraldine Fibbers and company play Sunday at Al's Bar, 305 S. Hewitt St., downtown, 3 p.m. $8. (213) 687-3558\f7 .