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MUSIC : A Band That Makes a Lot of Noise Comes Back Home : RKL's sound is aggressive, raw, loud, tight--testosterone music, to be exact.

March 16, 1995|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Santa Barbara has been a lot quieter since those Rich Kids on LSD moved to San Francisco to terrorize Giants fans a decade ago, but the tranquillity ends Sunday evening when RKL returns to its hometown to headline at the Underground.

RKL has three albums on fast-rising Epitaph Records, its new one, "Riches to Rags" menacing the musical public since January. Here's how the label more or less describes them: Jason Sears, vocals (attractive personal habits); Chris Rest, guitar (one eyebrow); Barry D'Live, guitar (sordid past); Joe Raposo, bass (amateur psychoanalyst), and Dave Raun, drummer (hair-color challenged).

Here's what guitarist and Giants fan Rest said during a recent phone interview: "We play original hard-core thrash that's aggressive, raw, loud, tight music. Are we rich? Not even."

Maybe not rich, but at least they have their health and they get along.

"Bands that just fight all the time--that never works," Rest said.

But those road trips can get hairy.

"In 1993, when our roadie OD'd in Zurich, that was very stressful," Rest said. "Then Bomber, who started out as the drummer but became the singer, started to go off and wanted to call off the tour and go home. He was bossing people around, trying to be the leader, threatening to beat people up. He was a big dude, but he was getting too old, you know? He was like my age, 27.

"He split and we drove to Spain, and Jason, our original singer, flew in a few hours before the next gig. He'd forgotten most of the words to the songs, but no one understood English anyway, so it was OK."

Things haven't changed much since the band began in the mid-'80s. In a textbook case of asking for it, RKL named one of its early cross-country road trips the "Disastour," a name tailor-made for bad gigs for the wrong crowd in the wrong place.

"One time in Charleston, S.C., we played with this metal band that played all Metallica covers to a roomful of jocks and about 10 punks. Between songs, the jocks were chanting the name of the band 'Fatal! Fatal! Fatal!' In no time, it became, 'Kill punks! Kill punks! Kill punks!'

"Another band on the bill were these wimpy little vegetarians with pink Mohawks. 'No way we're gonna play,' they said, but we did. After a few songs, this huge fight broke out, and we split. We were at this gas station, and all these jocks were following us. Man, that was a sketchy gig."

Then again, there's no place like home, especially if you remembered your gas mask. At a memorable gig at Buster's in Goleta last year, RKL met a club owner who found a cheaper way to stop the slam dancers without hiring a bunch of bouncers.

"The time before we played and there were no signs--but he had these small homemade signs this time," Rest said. "The first few bands played, and there was a little bit of thrashing. During our first song, this big pit started. Then all of a sudden, everyone cleared out--I thought it was a fight--then I felt it in my lungs, tear gas.

"Next, everyone was puking out in the parking lot. Jason grabbed the promoter dude and slammed him against the wall. Then the promoter dude locked himself in his office, so we took over the place and finished the set."

So if the pit goes off, hey, it's your fault for forgetting your flak jacket, a mouthpiece, combat boots and a roll of quarters in your pocket. Even if the '70s punk attitude has become a '90s platitude, the bruises are still real.

"We usually don't stop the gigs like some other bands do," said the guitarist. "I know the polite thing to do is to stop and say, 'Can't you guys just get along?' but Jason usually eggs them on. It's kind of silly to stop a fight since that's what a lot of the people came for in the first place. Hey, we play testosterone music, although we are starting to see more and more girls at our gigs. Punk must be getting popular."

Is RKL popular? Getting there. Did they used to be? Are you kidding?

They used to play parties until the cops came. But Santa Barbara 10 years ago was about like it is now except beer was cheaper and gangs weren't as heavily armed--although just as territorial, according to Rest.

"It was pretty cool because all the people from my school would come when we'd play," he said. "We all hung out and ditched class together. We used to practice in my bedroom and the neighbors hated us. Whenever there was a fight, everyone from Montecito would stand together.

"It was funny because all the Mexican gang dudes when they saw 'RKL' thought we were another gang. So the CML--the Calle Milpas Locos--would say, 'Hey, homes, who are these RKL dudes?' They were tripping out trying to find this other gang. When they finally found out we were a band, some of them got into our scene. 'You guys are psycho, homes.' "

Punk rock is getting bigger--15 or so years after it reared its ugly bald head. It's all over MTV and the radio, and every punk rocker who ever sang a song or played a note either is coming back or won't go away.

"The Offspring, Rancid and other bands on our label have helped out our sales," Rest said. "We have one song on this compilation album, Punk-O-Rama, which has sold 270,000 copies. Now 'Riches To Rags' has sold 40,000 since January, which is probably more than all our others combined. For example, 'Reactivate' sold about 10,000.

"I think to get signed, you just have to make a lot of noise touring. You also have to be good and be in the right place at the right time because lately a lot of crummy bands have been signed."

Details

* WHO: RKL, Blotter, the Blackouts, Snot.

* WHEN: Sunday, 8 p.m.

* WHERE: Underground, 110 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara.

* HOW MUCH: $7.

* CALL: 965-5050.

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