A band named after a famous Dutch painter will be playing at Ventura Theatre on Tuesday. The Rembrandts, touring in support of their third CD, "L.P.," will be joined by the Blessed Union of Souls and Santa Barbara's Zoo Story.
Rembrandts' Danny Wilde and Phil Solem go way back. They were partners in a pop-rock group called Great Buildings, which was nearly great 15 years ago. After that group went the way of all bands, Wilde made a number of solo albums and had songs recorded by the likes of Robert Palmer, Charlie Sexton and Peter Frampton. He even got to hang out with the guy with the 237-octave voice, Roy Orbison.
The Rembrandts have been going for five years, probably because both of the principals are gifted singers. One of them, the Wilde man from the Conejo Valley, spoke recently by phone and discussed his favorite band.
Why not the Van Goghs, the Renoirs or the House Painter Bobs?
I have no idea. . . . You know, I live in Ventura County now, Thousand Oaks. Is this for the Ventura County Life section?
Yes. It is.
That's my paper.
Yeah, well, enjoy it while you can. Need a roadie? I understand your song, "I'll Be There For You" for the NBC show, "Friends," is a big hit, although I've never seen the show because I'm a Fox kind of guy.
The song's been No. 1 for eight weeks. The first hundred-thousand copies of the CD had already been printed up when radio stations started pirating the 42-second version of the song from the show. So we cut a longer version of the song and put it on the CD.
What is the attraction of records?
I'm a vinylphile. Our album is called "L.P." and it has 60 minutes of music and it looks black like vinyl. It begins with scratches. It's just a tip of the hat. It's not available on vinyl yet, but it will be.
Solem lives in Minneapolis--two guys a thousand miles apart seems a most unusual setup.
Well, Phil and I still spend a lot of time together. We get ideas while touring. Each of us has our own studio, and sometimes, I'll go back there for a month, or he'll come out here for a month. The last album took about a year to make, so it's been about a year-and-a-half since we've been on the road. We'll have local bands opening for us the first month or so, then we'll be opening for Sheryl Crow in August, then Chris Isaak after that.
So how does a band get signed?
I dunno. Just have good material and perseverance--Phil and I are proof of that. If you have good material, you will get a deal. I think our stuff is quirky, melodic and brilliant. Our first album was just Phil and I in my studio doing demos, but we got signed to Atco and they released the demos as a record and we had a Top 15 hit with "That's Just The Way It Is Baby." Then we got a band together and hit the road. By the time we recorded the third album, we hired a producer to capture our live sound, so this one is, more or less, is a live recording without any over-dubbing.
What was the music scene like in 1980 when Great Buildings was almost great?
There was more of a club scene and bands could play up and down the coast. You could spend three or four months touring; you know, everyone piles into the back of a van. Without label support these days, I can't see piling into the back of a van anymore.
What was the music scene like in 1990 when the Rembrandts started?
There was less melody in the rock 'n' roll genre. There was a lot of metal and pre-grunge stuff. I guess we were the oddballs; we were different with no tattoos whatsoever.
So what's the explanation for pop rock not gaining a wider following?
It's not on the radio that much. Radio isn't very friendly if you don't have that MTV slam attitude.
Weren't you guys on MTV during one of those mindless Spring Break things?
Yeah. We opened for the Ecstasy Bikini Team in Miami Beach, Fla., a couple of years ago. We got pelted with beer by the guys who wanted to see the chicks, but we're troupers, and we finished our set. When we got finished we went out and joined the guys.
So was the Ecstasy Bikini Team worth the wait?
Nah. The girls weren't any good--they never are.
How does the songwriting process work when you write a Rembrandts song as opposed to a song for someone else?
Basically, those songs are written for us, not for somebody else. Phil may have a piece of a verse, or I may have one; it's sort of like putting a puzzle together. We don't dwell on it. If it doesn't work; we just can it and move on. No use wasting precious time.
Tell me a Roy Orbison story?
You have done your homework. I hooked up with Roy back when he was working on "Mystery Girl." We both had the same accountant, and I joking told him to say hello to Roy for me. Three or four weeks went by when I got this call: "This is Roy Orbison and I want to write with you." I thought it was a joke, but it wasn't. We had a couple of writing sessions at his house, and we had one song almost finished when he passed away, so it never came to fruition. He was a sweetheart of a man.
Why did you cut your hair? During your Geffen days, you were this wild hippie dude.
Hey, I moved to Thousand Oaks.
Why is there nowhere to rock in the East County besides the Hungry Hunter? Oh, and I heard the Hyatt Westlake is rockin' out.
That sounds way too clean for me. There's nowhere around here to hang out, so the kids just go around vandalizing cars. I'd like to see some rock bands at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.
Don't hold your breath. What will the Rembrandts be doing in five years?
I'd say, keep on keeping on. Phil and I have been together since 1979. I'd like to see us develop a huge fan base. We want people to have a good time when we play. We don't take ourselves too seriously. We're not looking for a Learjet; we just want to keep making music and have people enjoy it.
* WHAT: The Rembrandts, Blessed Union Of Souls, Zoo Story.
* WHEN: 8 p.m. Tuesday.
* WHERE: Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St., Ventura.
* HOW MUCH: $17.50.
* CALL: 648-1888