At a time when bands that can barely tune their instruments, much less write a decent song, have hi-resolution digital images and shamelessly stated lists of other bands they sound (and therefore could be marketed) like available at the click of a mouse, dios is something of a refreshing enigma.
Go ahead and try to research them. I dare you. You will be confounded by their ambiguous, endearingly amateurish mess of a website. You will be perplexed by what can only be described as an inexpertly transcribed post-show interview by online 'zine No-Fi. You will be unsurprised at allmusic.com's almost total lack of data. And you will eventually be left to deduce what you can from the brief and wildly uninformative bio posted on their PR company's page. Beyond the names of its members, you will find out exactly two things about the Southern California outfit: that they hail from a small city just outside Los Angeles called Hawthorne, and that they produced their self-titled full-length disc themselves and largely at home.
Christ, their publicist had to beg them to make a promo photo available, after several writers deemed pen-and-ink sketches of their heads (one of which bears the caption "we don't do pictures") insufficient.
All of this mystery has the wonderful and potentially disastrous effect of driving interested parties directly to the music itself. Fortunately for dios, the music is excellent.
"It's a box that people want to put you in. It's a sales pitch," says dios bassist J.P. Caballero, talking about bandom's now-standard peripherals. "Everybody's gonna write about [the fact that] we're a bunch of Mexicans, that we're from Hawthorne and sound like the Beach boys all it does is make you faceless, whatever the article says you are, this generic thing. But to say we didn't expect it wouldn't be true."
Caballero gives the impression that dios isn't actively combating industry marketing dogma as much as they're simply dismissive of it; the group (Caballero, brothers Joel and Kevin Morales, James Cabez DeVaca, and Jackie Monzon) is focused solely on the songs. At the same time, they take pride in the connection to Hawthorne, a town known for its tradition of homegrown musical brilliance.
"It's a big deal to everybody, in a sense that a lot of good stuff came out of the area," Caballero confirms. "[Black Flag founder] Greg Ginn, SST [the fiercely independent record label Ginn founded], The Beach Boys, obviously. There's this whole history of do-it-yourself type bands.
"I mean, that'd be pretentious to compare ourselves to anybody like that. It's just nice that it comes from the same place, that we can look to that for some inspiration."
To be fair, a common hometown isn't the only reason the Beach Boys comparisons are being thrown around. Dios' eponymous disc showcases plenty of painstakingly crafted, beautifully layered pop music, though the band's portable, somewhat lo-fi recording strategy and penchant for both found sounds and raw takes lends the album a ragged, unpredictable edge. There are certainly lots of indie bands currently making ambitious but beautifully rough-hewn pop music, and dios will likely be lumped into their top tiers shortly (hipster favorites and longtime dios supporters Grandaddy handpicked the band to open their current tour). But dios is indeed offering something a little different, something clearly the singular product of the quintet's own collective personality — and the band is content to let the music speak for itself.
"A lot of bands come out, and they have the PR pitch, the story, and people just talk about that. There's a lot more to it than that," says Caballero. "That's not what we want to do. We're all into just well-written songs it's the only thing that matters."
ROCK FOR HAASE
All right, that's it. Apparently, all area players have something on their minds. I would appreciate it very much if every single musician in the Tampa Bay area who has health insurance would go out right now and marry one who doesn't. Then, get CAT scans immediately, the both of you. I'm very sorry to say another talented guy has had another serious cranial trauma: Drummer Eric Haase, who played with Brainiac's Daughter and Mediawhore (among others) before settling behind the kit for Auditorium just a few months ago, was hospitalized a couple of weeks back for a severe cerebral abnormality known as arterio vascular malformation (AVM). While it was originally unknown if he would ever regain the use of his limbs, Haase is walking again, and his chances for a full recovery are good. Of course, he's racked up the usual fucking insane bills and is unable to work, but hey, that's America. A huge, multi-band benefit will be held Saturday, April 3 at St. Pete's State Theatre; if you can help with a donation, please send it to Megan Donohoe, 1914 S. Dale Mabry, Tampa, FL 33629.
AND THE WINNER IS Maine-based Reindeer Records held the final round of its Eighth Annual Florida Rock-Off (FLARO) high-school battle of the bands on Feb. 29 at Seminole rock club Boomerz Boiler Room. The finalists: The Perks; Surreal; Full Xtent; Hasting; Initial Doubt; and Emberdays. After the smoke generated by the heat of unnecessarily exacerbated competitive instincts cleared, young but comparatively experienced Oldsmar hard rock act Initial Doubt emerged victorious.
Contact Music Critic Scott Harrell at 813-248-8888, ext. 109, or by e-mail at [email protected].