"And The 88, known for its Kinks-sized rock and "Reservoir Dogs" inspired attire, is expected to draw considerable label interest when it finishes its current album." - Steve Hochman
by Natalie Nichols


L.A. quintet is in no danger of being gonged

VARIOUS members of L.A. rock quintet the 88 have the kind of seasoned-rocker history that’s all too familiar: a musical connection that goes back to high school, time in numerous groups and old drug problems that still intrigue interviewers.

But there’s one juicy detail about guitarist Brandon Jay’s past that he first reveals to his bandmates during a lunchtime interview on the shady patio of a Hollywood restaurant.

“I was on ‘The Gong Show’ when I was little,” says Jay, 31. “I sang a song with my mom and my cousin that my cousin wrote. It was called ‘God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,’ after the Kurt Vonnegut book.”

Intrigued, Calabasas raised singer-guitarist Keith Slettedahl and keyboardist-producer Adam Merrin (the aforementioned high school pals), both 29, demand videotape of this incident. They ask if Jay got gonged. “No, but we were horrible!” he replies, laughing. “Chuck Barris kicked me when we were done. You know, like, ‘All right, get outta here kid!”

The 88’s reception has been more enthusiastic. Interest in the classic-rock inspired, yet thoroughly modern, music on its debut album, “Kind of Light,” has grown thanks to frequent gigging as well as old-fashioned street-level marketing: Members have passed out thousands of CD samplers all over town.

The 88 won over many fans of indie singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, who had heard the CD and asked the group to open an Orange County show and back him on a couple of numbers.

Such songs as “Melting in the Sun” and “Sunday Afternoon” have garnered comparisons to the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Kinks. Traces of Bowie, Elvis Costello and the Pixies make the 88 fit neatly among such diverse acts as the Strokes, the White Stripes and the Music. “I try not to think about all these comparisons,” says Slettedahl.

The early response has vastly boosted Slettedahl’s confidence in the band’s chances of building a wider following, touring and making another recording this year.

For now, he’d settle for quitting his day job. “We’re different,” Slettedahl says with quiet conviction. “I think we stick out.”

Adds Merrin, “One of my favorite bands is the Band. In 1967, everyone was doing all this psychedelic stuff, and they came along dressed differently, and they didn’t sound anything like that. But all of the sudden, people started being influenced by them.”


Los Angeles Times

Credit drummer Mark Vasapolli with the sartorial sense displayed by quirky newcomers the 88. "He wanted us to look sharp when we played, like it was a special event," songwriter Keith Slettedahl says. "When we were young we wanted to be the Band; I wanted to be Robbie Robertson." For now, the five are the Monday-night residents at Spaceland, hawking "Kind of Light," their debut album of little-bit-retro, little-bit-warped pop anthems. Two weeks ago, the quintet pulled double duty, opening for Frou Frou at the Roxy early in the evening, then trekking to the Silver Lake set. Then, Monday, actor Kiefer Sutherland emerged from the after-show throng to offer kudos and buy a CD. "Everything's been positive," Slettedahl says. "It's been a slow, steady progression for this band." And like the Monday-night acts preceding them, the 88 haven't had to worry about attracting a crowd. Says Slettedahl: "I think [Spaceland] is the hangout place on Monday nights."



Los Angeles Times

Of the six performers, the 88 (best pop/rock band winner) and Elliott Smith (tied with Eleni Mandell for the pop/rock songwriter award) were crowd favorites. The former exuberantly breathed new life into Kinks-derived power-pop, while the latter showed the timeless value of heartfelt songwriting. - Steve Hochman

Feb 20 - "...Kind of Light, their debut album...of pop anthems." - Kevin Bronson
May 22 - "This pop-rock band is always full of energy." - Karla S. Blume
Dec 05 - "Pop-Rock band on the rise..." - Karla S. Blume