Local No More

The Vivarin-chewin', Jolt Cola-drinkin', gummy-bear chompin', road-dog goofballs of Sonichrome are ready for the big time

Sonichrome's Chris Karn was force-fed his musical influences, and that's how he dishes it out. "When I was a little kid, my older brother turned me on to bands like Blondie, Boston, ELO and Rush-whether I liked it or not," recalls Karn, who grew up in Mission Viejo. "He was five years older than me. I'd be in the other room playing with my Legos, and my brother would be playing all this music, and it'd be coming down the hall. I'd have no choice but to soak the stuff in." Karn's Lego years are evident everywhere on Sonichrome's debut album, Breathe the Daylight (due out Tuesday on Capitol Records). The project is a mesmerizing collection of audio card tricks that constantly shuffles dreamy musical cliches with keen lyrical relevance. It's like Beck without as much studio gadgetry and art-school affectation. Sonichrome works most of its sleight of hand with guitar, bass and drums. "When I write songs, I get bored very easily, so I rarely stick to any set formula," Karn says. "One thing that separates us from other pop bands is we try not to be so sweet. We're sweet-and-sour, hence the feedback and some really heavy tones, wacked- out guitar noises, heavy cymbals on the drums, and-what do they call that?-a shuffling-home beat? I don't know what they call it, but we do it." Karn formed Sonichrome-originally called Twist Top-two years ago after a stint in the final incarnation of General Public with Dave Wakeling. Karn hooked up with bassist Rodney Mollura and drummer Craig Randolph, who've been playing together since their OC high school days. They claim influences ranging from R.E.M. and the Replacements to U2, fIREHOSE and Motown. Lyrically, they translate a variety of personal experiences into wider truths-the words mean something. But the trio's eclecticism hasn't always translated to compatibility, at least not in the minds of club and concert bookers, who have tended to brand the band as boys who don't play well with others. "From the very beginning, we've found it very hard to find other bands to play with," Karn observes. "But that didn't disappoint us. It kinda makes you happy when you're quirky enough that you don't fit into everything." Sonichrome's misshapen geometry turns out to be a perfect fit for the Doheny Days music festival this weekend at Doheny State Beach, which features a lineup that is just as hard to pigeonhole. Performers range from the sullen blue-car-counters of Dishwalla to the poppy punk of Everclear to the red-hot retro revival of Royal Crown Revue to the hunky-dorky appeal of Keanu Reaves and Dogstar. There's never-say-die X, back-from-the-dead Berlin and the Church, the Beat (a dead horse) Farmers Reunion, and Wild Child's tribute to the never-been-deader Jim Morrison. Did somebody say Bow Wow Wow and Seven Mary Three? They'll be there, too, joining 24 acts on two stages, all of them thematically connected by the fact that they . . . well . . . hmmm . . . "Basically, they all said 'yes' when we asked them to perform," admits Rich Sherman, president of Omega Events and the organizer-if not quite the mastermind-of the affair. Such are the facts of life for a music festival that is in its second year, and Sherman is pretty matter-of-fact about them. "You really have to work to sell the well-known bands on what you're doing," he said. "You tell them, 'It's a great festival at a great site with great fans, and you gotta come.' And they say, "Yeah, you want us to play on a beach we've never heard of, in a city we've never heard of-and what are you paying us?' We probably contacted 400 bands to get 20. Most of them would much rather play the House of Blues or the Greek Theater. We're still considered part of the LA market, even though we're 70 miles away." Nonetheless, Sherman says he's thrilled with the established bands he's landed and that he's dedicated to cultivating a following for local acts. That's where Sonichrome comes in-but not for very long. The group is flying in from a show in St. Louis to contribute a 30-minute set on Sunday at about 1 p.m. Then Karn will race off to be in his big brother's wedding. He hopes to get back to the festival in time to catch headliner Everclear that night. Then come final preparations for a national tour opening for Marcy Playground. "Things are intense these days. This is a really happy time and a really scary time, but intensity is what got us here," Karn says. "I used to work a real job all day, then drive to LA and work all night, either playing or promoting the band. "Now that we've got a record deal, it's being available to do whatever whenever. At home, that means carrying around this cheesy cell phone. When we go on tour in our van, we'll be Vivarin-chewin', Jolt Cola-drinkin', gummy-bear chompin', road-dog goofballs. We've been working our whole lives for this. I feel sorry for anything or anyone who gets in our way."Sonichrome performs at Doheny Days, Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, (949) 262-2662 or (714) 258-0333. Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m. $10-$22 each day; $38 for both days. See the Pop & Rock listings in Calendar for a full lineup.

 
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