By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
When Bikeride's Tony Carbone was in the fourth grade, he had a huge crush on his teacher, Miss Eadie. One day while going into reading groups, Miss Eadie said she was going to pick a number between one and 100, and whoever got closest would get to read. She called on Tony first, and he quickly replied, "37."
"She said that was the number, and I felt this . . . connection with her," he says. "After that, 37 became my lucky number, and it's always been recurring, too."
That helps explain a little about the lifelong Fountain Valley resident. He has a 37 plastered on his guitar; the bill for our recent dinner-time chat came to about $37. Then there's 37 Secrets I Only Told America, Bikeride's new album. It's a combination of everything Carbone listens to, full of sweet harmonies and sing-alongs that your average pop fan would find hard to resist.
Feverishly catchy and filled with more hooks than a tackle box, sure, but don't label their brand of pop simple.
"When I started Bikeride, the whole point was to do as much different stuff as possible and still have it be our sound," Carbone says. "If I get into Brazilian music, I want to be able to play something like it. There's no reason why we couldn't do a mariachi or Cuban song. We don't worry about selling 20,000 albums. It's all about not doing lame stuff—doing stuff that sounds fresh."
Bikeride, which also includes keyboardist Sean How and bassist Ian Spalding, stand by the old-fashioned ideal of making music they love, instead of just playing music that'll get them laid. Carbone seems to have adopted a pretty simple writing formula, too:put your heart on your sleeve, then let the listeners naturally connect. Just don't ask him where his songs come from.
"They come from real life," Carbone says, but then adds with a slight sense of mystery that "it would just cause a lot of problems if I started talking about them. But all my songs are true stories based on real people. Sometimes they're changed. Kind of."
A prime example would be the song "Jennifer" on 37 Secrets. "It used to be called something else," explains Carbone. "But then my friend said there weren't any good songs called Jennifer. I titled it that thinking that there must be 20 million girls out there named Jennifer, so some of them might like it."
Bikeride have been around since 1994, and Carbone says that what the band is doing now is really just an extension of what he was doing back then. You could describe them as sounding like everything from Portastatic and the Apples in Stereo to the Beach Boys and the Kinks. Carbone is a little weary of the Kinks comparison, though. He has been listening to them a lot lately, hoping that his new obsession doesn't affect his band's sound "because there are a lot of Kinks rip-off bands. I think we're on the same wavelength, though, in a weird way. I think 'America's Favorite Omelettes' [on 37 Secrets] could have easily been a Kinks song."
Or the work of other melodic giants. When Carbone is coming up with songs, he looks to people like Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach for inspiration. "I know that's aiming high, and I wouldn't say I was anywhere near those guys," Carbone admits. "But I'm aiming for that, songwriters who are on that level. Sixties West Coast pop bands from California, too—the Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, the Turtles, Lovin' Spoonful, Doors, Rascals. That's the stuff I listen to."
Bikeride haven't earned a rep for playing live too often, however, partly because of Carbone's struggles with getting the band's sound right in a live environment. "It makes me too nervous," he says. "I like it, though. It's fun for me, but it's really nerve-racking, right up to the point where we start playing. I just want everything to sound good."
But he doesn't really have anything to worry about. A live Bikeride gig can make them seem as if they're converting energy into matter. By the second song, it's not unusual to see the crowd nodding in time, trying badly to sing along to the words, whether they know them or not.
And their sets last a lot longer than 37 minutes.Bikeride perform with the Moseleys and Snackcake at the Hub, 124 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 871-2233. Fri., 9 p.m. Free. All ages.