To date, Bikeride has outlived Kona Lanes (their first show in 1994 was across the street) and Java Lanes (where I first saw them in 2000), plus a host of indie bands both local (Smile) and not (Grandaddy and Beulah). The world, circa 2007, circa Britney's hair going for a million bucks on the Internet, feels strange compared to when the band started out almost 13 years ago.
"It was a pretty bleak year," observes a bandmate. I don't write down who—everyone's rattling off memories too fast for me to keep up: "'Black Hole Sun' came out that year, didn't it?" "Our third show was the Aquabats' first!"
"Wait, no, wait," interjects Tony, "Some good stuff also came out then, too—Pavement's Crooked Rain, Built to Spill's There's Nothing Wrong With Love, Superchunk's On the Mouth."
And Bikeride, which was at first just a cure for homesickness while Tony was studying in Rome. "I'd talk to my friends and say, 'Let's make a band when I get back,'" he says. "It didn't last long." But Tony did eventually find his way to keyboardist Sean How?, bassist Adam Deibert and drummer Chris Petrozzi, and with them recorded four much-adored pop albums, including MOJOand Uncutfavorites Thirty-Seven Secrets I Only Told America(1999) and Summer Winners, Summer Losers (2000). In fact, Bikeride has achieved the kind of critical acclaim (Rolling Stone, LA Times, CMJ) that makes (and eventually breaks) many a lesser band—only Bikeride never totally made it. So they were never totally broken.
Some might look at that and see failure, but you can also flip it and see freedom—freedom to take a salary and start a family, but at the same time meet up once a week and jam. Where other bands run ragged with tours and promotion and tours, Bikeride play a couple shows each year and then take something like 48 months to put out a record. It might mean a few more quizzical "Bikeride who?" questions, but it also means they're still around—and with a truly excellent new album, The Kiss, and a cover of the Beatles' "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" on the recent MOJO compilation (both out this month), no less. Pairing dense, borderline psychedelic sounds ("There's Something Odd About Elizabeth," "Your Lips and You") with straightfoward dance-in-your-car-seat pop ("She's Radioactive!" and "A Dancer's Feet Are Not So Neat") The Kiss is the kind of record that's perfect for the winter/spring changing of the guard—good with blankets and soup, but even better by the pool. It's also guaranteed to get a lot of people saying that it's The One, that it's The Album that will see Bikeride explode into the Billboard stratosphere. And that's totally possible—there are no certainties these days.
"My mom hired a psychic," Tony laughs, "who told her I would become rich through publishing. If moms and psychics are right, The Kissis going to be huge."
But if it isn't, and we don't hear from Bikeride again for another few years, well, that's okay, too. A few more bowling alleys might get bulldozed, and some bands will break up, but the fans will still be around.
BIKERIDE PLAY WITH HELL AT NIGHT, THE THINGZ AND DIGITAL UNICORN AT DIPIAZZA'S, 5205 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 498-2461; www.dipiazzas.com. Sat., 8:30 p.m. Call for cover. 21+.