Escape From Riverside

Photo by Jack GouldIn Riverside, life is just agonizing, never-ending undeath. So, if you want to play in a band, you've got to start out Goth.

"Oh, God, there is nothing out there," says Squab bassist and sometime keyboardist Chris Hall. "Dirt, cows, meth central. I was in a real Goth-type band in high school with three girls who were really Goth. They always wanted to play so slow. And here I was listening to the Germs, while they were all going, 'You're playing too fast!'"

So, it was hard fitting in sometimes if you weren't into dirt, cows, meth or Goths. It would be nice to say that Hall, singer/guitarist Rosy Thowtho and drummer Tracy Hardin stumbled upon one another and recognized the kindred spirits for which they'd searched in high school. And it would be nice to talk about how they put together a really right-on band that stitches together the best remains of first-wave punk, experimental indie stuff, even electronica and (shudder) Goth (hey, you can't forget your roots). And it would be nice to tell you why they called it Squab: not just a dinnertime delicacy but also 1920s slang for a young woman of dubious character. And it would be nice to tell you how they got the happy ending they deserved when they went screaming down into OC and everyone appreciated how great they are, and the loving response made up for the teenage torture-dungeon that is Riverside, California.

But we can't tell you that. Even though that's how the story should—and almost did—go, OC won't cooperate. They still don't fit in.

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"Orange County is really static," says Hardin. "There are a whole bunch of little groups that go and do things, but for some reason, no one connects—even if they're just a few blocks from each other. I'm not satisfied with the environment we're in. I feel like we have what it takes, but there's no way to get there."

Maybe they've got too much of a political edge for the just-wanna-nod-sadly indie rockers, too much artistic sophistication for the malcontents who just want something to chant along with, and way too much talent and fierce, prickle-the-hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck energy for the dickheads who, in 2001, still think an all-girl band is "cute." Some people get it—just not in OC.

They've played maybe three paying shows in almost three years, says Hall, but they've done tons of benefits for everything from Take Back the Night in Santa Barbara to a queer-studies conference at Cal State Long Beach—in a lecture hall, even! They've also had such feisty local indie labels as Pasadena's My Room Records angling for a chance to record them for something like a year; meanwhile, a few rare, live tapes are heard by only a lucky, lucky few. And they just recently opened for Kathleen Hanna (surely you remember Bikini Kill? If not, hey, I heard the new Limp Bizkit is pretty awesome, dude! See you at the kegger!) and her new band Le Tigre in San Diego, a slot a lot of people would have sliced out internal organs to get.

"It was my high school dream come true," says Thowtho, "and now it's time to move on to other dreams."

Like finally satisfying the growing—and ever more rabid—legions of die-hard Squab fans with a recording, for one. Like satisfying their own growing artistic aspirations. Like silk-screening more of their famous Squab pillowcases, which offer helpful, sex-positive, female-masturbation tips —if you find that offensive, you probably need one more than anybody. And like learning to live—and even thrive—in a sometimes-lonesome scene of one.

"Last year really was discouraging," says Hardin. "It was almost over for us—personal issues. But we worked it out. We don't just fit in here or there, but we can go our own way. Ideas have been popping up like crazy—every practice a new song comes out."

And some of those songs will be on the new album—due soon, we swear—that's going to be titled Transcend. Listen to it, says Thowtho, and it'll tell you how they grew up.

"All three of us share the same views on a lot of stuff," says Hall. "Human rights, gay rights, women's rights, animal rights. But we love music so much; I think we would die if we couldn't create music. It all has to do with what we deal with in our lives, and to be able to get a message across is awesome."

So maybe it's too early to try to attach a happy ending to the Squab saga.

"At this point," says Thowtho, "I really feel like we're at a beginning."


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