Five years is an eternity in a local band life span, long enough to break big, break up, or, in those ultrarare cases, get better. Take OC stoner rock outfit Volume (though if you're actually in a stoner rock band, you probably call it "heavy" rock. And not "metal," either—too many men-wearing-makeup-and-hairspray historical connotations). Five years ago, I caught a low-billed set by Volume at the old Club Mesa and had this to say:
"The sludgy, plodding Volume, a bad Sabbath imitation (or, at the very least, a mediocre Bachman Turner Overdrive clone), made it seem like we were living back in the frightening age when KMET was still hip. . . .Volume ultimately convinced us that we brought along earplugs for a very good reason. Decent music to wreck your car to, though."
Of course, this was half a decade ago, and as stoner/heavy/metal bands go, Volume have since improved to the not-half-bad point; the kind of fuzzy-headed, feedback-ejaculating, Econoline-van-cruising, shaggy-hair-flipping, brain-melting, ungodly L-O-U-D tunes (well, if you're gonna call your band Volume, you'd better deliver) your older brother—or hell, your dad—used to blast out of the FM back in the '70s. The same kind of crunch revitalized by bands such as San Clemente's Fu Manchu and taken to whole other money-making levels by Queens of the Stone Age.
Volume svengali Patrick Brink used to be the singer in Fu Manchu, for about six months back when they first started, which makes you think all these bands are really cliquish and copy one another. Yet we doubt the current Fu would throw Hammond organs and theramins on their songs, like Brink went and did to a couple of tracks on the new Volume EP, Requesting Permission to Land. (Brink left the Fu, anyway, because he wanted to do his own thing. "They wanted to sing only about cars, and I wasn't into that," he says.) Plus and minus a few inevitable lineup changes, along with many scattered seven-inches and assorted tribute album tracks (Aerosmith and the Misfits!), the EP is Volume's first high-profile release, complete with a big push from an LA PR company and some decent touring shots, including a stop at this year's Emissions from the Monolith, a huge heavy-rock fest held every Memorial Day weekend in Youngstown, Ohio. Like Fu Manchu's masterpiece, King of the Road, it's hard music you think you'll hate until you spin it about four or five times—and then you can't get enough, having unleashed your inner headbangin' Hessian. Who, really, could deny the hey-bro allure of a kick-in-the-skull tune like "Colossal Freak," a grand cover of Mountain's butt-rawk classic "Don't Look Around," or, in the case of "Headswim," a sweet, ol'-fashioned bong song?
So, yeah, Volume are a good band now—not sludgy or plodding, which oughta make Brink happy.
"Y'know, that live review you wrote wasn't too bad in context," Brink tells me. "You were harsher on Nebula, anyway, and that's good in my book. Besides, we weren't that good back then."
Still decent music to wreck your car to, though.
* * *
Then there's Brink's other life, the guy who has been putting together OC's 5400 Day Revolution, a documentary film on the OC music scene, off and on since 1996. I last chatted with Brink about his flick in 1999, when he seemed to be on the verge of finishing it. He even put out a double-CD soundtrack, with songs from many of the bands featured in the movie: 4Gazm, Tex Twil, Big Drill Car, Eli Riddle, National People's Gang, the Cadillac Tramps, Home Grown, the Goods, Smile, Gameface, Relish, Supernovice, Doom Kounty Electric Chair, Agent Orange, US Bombs, Final Conflict, Volume (natch) and Jeffries Fan Club among them—a 47-band monster that to this day is still easily the best, most comprehensive attempt at chronicling OC rock and all its many varied sub-genres.
But 1999 came and went without Brink's doc surfacing. What happened?
"I messed up," Brink admits. "I shouldn't have done an exclusive distribution deal with the CD, and it wasn't getting in the stores. That put me big-time in debt. I wasn't going to keep borrowing money to foot the bill, and I knew that hiring someone to edit almost 80 hours of film would cost a lot, so I went back to school to learn editing myself."
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To keep the film timely, Brink says he'll do a few more interviews, focusing on bands that are active in OC right now—a smart idea, since many of the bands he has performance footage of have since broken up. When it's finally finished—and Brink hopes to wrap it by the end of this year—he'll send it straight to film fests and eventually put it out on DVD. "That way, I can always put in extra stuff I wouldn't be able to include in the final film version."
Brink swears it'll be done eventually, if for no other reason than he promised all the bands it would be.
"Cost isn't so much a factor anymore. I don't have to rent a big old studio. But from the get-go, the idea wasn't about the OC scene blowing up. A lot of the stuff is about why people are in bands, but the bands we have just happen to be from OC." And, like Brink told me in '99, "the ones who are just below the surface, still kind of underground, still playing local clubs. For so long, OC was overlooked, and there's a lot of talent and a good story to be told here."
Volume perform with Smoke, Mountain Maker and Oh My God at the Liquid Den, 5061 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 377-7964. Sat., 8:30 p.m. $6. 21+.