Second Coming

The Goforthgetters aren't where they're supposed to be. Bassist Jake Bergman is sucking down cocktails and hustling an O'Hara's local at the Orange pub's billiards table. Singer/guitarist Ryan Mead is wandering the Orange Circle, looking for a bank from which to withdraw some money. And new guitarist Dino Morales is somewhere in Huntington Beach. I corner drummer Jay Nielsen in a large corner booth at O'Hara's, and we begin discussing everyone's whereabouts.

"I know where Jake and Ryan are, but I'm pretty sure Dino won't show," Nielsen says. "He hasn't really been punctual lately."

Nielsen's feelings are close to the consensus of the rest of the band-the word "flaky" is used more than once. About three weeks earlier during a phone conversation, Mead admitted that even he's not sure if Morales is fully committed to the OC-based band.

"He's an incredible guitarist," Mead said then, "but I wouldn't say he's fully dedicated to the band at the moment."

It's a sentiment each band member will express with me one-on-one, but they're all frustratingly diplomatic during the evening's ensuing roundtable.

"So, you're married?" Mead asks me when he sees my silver ring.

"Not for another five months."

Mead got married at 24, and his wife wants a baby, a fact she reminds him of every day. "I want one, too," he admits, "but I'm 26, and I still have a lot of things to do. I still want to make this band work."

Making the band work is within reach with Morales, and that may be one of the reasons Mead and the others endure Morales' spotty attendance record.

Morales seems to be one of the band's life-support systems. Before Morales joined, Mead's best friend and co-founder of the Goforthgetters, Tobias Atwood, was asked to leave the band.

"He saw it coming," Bergman says. "He was more one-dimensional. He wanted to go more in a heavy, Korn direction, and we didn't." There was also a problem with Atwood's behavior-an attitude they describe as aloof when it came to band business.

But when Atwood finally left and hope ought to have supernovaed, it seemed everything went downhill. The remaining members curled up in fetal positions and mulled their options. "We thought about continuing as a three piece," Mead says, but the band wanted desperately to sound more melodic, to add new layers and intricacies to their fixed arsenal.

After enduring numerous auditions for a lead guitarist, Mead admitted the band's future looked bleak. "Jake and Jay were questioning why we were even continuing," he says. "And there was talk of breaking up. It was getting frustrating trying to keep the band together."

Then Morales auditioned in November; he was immediately asked to join. Together, the four have written only a handful of songs, but Morales has seemed to take on an alternative role, generating another chance for the Goforthgetters to move on, another opportunity for Mead to make his band work.

The Goforthgetters and Mead have a lot riding on this incarnation. Not only do they have another stab at getting signed, booking a proper tour and all the other perks that come with a moderately successful band, but there are also financial considerations. The original members invested about $9,000 into last summer's debut EP, Lyme-an expensive recording for an unsigned band.

Although Mead repeatedly pounds his fist into his palm every time he declares the Goforthgetters are a rock band, Lyme beautifully contradicts him. The six-song EP is pure, unadulterated American punk-pop. At its best, it's an exquisite companion to albums by bands like Superchunk, the Replacements and the Pixies. Mead's vocals always seem just barely to find the right key, and somehow he sustains it, never losing his range or timbre. It's a quirky attribute that complements the band's clever, compressed rhythm section. Although the three original members want to move away from their earlier, raw sound, it's the reason Atwood is gone and Morales is onboard.

"Dino has actually brought a lot to this band," Mead says convincingly. "He'll take one of our older songs and add so much to it. And since we're going into the studio in June, I think he'll make a big difference with the new subtle music we want to try."

Are they betting too much on Morales?

"He has his own little solo thing going," Bergman says with a smile as Mead does his best to skirt the question. "He's busy with that."

"He's getting into [the Goforthgetters] as time goes on," Mead finally adds.

"And once [Morales'] CD bombs, then you know," Bergman says jokingly, "he'll come around."

The Goforthgetters perform with the Fireants, Slojack and Relish at Club Mesa, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-8448. Fri., 9:30 p.m. $6. 21+.

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