May 5 2004 12:00 AM

Buckfast Superbee finds itself in demand years after their coming out


    In the air-conditioned tranquility of East Village Coffee Shop, Milos Jahudka raises himself from a cavernous slouch and greets a visiting friend.

    "We're doing an interview," he barks in his ex-pat Czech accent. "We're fucking rock stars!" Jahudka's outburst is taken in stride by the gathered bandmates, to whom the irony isn't lost.

    Buckfast Superbee has been interviewed before-many times by local music writers who thought these guys would break out.

    They haven't.

    But now, years after their initial splash and months below the radar of even avid local music fans, it seems Buckfast Superbee is on the buzz block again. Alternative stations around the nation have started playing their songs, and a few major labels have come courting.

    Those local music writers may soon be able to say, I told ya so.

    It's just after sunset on a characteristically beautiful San Diego weekday, and in less than two weeks Buckfast Superbee will play the Pacific Beach Block Party for the second year in a row.

    An 11 a.m. slot at a local beach party will be great for the family and friend quotient, but the minds of Buckfast-drummer Jahudka, vocalist-guitarist T.J., bassist Kevin Stram and guitarist Derek Dutt-are whirling at the possibility of other, greater things.

    Named for the super-insect discovered by a monk-scientist based in Buckfast, England, the band has lustily enjoyed their role as minor San Diego rock sweethearts ever since their 1998 San Diego Music Awards win for Best New Artist. In the last two years, the band's lineup has finally become stable. They're entertaining offers from as-yet-unannounced major labels. They've held on to sponsorships with Etonic, Redsand, Sha-Sha and Hung.

    Video game maker Midway is even working on the release of "MLB SlugFest," which will feature Buckfast's songs "A.M. Argument" and "Faker"-the latter will also serve as the soundtrack to the TV commercials for the game.

    Buckfast Superbee is on a belated roll.

    "As far as being in a band goes, this, I think, is what it's supposed to be like," says T.J. "We love to make music that people can identify with, that touches people in a great way. I think our music does that."

    Jahudka's luck is the most phenomenal. With a mere $2,000, he immigrated to the United States a few years ago from the Czech Republic. By reading Interview with the Vampire and translating it word-by-word, he learned English. He's now learning German and French and owns both downtown rock venue The Honey Bee Hive and East Village Coffee Shop next door.

    Not bad for a 20-something rocker.

    Buckfast Superbee is a lot like The Honey Bee Hive, an entity that has a workingman's ethos and foregoes ultra-chic gloss. Their music breathes energetic rock life into pop-punk hooks. Stram, T.J. and Dutt's soft-tinged vocal harmonies weave in and out of their 2003 self-titled disc, demonstrating taut musicianship and ardent rehearsal.

    They're the type of guys who aren't too cool for kindness. They have pet names for each other-Coach, Stretch, Cobra and Mimi. They even miss each other at Christmas.

    "From the weekend of Thanksgiving in November to the end of the year, you may have one show and you may practice a couple times before that," says Stram. "For a band of guys that sees each other every day to practice every other week of the year, it's hard. We start to wish Christmas was over so we can see each other, you know?"

    Buckfast's most impervious trait, however, is probably their unwavering sense of humor.

    "You're only as old as the people you date," Stram says when questioned about his age. With a shit-eating grin, T.J. turns to Stram: "But that would make me six different ages.

    "We aren't glamorous rock stars," T.J. says. "We practice our craft and try get better every day."

    "I left my gold chains at home," Dutt laughs. "And my leather chaps. That's what we usually wear to interviews." ©

    Buckfast Superbee plays at the Pacific Beach Block Party on May 8. www.pbblockparty.com.

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