"What's wrong with classic rock?" guitarist Mark Murino asks rhetorically, as if it's been his mantra lately. The buzz on his band Dirty Sweet is in overdrive after only a short time together-but their instant popularity seems at odds with the local scene's supposed lack of any real rock history. Dirty Sweet's influences seem entirely out of step with San Diego's punk-pop ontology, wherein younger bands don't know anything before, say, Minor Threat.
The band's singer, Ryan Kuntz, says they're actually the most "alternative, truly alternative" rock that's "as indie as it gets in 2004." Maybe there's a hint of irony in his voice. Just maybe.
Murino and Kuntz, the two creative forces in Dirty Sweet-along with co-founding member Chris Mendez-Vancacore-admit to the band's instantly likable and shamelessly sensual sound. But Murino and Kuntz argue the amalgam of James Gang, Humble Pie and The Black Crowes is probably so novel to most of most local scenesters' unfamiliarity with a music collection they probably took for granted growing up.
"I thought everybody at least went through a classic-rock phase, but coming to San Diego, I found out that's not so true," says Kuntz, whose throaty, upper-register pipes can evoke a blustery Shannon Hoon or a punk-rock Robert Plant, depending on the song. "But I come from Oregon, where we had one of the best classic-rock stations in the country. Here, what they call "Deep Cuts' is a joke."
"If you put on anything by the Stones that's not "Miss You' or "Jumping Jack Flash,' you get blank stares. They're like "Wooah, who's this? This is awesome,'" concurs Murino, whose prior bands, including turns with Jejune and Lovelight Shine, led to a few enviable touring dates recently with Jimmy Eat World.
"Everything here seems to be straight from punk-pop. There are very few people with a sense of rock's history," says Murino. "But then there's the cream-the very hip, cool, top-of-the-scene people, and they're into everything.
"That's what we'd like, to have a scene with just those top people," Murino laughs, though it's obvious he's only half-joking. "Seriously, we just want to play a gig with a lineup that's fun for us for once. You know, where it's OK to be from a different place musically, as long as it's good and your ears are open. If you fucking rock at what you're doing, whatever style, it's not my style, but it's good?
"Fuck yeah, let's hang."
Dirty Sweet plays with Kevin Martin & The HiWatts and Fono at the Casbah, 9 p.m. on Feb. 25. $10. 619-232-HELL.