"Only white people like you. We're proud of that," says dios malos' J.P. Caballero when asked if the hometown the band is so boastful of-Hawthorne, Calif.-is a place where people get shot. Located about five miles southeast of LAX, the city is 34 percent Hispanic, 33 percent black and 29 percent white. Apparently, that pesky white minority is being whittled down daily, Smith & Wesson style.
Dios malos is one of those bands-the type that has been so vociferously championed by the L.A. Weekly that one of the band's friends was inspired to ask the inevitable: "Who are you blowing over there?" Looking for a real answer as to how involved dios malos are in the fellatio-for-press trade, I demand to know the pleasure quotients of their mandibles.
"That's funny, last I checked we were the ones getting sweet action from the press," Caballero said, but clarified that my future as a member of the press may get much more rewarding when the band comes to town on Jan. 19:
"Don't worry, we'll call you in a couple of days, we swear...."
The five-piece's lazy harmonies suggest beards are growing uninhibited, or being dreamed about. Their orchestral strings and occasional la-la-las are the former property of Boys de Beach (to keep in the dominant parlance of Hawthorne, Calif.). And Pet Sounds haunt them, especially since the Beach Boys are also from Hawthorne.
There are so many other "sounds like" moments on their debut on New York's StarTime Records-Pink Floyd (the existential moaning), The Beatles (la, la, and a la), Gram Parsons (Is that a slide guitar? Do I hear a beard?) and My Morning Jacket (awesomely pretty wallowing)-but every critic and casual glancer hears 'em and can't help but bring up Brian Wilson.
Of course, these city boys-the type who instead of a band photo, put a stoned-in-biology-class sketch of themselves on their website (www.weare dios.com), one that my 5-year-old niece says makes them "look like bad people"-have tried to distance themselves from the good vibrations, reminding people that Black Flag are also from Hawthorne, so back the fuck off that shiny, happy shit, yo.
"We are closer to the Geto Boys nowadays, but we are all about the button flannels," Caballero says about the Beach Boy comparisons, and whether something in the Hawthorne water makes one prone to harmonize. "Maybe the only thing in the water is lead and bacteria-people say that affects you growing up."
The other band, or person, who haunts them, and will continue to haunt them, is Ronnie James Dio. Ya see, these bearded bad guys who sound like the Beach Boys but dig Black Flag were originally called dios. But the curly-haired heavy-metal thespian from the '80s apparently still exists in the '00s, and was nonplussed that these wankers from Hawthorne were poppin' a squat on his surname. The lowercase "d" and the "s" on the end apparently weren't enough to differentiate between indie-folk and spandex-metal.
"Damn that shit was dope," Caballero says of the cease-and-desist letter the band received from Ronnie James' lawyers. "He has seen rainbows in the dark, like on "Dark Side of the Moon,' only minus the prism and the good music."
They're bitter. They want to fight it, but one record on a small indie label and a handful of fawning press doesn't fill the coffers for legal fees. So they started tossing out alternate names:
Dios ghetto spacesuit.
We are dios.
We are not dios.
We are not ronnie james dios.
Dios is spanish for god.
All lowercase because, as Caballero says, "we are bad spellers and with diction and grammar-we talk pretty."
As their manager Kevin Kusatsu says, "Here's how we feel about DIO-that shit's not over yet."
But for now, they are no longer plain old gods. They are gods with adjective. They are bad gods from Hawthorne, Calif.
Dios malos should totally play DIO covers at the Casbah, 9 p.m. on Jan. 26. And sport lycra. $10. 619-232-HELL.