Before you fall in love, there's something Wild Weekend needs you to know. They are not a cover band.Sure, they take their name from a song made famous by a late-'70s punk band from Chula Vista. And, yeah, they initially formed as a one-off novelty side project. Oh, now that you mention it, they do play covers of that '70s punk band (The Zeros) at their shows—but not for long.
“We're not going to play Zeros songs anymore,” says vocalist and lead guitarist Maren Parusal in an adamant German accent. “We're just gonna play Wild Weekend from now on and ‘Black and White' [a famous Zeros single]. We're breaking away.”
When I saw them at the Kensington Club recently, they played more covers than that—four, to be exact—but they also played eight originals. And there's more to come.
“We're writing tons of original songs, and it's not just the Zeros shtick anymore,” says Kelly Alvarez, who shares vocal duties with Parusal and also plays rhythm guitar. “It's like a totally different band now.”
She's literally half-right. Since Wild Weekend played their first gig at a coffeehouse 18 months ago, they've swapped out the entire rhythm section. Bassist Cara Bowman, who just turned 21, joined the band in April, and drummer Marcus D'Camp (the lone XX gene in the band) is barely a month in. So much has changed, that even that coffeehouse is gone.
And like most wild weekends, their story has an interesting beginning. Parusal was in Squiddo with former Zeros bassist Hector Penalosa. Every time they played in L.A., there were always kids who wanted to hear Zeros songs. Parusal later got together with original WW bassist Kaitlin Kait-O and drummer “Christy Beats” (both of The Atoms), who later recruited Alvarez, whose label, Sweet Tooth Records, put out WW's first single. Soon, the foursome started practicing Zeros songs.
A novelty at first, the band took off unexpectedly. When Zeros vocalist Robert Lopez (aka “El Vez”) heard them at Bar Pink one night, he recommended they play legendary L.A. punk club The Masque's 30th-anniversary show in The Zeros' stead. Suddenly, there were lots of opportunities for gigs.
“It developed into this really great project,” Parusal says. And it keeps paying off. Their new material isn't quite as bratty as The Zeros, and it has a melodic punk edge. If The Zeros are the Mexican Ramones, Wild Weekend are an all-girl version of The Queers.
But once a gimmick band, always a gimmick band?
Despite the band's matching outfits and gold necklaces, Alvarez remains optimistic that audiences will see more. “Some people are always going to think it's a gimmick. ‘Oh, it's girls playing cute punk music.' But when we get on stage, I think we play really good rock 'n' roll music.”
If anyone can make the switch from an all-girl cover band to a bona fide punk-rock group, albeit a dangerously cute one, it's Wild Weekend. And they're not the only ones who think so. After the accolades from Lopez, Munster Records offered to put out a pair of 7-inch Weekend singles of Zeros covers. Early next year, they're going to record an album of all-original material with Gar Wood from The Night Marchers. Bar Pink co-owner Dan Nguyen is their official manager, and Mario Escovedo from The Dragons is their promoter. Strangely, the only thing they don't have is a throng of groupies.
“Yes,” Parusal laments, “we're still working on groupies. They must be willing to travel to every show.”
Somehow, I don't think that will be a problem. In the meantime, they're focused on transitioning out of a cover band and into something altogether their own.
Bowman, for one, is ready to move on. “I loved The Zeros before I got into this band, but now I can't listen to them.”
No matter how far they go, there will always be audiences who'll want to hear them play Zeros songs. It's as clear as “Black and White.” But the crowd just might have to wait for the encore.
Wild Weekend play with Lady Dottie and the Diamonds, The Silent Comedy and Pant Hoods on Saturday, Sept. 13, at The Casbah. 619-232-HELL. www.myspace.com/wildweekend07.