It's easy to write off a local band. Too serious. Excessively cheesy. Too pussy. Extremely corny. Overly libidinous. Exceedingly comical. Just too much.
The thing with Bad Credit is that, even if they were all these things, they're so busy dancing the comedy shtick bolero that you can't get their attention to tell them so.
Everything they're relating to me right now is probably a load of crap. Frontmen Dr. Cliff Mixtable and Optimusrime-their "rap" names-are seated at a small table at Starbucks with no small talk perceptible for miles. We're straight on to talking about hemorrhoids.
"I think your recorder has hemorrhoids-look at that thing sticking out," giggles Optimus. "What about if I seduce it-hey there hot stuff, whatchya doin' later?"
Indicative of how these 20-somethings interact 90 percent of the time, the hemerrhoid thing is a joke (although if you've seen Bad Credit's live shows, humping inanimate objects isn't uncommon).
Mixtable has even described himself as "witty, loud and pale." His demeanor, like his partner's, is daunting but disarmingly silly-the class clown with ne'er a frown, a musical Ron Jeremy without the 40-inch penis or porn career.
Simultaneously lampooning and reveling in the most charming white-guy hip-hop you'll ever encounter, Mixtable, Optimus and their partners in crime-guitarist Methodist Man, drummer Mr. Mapoji and bassist Foot-are halfway to Spinal Tap, halfway to Beastie Boyhood and decidedly nowhere in between.
"We thought of rap names before we actually started the band," says Optimusrime. "It actually all happened in one night. I was sitting there, lying on my couch watching Conan O'Brien and I thought of "Bill Gates Owes Me Five Bucks' and I thought, "Man, that's a really funny freaking song name.'
"Then I was like, "Optimus Prime, Optimusrime,' and I paid tribute to the Transformers. And then I was like, "We should start a hip-hop group called Bad Credit and Cliff was like, "Hell yeah!'
"And since Conan is on late, it all really happened in one day."
"I believe I did say, "Hell yeah,'" Mixtable confirms for verisimilitude, grinning his trademark grin.
On disc, Bad Credit spits and moshes through its own little hip-hop square dance-they've called it "financial hip-hop" in the past-and even performed onstage with a paper shredder, through which they'd feed a box of supposedly unpaid bills. In case you're wondering, Visa bills-especially the pink cancellation variety-make fine confetti.
Their music is a kind of lyrical do-si-do that only people who don't give a rat's ass can pull off. Yet, it's obvious that they care infinitely about their act, their appearance and their music. Selling Bad Credit as a joke band is selling them markedly short.
The band originally got together to fill up an open mic night at the Blarney Stone Pub in Clairemont. Though wholly inexperienced as a band, they were invited back for weekly gigs, where the regulars were giving standing ovations. Somewhere along the way, fluf frontman and everpresent local music figure O rambled into the picture and helped solidify the band's lineup and schedule.
"O is a god on earth," says Optimus. "When you write O, put it in huge print- make it like, the headline."
Halfway into our chat, Mixtable sends Optimus up to the counter for refreshments with a pile of Starbucks certificates. The pile is a conspicuous reminder of Mixtable's "other" job as a disc jockey at Star 100.7 on Sunday evenings. Less than a year ago, he won the radio station's "Search for Super Mouth" contest. His winnings included a one-year contract as a Star jock, with and a $50,000 salary, in addition to dozens of other prizes, including: a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts per week for the entire year, one year's worth of oil changes at Jiffy Lube, a free teeth whitening courtesy of Britesmile, a dinner a month from Outback Steakhouse, one XBox with three video games, a makeover and new wardrobe from Fashion Valley and, yes, a free coffee drink a day from Starbucks for a year.
Apparently, the Starbucks bounty is still flowing.
Mixtable is hesitantly enthusiastic about his Star gig. With a Sunday evening spattering of softy favorites like Michelle Branch, Train and Matchbox Twenty, Star's playlist is hardly his cup of tea. A lack of local music on the station doesn't sit well with him, either. But hidden beneath this negative façade is the opportunity for Mixtable to perfect his on-air personality and stinging for his gigs with Bad Credit.
Mixtable and Optimus know wholeheartedly that they are funny. They are, after all, Bad Credit's secret weapons: vintage clothes-toting gag guys unafraid to perpetrate the campy rhymes and absurd puns in every song of their debut EP.
This is no irony-spoiled novelty. "Bill Gates (he owes me five bucks)" is a wrecking ball of call-and-answer vocals and beats that stands as a mighty indication of Bad Credit's potential.
"This isn't about dressing up and putting your hair in your eyes and acting all emo," says Optimus. "Our music is about listening to and making music that makes you happy."
Bottom line? Just because something makes you smile doesn't mean it's just a joke.
"We're hip-hop, but not really," says Mixtable. "And we're not comedy, because we have such good musicians in our band. We want people to show up and have a smile on their face. Our job, for at least 45 minutes, is to go up there and break our bodies for our audience."
Perhaps the band's most curious endeavor, at least subconsciously, is to taunt the line between having no modesty and having no shame. With every outlandish claim and delirious conversation they spew forth, they are also well aware of their growing popularity in the music community. They were even nominated for an award.
"We got nominated for Best Hip-Hop at the San Diego Music Awards one time, which we thought was funny, but whatever," says Mixtable. "And we lost to a black guy? In the hip-hop category?! Hello. Racism.
"But for reals, we started saying, "What's the point of walking around stressed about getting signed to a label?'" he continues. "Everything that has happened to us has just happened.
"That's why the people that help us are gods. We haven't asked or pursued. They just saw us and believe in what we're doing. And we believe in what we're doing, which makes our band what it is-not a joke."
For more info, visit www.badcredit2000.com.