7th Day Rototiller

Plowing Ahead


7th Day Rototiller cultivates a catchy punk/lounge/exotica hybrid

By Charles McDermid

ONE THING we’ve always wanted to do is give people something to remember us by,” says Justin Paulsen, guitarist and vocalist for 7th Day Rototiller, a theatrical Santa Rosa-based band that’s been known to dress up as milkmen, soda jerks, and gas station attendants for its live shows. “We’ve never done a show that we didn’t have a theme or costumes.

“Music is the main thing, but image is important to have.”

Taking a cue from such late-’70s New Wave bands as Devo, the Rototillers have used costumes, stage props, and progressive marketing tactics to cultivate a cartoonish image that aptly mirrors their unorthodox brand of party music.

“We’re into the campy thing–if it’s campy it’s cool. We’re a serious band, but we don’t ever take ourselves too seriously,” says Paulsen, who formed the band four years ago with drummer Brian Pirkle and bassist Shawn Burrell.

The Rototillers have correctly seen that the realm of self-promotion is changing rapidly. Along with maintaining a photo-laden website, the group undoubtedly has the cleverest promotional material on Sonoma County’s music scene–“eye candy” is the media term. “If we know one thing, it’s that it isn’t just the music, it’s the whole thing–putting a package together that’s entertaining,” says Pirkle, mastermind of the group’s image.

“For the next show, we’re making 7th Day prayer candles in the form of Easter Island heads.”

Fittingly, this zany, tongue-in-cheek exuberance is also evident in the group’s music. The set list for their newly released self-titled debut CD contains, among other comical concerns, an exotic ode to the martini, a song strictly about bacon, and, of course, the localized lament “The Ballad of the 440.”

The Rototiller band careens over the musical map like a drunken sailor–“from punk to lounge, surf to exotica,” as they word it.

“We grab from everywhere we can. Punk, surf instrumentals, everything from Burt Bacharach to White Zombie,” says Pirkle.

CALL IT what you will, the CD, set for release Saturday at a live performance at the Moonlight Restaurant and Bar in Santa Rosa, is pure party music. The opening track, “Drinkin’ Song,” as well as “Overdrive,” and “Sick of the Violence,” is an aggressive pop-punk carryover from the band’s early days as a power trio. In contrast are the bevy of more melodic songs featuring new vocalist Carol Muelrath.

“Our attitude and our diversity are the best things,” says Muelrath. “We such have a range of sounds–there’s always one the crowd can tap into.”

The CD does throw the listener a schizo little twist with the inclusion of several dark and somewhat nihilistic numbers penned by Paulsen. Rearing its head in “Gotta Get out of Here” and “The Taste” is a certain suburban ennui–a lyrical landscape fraught with anger, loneliness, and an air of desperation.

“What can I do?” jokes Paulsen. “There will remain a certain amount of angst for a person living in these times and playing rock and roll.”

If there must be a critical comment, it would be that at times the music can be unchallenging to the listener. However, this is not a CD to be mulled over in the hope of unearthing layers of subtle meaning.

This is intended to be live music, and should be enjoyed fast and loud and as close to the amp as possible.

“Our message is to have fun and enjoy us–nothing political,” says Pirkle.

“We want everybody to have as much fun as we are having.

7th Day Rototiller perform Saturday, Aug. 15, at 9:30 p.m. at the Moonlight Restaurant and Bar, 515 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. The show is a CD release party. Jumbo Shrimp, featuring former Dead Kennedys Klause Fluoride and East Bay Ray, open. Call for cover charge info. 526-2662.

From the August 13-19, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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