DIOS (MALOS) opening for MATT POND PA at the Mod Club (722 College), Saturday (February 11), 7 pm (6 pm doors). $12.50. 416-588-4663. Rating: NNNNN
What does a fading heavy metal star have in common with an indie band from SoCal?
California's dios (malos) had been making music together and recording as dios for several years when they were hit with a cease-and-desist from the lawyer of hoary hard-rock dinosaur Ronnie James Dio, complaining that the band's name was too similar.
"We thought it was a joke," bassist JP Caballero says. "I don't see some 40-year-old dude with a handlebar moustache and a sleeveless Iron Maiden shirt buying our record at Tower Records and being really unhappy with the fact that's it's not the Dio album he's never heard of. I can't really see a person like that sitting down at a typewriter and writing a concerned-citizen letter and sending it to Dio."
Dio rejected numerous name changes the band offered up, but eventually agreed on dios (malos), which roughly translates as 'bad god.'
"But we're dios. That's how we think of ourselves anyway." Caballero adds that worse things have happened. "Like, McDonald's could try to shut down the band or something," he deadpans. "That wouldn't have been so funny."
Based in Hawthorne, a blue-collar southward suburb of Los Angeles, the quartet attribute their easygoing steez to their locale.
"It's a realistic part of L.A.," Caballero says. "It's not a bunch of people who moved from Kansas to become actors."
As bored high school kids will, dios started playing music together to amuse themselves in their less-than-hip hometown. Their 2004 full-length made some waves, garnering the band a spot in the Coachella Festival and an indie rite of passage in the new millennium: a spin on prime-time teen soap opera The O.C.
The band's second self-titled LP, released in October, is a collection of pretty, hazy pop songs graced with layers of tiny detail and the drawling voice of singer Joel Morales.
Though they cite the Beatles and Beach Boys as influences, Caballero bristles at simplistic comparisons, particularly those characterizing their sound as sunny California pop.
"It's kind of a downer record, I think. It's not very sunny."
Anyway, Caballeros says, trying to categorize them is just a waste of time.
"People are more complex than just liking one thing exclusively. A lot of bands make careers out of having 12 songs on a record that all sound like one song, and even that one song isn't very good. There are a lot of bands that probably bought the second Interpol record and are making a career out of it. For us, it's about stimulation and enjoying yourself, and then maybe thinking about the fact that someone's going to listen to it."
Experimentation, a little heart and some invention inspire the band to fill out their songs with delicate touches that aren't always apparent on first listen.
"People want to look at music like everybody's got this master plan," Caballero opines. "You know, most of the time it's just seeing what comes out, trying out ideas. It's a collection of accidents that just sounds cool."
After their Snow And Desolation Tour, as Caballeros calls it, Dios will begin recording an EP, and soon after, their next album. After taking the opportunity to record their last record in a real studio, the four are eager to return to their lower-fi roots.
"We're going back to the home recording dungeon approach. I call it '24-track cassette tape,' because that's kind of the sound."
Their hands-on style extends to their plans for the future. "We want to put out 7-inches, EPs, records - you know, not being limited to these routines that bands do. We really want to get our fingers in everything."
A demonstration of that enterprising ideal - and of the weirdo dios collective sense of humour - is the band's website, the demented offspring of keyboardist Jimmy Cabeza DeVaca. A bizarre trove of random photos culled from the Internet, animated gifs and a pixellated "virtual dios," the site is like a descent into the mind of a cheerful madman.
Speaking of madmen, they'd better not piss off Ted Nugent next. Dude's got guns - and bows.