Poppies, like weeds 

The 88 are everywhere but just try not to like 'em

click to enlarge Space invasion: The 88 are in your head.
  • Space invasion: The 88 are in your head.

On any given evening, flip on prime-time TV; chances are, you'll hear The 88. Going to see a movie? Yes, you might catch the same sunshiny, ubiquitous sound. They're happy, indie-pop rock, and they're, well, everywhere. Prepare for The 88 Invasion.

The 88 started life as a far more bluesy and jam-based band called The Freeloaders, sans current guitarist Brandon Jay. After Jay joined, the band found itself shaped by the influence of its newest member, and the songs became more melodic and far more poppy. Eventually, they put The Freeloaders to bed, rising again with a new sound as The 88.

"We grew and matured," says keyboardist Adam Merrin, speaking in Los Angeles before band rehearsal. "Like anything, you improve with practice, and by continuing to write and record, we grew. It was a natural progression."

Their second album, Over and Over, reflects that growth. Instead of recording each instrument individually, as most bands do, they opted to record together. And while Merrin produced the first album, Kind of Light, Over and Over introduces Ethan Allen, who apparently is not the king of suburban-friendly furniture at all, but a music producer who has worked with fellow Californians Gram Rabbit.

"We definitely approached [Over and Over] differently. Ethan brought out a lot of stuff we wouldn't normally have thought of."

While Allen might have nurtured The 88, the two albums are similar in style. Both sport older, shag-rock influences of the 1960s and '70s, akin to groups such as The Kinks. Indeed, Over and Over is full of free-lovin', feel-good moments, all decidedly catchy and so radio-friendly as to be downright gratuitous.

And thus begins the invasion. Their single "All "Cause of You" is featured in the new movie You, Me and Dupree, and other songs have appeared on myriad TV shows, including "The Real World," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Tuesday Night Book Club."

But the real coup was scoring a Target commercial with their feel-good indie/country stroller "Coming Home," an achievement which, along with the iPod ads, guarantees annoying, always-in-your-head song status.

The 88 Jay, Merrin, vocalist/guitarist Keith Slettedahl, new bassist Adam O'Keefe and new drummer Anthony Zimmitti thrive on their live shows, high promotion on alternative media such as myspace.com, and play on the big and small screens. It's an interesting approach that reflects a new reality in the music industry: A band can win lots of attention and fans while never really scoring many actual radio hits.

"I would love to be able to be on the radio, too, but in the meantime, it's tough to get on the radio," Merrin says. "They're so narrow-minded in what they play. You have to sound like everyone else which isn't the hardest thing to do but we don't want to do that."

And so The 88 are content to coast on the merit of their songwriting. They plan to begin working on a new album, which, says Merrin, may or may not sound like previous recordings. "We're on a wait-and-see schedule now. We're just going to enjoy it."


The 88, with Matt Costa

The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.

Thursday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $10-$12, all ages; visit sodajerkpresents.com.


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