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The Lost Cosby Kids: From left to right: Matty, Howie, Colty (note belt buckle) and Guy Huxtable.

The Mighty Hux

They are the Huxtables, and you still can't fuxtables with them

By Steve Palopoli

Colty Huxtable is discovering that rock & roll is a hard life. You'd think he would have gotten the word by now, considering every band and their brother's band seems to have a song about it. But not Colty's band, not the Huxtables. Not yet. But something tells me they soon will.

The problems began when the Huxtables, a group that reigned for years in the late '90s as the most clever and arguably most fun rock band in Santa Cruz, began planning for their comeback. Long hampered by the fact that three of their members were also part of the top-seeded Santa Cruz band Slow Gherkin, they suddenly found themselves out of its towering shadow when Gherkin called it quits last year. Now they are ready to once again rage on the stage, beginning with a free show at the Teen Center on Friday.

But then, bam! Problem No. 1: Turns out a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons released since the band's hiatus has thrown into limbo one of the band's signature songs, "Dungeon Master," and its in-joke lines, "My life in the fast lane, it rolled right past her/ My baby could not hang with me, dungeon master/ She tried to be the one to break up faster/ But my heart was protected by a low armor class, yeah!"

"Now we have to change it," says Colty, "because in the new edition, armor classes are high. So a high armor class is good and a low armor class is bad. So it's like, do we have to change the lyrics?"

Ah, the pitfalls of geek-rock. You see, while most of us who know anything about (and possibly participated in) nerd culture crack up at the very fact that they were able to get that line in there in the first place, some Huxtables fans actually care whether the reference to D&D armor classes is technically correct. Like Tenacious D says, "Can't decide! Can't decide! Brain aneurysm!"

On the other hand, maybe Colty isn't going to lose too much sleep over this one. "I think we're just going to go for it," he says.

OK, but what about this one? Colty and the other Huxtables--bassist Howie, guitarist Matty and the new drummer, a guy named Guy--are working up a bunch of new songs. Howie works up most of the music (hint: Gherkin fans will remember Howie Huxtable as a certain lead guitarist who once used a much more convincing name) and Colty writes most of the lyrics, with Matty contributing some of both. But Colty's got another problem.

"It is a challenge to not write songs about girls," he says. This from the man who wrote possibly the best rock song ever about Star Wars, "Han Solo" (far superior to Blink 182's "A New Hope"), which features lines like "Leia's his love and he loves her a lot/ 'Cause she's cute and she is friends with all of the ewoks." Other Huxtables songs are about falling in love with a post-person ("Mail Lady") and spending Saturday nights playing video games at the donut shop as an alternative to dating ("Loser's Night Out"), as well as a new song about kleptomania. In fact, the only relatively straight love song the band has begins with the line, "When I met her I said hi/ hi as in high school," and is about an older guy rejoicing that the cute girl he just met isn't jailbait, but is in fact "Twenty."

"'Twenty' was intentionally written to be the crappiest pop lyrics," says Howie, "but we wanted it to be clever somehow so it'd be more interesting."

"Even the motivations behind that songs were pretty cliché," says Colty, "because I had this completely puppy dog crush where you just say all the cheesiest things. But in a weird way that song came so easy. I told [Howie], 'I want to write a song for this girl, help me out,' and I think almost all the lyrics were done that afternoon. We recorded it and I gave it to her on a tape, and I ran away. I ran out of the store, I was so scared."

Howie's having his share of rock & roll quandaries, too, writing songs that fit into the upbeat vibe of a band whose theme song asserts, "We are the Huxtables, and you can't fuxtables with us--no way!"

"The hardest thing now is to write songs that are not too heavy," says Howie. "It needs to fit with the music, it needs to be fun, but you can only scrape the dirt for so long before it's like 'OK, you've got to have a little something in there.' So usually what we end up doing with the lyrics is having something that comes across as real light and poppy, and then try to get a little darkness into it or little twists."

That combination of high-energy vibe and quirky smarts is why it's not unusual to see audiences throw themselves completely into a Huxtables show, even if it's their first time seeing the band. Maybe it's just that even if you don't think yourself to be much like the Huxtables, you can't help rooting for them.

"I'm still really 16 years old in my head," says Colty. "I mean, I still watch Transformers. So it's not hard for me to get into that mindspace. A lot of our songs are certainly more on the juvenile side, but that's how I like to write. It's not like I'm trying to pretend I'm still a teenager--that's still how I think."

The Huxtables play Friday, May 9, at 7pm at the Santa Cruz Teen Center, 125 Laurel St., in Santa Cruz. Jason Webley opens. Free, all ages. For more information, call 831.420.6235.

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From the May 7-14, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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