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Auto Pilot: Not only does the Blueprint car feature a personalized license plate, it also writes their songs and occasionally fills in on drums.

Pop Hard

They've got an upcoming MTV2 video shoot and a squeaky-clean pop image, but Blueprint ain't as innocent as they might seem

By Mike Connor

Blueprint are so utterly and unabashedly pop rock, they're something of an anomaly around these parts. Like, what other Santa Cruz band has a distribution deal with Target and Virgin, or is gearing up for a show with Alysha and Luckydog to shoot a music video for MTV2 at the Vets Hall? This ready-for-MTV foursome of clean-cut rockers may as well scent their CDs with Tommy Hilfiger cologne. Clean, like Paul's grandfather in A Hard Day's Night. And in fact they do work hard together.

"We spend a lot of time together--probably more time you spend with your girlfriend," accuses guitarist Zach Friend, quite inexplicably if I do say so myself.

"We come home, rip off the ties and start promoting," says Friend, who spent last summer working for Sen. Tom Daschle in D.C. "We work 9 to 5 and then 5 to 9 every night."

Oh, really? Then how much time are you spending with your girlfriend, huh, Zach? Huh?

But let's set all these petty insinuations aside and focus on the queer fact that almost all the guys are white collar--Friend is now working at City Hall, lead vocalist Darren McClure works in real estate, drummer Dave Price works as an accountant over the hill, and Julian White, the band's lead guitarist, is the tech guy at a local cheese company. That leaves only Ben Edward, the band's hard-working bassist, who presumably rips off his tie in a totally different context.

"We can't really tell you what the bassist does because it's a family newspaper," teases Friend, "but he's a great dancer."

Yes, we're sure he is. And he probably keeps later hours than the rest of the band, who are trying to live out their rock-star dreams while holding down demanding day jobs.

"We get our work done," says Friend. "Sometimes I'll come back from a gig at 3 in the morning and have to be at work by 8am. You just do it, and hopefully they don't ask us to do anything important that day."

Yeah, and hopefully their bosses aren't reading this story. But if they are, they'll be happy to hear that the band isn't wasting time while they're away from work. They're constantly chatting up record labels in search of a good deal, and they're building up a teenage following with guerrilla tactics, spending plenty of money and hours distributing demos before every show.

But most importantly, they're accumulating plenty of salacious on-the-road tales that make for hilarious storytelling. The artists involved will remain nameless, but the smiles on Friend's and McClure's faces tell me that the stories are real (and do not reek of thinly disguised autobiography, and I would know, 'cause we can smell our own). Without getting into details, let me just say that apparently BJs from midgets aren't just for the cave train anymore.

I'd have blushed to hear that these nice guys had to witness such racy stuff, had I not already memorized the now-infamous line from "Lush," a sing-along song with a "Na na na na na" chorus in which McClure sings, "She rode me like a mustang / All night long to Wu-Tang."

It's a song about a one-night stand, unusual fare on an album that's mostly about good-hearted, boy-next-door romance. Blueprint have nailed that summer-rockin' sound of the '90s alterna-pop band, complete with bright electric guitar verses, crunchy amplified choruses and prominently produced, full-throated vocal hooks. Think Everclear or Deep Blue Something without the phony accent, or Counting Crows and Third Eye Blind without all the suicide drama and whining.

Thankfully, Blueprint sound a whole lot less contrived than any of said bands, sticking to their secret two-chord blueprint, while keeping things a bit rough around the edges and short on the Earnest Guy Next Door™ vocals that plagued '90s alternative rock. While lead vocalist McClure does sound a bit like Adam Duritz, he omits the sensitive pretension and adds an endearing Jay Mascis-esque rawness. He's got one of those imperfect voices that are all the more distinctive and endearing for their imperfections. Plus he keeps the spirit of the late Barry White in his larynx, crooning, "Mmmm, that is some smooth shit," at the end of their EP Maybe Wednesday.

"Catchy" would be a better way to describe this shit ... but it makes for a disturbing visual. Ewwww!


Blueprint perform with Luckydog, Alysha, 300 Pounds and Gimik on Friday, July 25, at the Vets Hall, 846 Front St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $10 adv (available at Streetlight)/$12 door. Doors open at 8pm.

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From the July 23-30, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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