|The Earwigs, from left, singer-guitarist Michael Ubaldini, guitarist Ashton Raco-Rands, bassist Tom Hughes and drummer Dave Reed. Photo: Robert Kinsler|
Long before Ireland's new sensation the Strypes began mixing retro-rock and R&B, Orange County's own Earwigs were blending '60s blues-rock and '70s punk into a riotous brew that predates everyone from Australian outfit the Vines and England's winning Arctic Monkeys.
Back in the early '80s, the group of Fountain Valley teens, led by singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini, blasted out of the gates and became one of the best-known regional bands of the era. Now, for the first time since 2003, the Earwigs are reuniting to play two special shows.
Frontman Ubaldini, who has since developed into a local Americana favorite, will be joined by original members Ashton Raco-Rands (guitar), Tom Hughes (bass) and Dave Reed (drums) as well as guest bassist Jerry Adamowicz to tear through the band's timeless, hard-hitting sound, a melodious collision between the Yardbirds, the early Stones, the Clash and Big Star.
Getting back together, Ubaldini explained at a recent rehearsal, is "kind of a response to the vinyl 45 we put out that is now selling for up to $400 online." That single, with "She's So Naive" on the A-side and "Here Come the Earwigs" on the flip, was released in 1982. "We didn't sound like any other bands from that period; we had our own sound."
Added Raco-Rands: "It's like magic when we get together."
Because the Earwigs' sonics have always been centered on solid rock 'n' roll songcraft and performed in a universe apart from synthesizers and style-minded trends (from mod to techno to you-name-it), the band's cataog continues to be contemporary, attracting more young fans thanks to online availability and YouTube clips.
"One of the things I'm proud of is the songs are not dated," Ubaldini said. "People from back then still remember the songs and the spirit of artistic rebellion."
In addition to the material on their lone commercial release from Rock-A-Mod Records, the Earwigs will tear through a number of other originals and reworked tunes at these shows.
"I've always loved these guys," Reed said of the Earwigs' chemistry. "I thought we always played music really well together."
Because of the success of both Ubaldini's solo career, dating back to the early '90s and including stints opening for Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams, along with his current country project, Michael and the Lonesome Playboys, the Earwigs only occasionally get together. The outfit's May dates could well be the last chance to see this lineup.
A group that once headlined the Cuckoo's Nest in Costa Mesa, Radio City in Anaheim and the legendary Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, the Earwigs will present their studio recordings (completed in 1981) on a CD available at these gigs, though Ubaldini noted several labels are interested in issuing them on vinyl.
"The only reason I want to do it is because it's still relevant," Ubaldini said of bringing the band back, though as Reed put it, "We're just four guys playing their instruments."
The Earwigs perform twice in Huntington Beach: 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, at TKO Records, 21405 Brookhurst St.; and at 9 p.m. on May 9 at Fitzgerald's, 19171 Magnolia St. Click here for more details.