After the Bell Rings

It is one of those just great time slots clubs bestow upon local bands: Sunday, midnight. It's the end of the weekend and the rooms are desolate, a couple of disinterested pool players and one bored bartender. A few dedicated fans. And most likely, the band's cut of the door money is based on head count.

Considering all this, I'm not a little surprised when I come across a band still enthusiastic to play under those conditions. But that's exactly what I saw on a recent evening with Excessive, a foursome exuding eagerness when they step on stage and crack out their garage brand of rock and roll.

Actually, this was the second time I saw the enthusiasm these guys have for the music. The first was back in school during Jazz Band 101, where I played next to brothers Fritz and Eric Dorigo. Jazz class was one of those things in life where you find out if you can really cut it without the aid of massive distortion and oversize amplifiers.

Outside the classroom, guitarist Fritz and drummer Eric were busy jamming in their Pembroke Pines garage with singer Kelly Meister and bassist Vinny Pereira. They called themselves XSF before spelling it out for those clubs that couldn't get the three letters right in print advertisements.

Since those beginnings in 1988, the members of the group have gone beyond Jazz Band 101. They released their first tape, Experience the Ritual, in '88, following up in '92 with Doodles. Last year they were included on the second Washington Square live compilation CD and released their own, nine-song disc, Today.

That last was an opportunity for the members to gain studio experience and they took full advantage, cutting tracks at Studio 13 as well as Hollywood and Sync studios. At first they went for a raw, live sound, recording in one take, Fritz switching from lead to rhythm on his guitar. Though renowned for his boardwork on any number of live, raw recordings, producer Rat Bastard, with whom they worked at Sync, pointed the band in a different direction and brought a distinction to the sound quality of the cuts. Songs such as "Far Away," "Washing Over Me," and "Today" mark a turning point in the growth of Excessive. "The stuff Rat produced was a lot different," says Fritz. "With Rat, I was encouraged to experiment with different guitars to get 'thin' or 'fat' sounds, and I also doubled and tripled some of the parts."

There's quite a difference between this and the band's stage sound. Though Fritz can kick back and solo when he wants to, he tends to shy from extensive solos live. "Growing up, my brother and I would jam," he says. "But because he was a drummer, I wouldn't play lead too much, it wasn't really fun. Besides, people in clubs don't really give a shit about the band, so I say play sloppy and keep it full."

For more than a year the group was handled by noted manager John Tovar, but he let them go in September. According to the band, Tovar had done what he could for the outfit on a local level. And while they haven't found a new manager, they've made efforts at self-promotion: their own fanzine, booking gigs, playing benefits for abused children, diabetes, AIDS research.

All of this has brought them a somewhat jaded view of South Florida's music scene. It's a variation on the theme A Naked Rhythm's success in Germany, Vandal's travels to California, and so on. Excessive has found club support across the state, over in the Tampa area. "The bands there get both radio and club support," Fritz says. "Over here, for every place like Plus Five that features local bands, there are ten Bajas that don't."

Although South Florida may not be the beginning of the yellow brick road to Warner Bros., Excessive has taken some steps toward Oz. They won a "battle of the bands" at the Plus Five in February, adding $1000 to their coffers.

That's policy A when they do earn some money, the members of Excessive don't blow the wad on breakfast at Denny's. Everything goes back into the struggle A the next step is a return to Sync in a few weeks to cut a four-track demo they'll send to labels. "Musically, I consider the band decent," says Fritz. "I know I try to give a good show. If we really put our butts on the line, we could make things happen."

But if the record deal doesn't happen, Excessive isn't about to let the business kill the music. The members have full-time jobs and various other endeavors. Eric Dorigo attends Barry University, mixing percussion and ensemble classes with the pursuit of a degree in marketing. Brother Fritz, who graduated from Barry in '92 with a bachelor's in music management, is teaching music full time at the Associated Schools of Music in Cooper City and plans to attend law school in the fall, specializing in entertainment and constitutional law.

The band isn't being put aside, it's being put in perspective. "We're not political, suicidal, evil, or controversial," offers Fritz. "The only thing we claim to be is a rock and roll band. We don't want to be the next Pearl Jam, we just want to play."

Excessive performs tomorrow (Friday) at midnight at Celblock, 902 E Sample Rd, Pompano Beach, 785-4545; tickets are $3 and $5; and Sunday at 11:00 p.m. at Chili Pepper, 621 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, 531-9661, tickets are $5.

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Christina Henriques