The local media have always had copious raves for Orange County's Most Wildly Entertaining Band.
Here's what the OC Register had to say at the end of 1999, when it named the Friendly Indians one of Orange County's best bands of the decade:
Although alternative rock, punk and ska yielded the highest number of success stories for area artists this decade, it was those artists who fused power pop and rock n' roll that often made the strongest emotional impact. The Friendly Indians have produced a strong and lasting body of melodic rock since the middle of the decade...
Whether performing at Disneyland, winning over a perplexed crowd at the Block in Orange, or appearing before a their sold out following at Club 369 as part of their annual Christmas Extravaganza earlier this week, how can you go wrong with Orange County's Friendly Indians, a band that's as funny as it is musical? Both on its 1996 debut Greetings...From Lake Dolores and 1999 follow-up, Pure Genius, they play an infectious brand of wry rock."
- OC Register
And LA Times' critic Mike Boehm weighed in just a few months earlier with a stark raving accolade for the Injuns' newest release, PURE GENIUS:
Our Interest in Clean, Crisp Guitar Licks
style grew tiresome through incessant imitation and repetition (R.E.M.
was as guilty as the rest, but in the early '90s, the band began finding
ways to broaden its sound that keep its work interesting even today).
got to the point where the jangle that had seemed so welcome and organic
in the mid-'80s became an excuse, by the late '80s, to tune out Johnny-come-lately
janglers as uninspired hacks, with exceptions for the occasional winning
bit from the likes of the Gin Blossoms and the Connells.
Friendly Indians mainly live and die by the jangle, and--wouldn't you
know it--after guitar rock's recent overdose on punkish distortion and
new-metal's concrete-like heaviness, those clean, crisp, ringing riffs
sound pretty fresh and attractive again.
Meltreger and Stev Franks give as fluent and punchy a rendition of the
old guitar sound as you could ask; Meltreger lends zing with his sharply
etched solos. The Friendly Indians often steer the jangle toward a country
twang, which helps avoid sameness. Franks, the lead singer, has found
a solid synthesis of Stipe-like reediness and Jaggeresque drawl, with
strong harmony support from Meltreger.
is a good role player, coming up with conversational inflections and
idiosyncratic phrasings that make it sound as if characters are communicating,
as opposed to a rock singer singing. Drummer Jason Barrett and bassist
Ken Dusman keep everything moving along cleanly, confidently and with
a good, kinetic spark. The Friendly Indians never make a sonic mess,
and that's nice for a change.
The band has improved in every way over its 1997 debut CD, "Greetings . . . From Lake Delores." The songwriting has become more pointed and colorful. Most of the lyrics are character studies examining the flaws of everyday friends or lovers. But for some reason, I kept thinking there was a cumulative personality profile of Bill Clinton being developed in several songs.
titles including "Spin," about an oily figure who covers up
his/her lies withsmooth talk, and "Acceptance Speech," in
which the protagonist isn't necessarily political but has the politician's
penchant for keeping an enemies list and plotting payback when the opportunity
arises, the Friendly Indians seem to invite the listener to think of
a broader social dimension even though the songs are couched in personal
band has a penchant for novelty songs along with the more serious stuff,
and on "Pure Genius" it pulls off some good ones, which is
no small feat.
Tuesday," set to a shuffling, country-Cajun beat, gives a jaundiced
yet affectionate look at the excess that is New Orleans at Mardi Gras;
"Catalina" is a fun genre exercise--an old-timey, vaudevillian
rag, complete with a sung-through-a-megaphone vocal. "Chupacabras"
melds surf-guitar riffing with Mexican flamenco drama as Franks, singing
in Spanish with overheated, broadly comical theatrics, generates humor
with a streak of real fear attached--like something out of "The
World According to Garp." Chupacabras, the livestock-killing beast
of recent Mexican folklore, becomes a symbol for existential dread over
the general precariousness of life.
most memorable track, unlikely as it might seem, is the silliest novelty
number in the batch. "Ken's Beard" takes a one-joke idea--this
Ken fellow has a really dirty, disgusting mound of facial hair--and
turns it into a marvelous tall tale through the sheer weight of clever,
Barenaked Ladies will kick themselves when they hear this one, and please don't let KROQ get hold of it, lest it thicken the station's already tangled undergrowth of pop novelties.
for rock stardom - again
All kidding aside, this is it. This time. Not last time. That was just a silly introduction. This one will really go places. It's great.
The Friendly Indians have been through this routine before. When the Orange-based group's happy-go-lucky debut, "Greetings ... From Lake Delores," appeared two years ago, local pundits had high hopes for a national breakthrough. Packed with shimmering melodies, a power-pop sensibility and a charmingly goofy sense of humor, the album was a quiet delight.
Soon the local following came - in droves, actually. But the major-label record deal never showed.
"Like any band, you really think the first thing you do is going to go all the way to the top," said guitarist and singer Tim Meltreger, 30. "When you get down to it, we really just wanted to get our name out there, and now that it is we want to build on that."
Such ladder-climbing requires maturing - somewhat. So it is that "Pure Genius," the quartet's follow-up set to premiere tonight at a record-release party at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana, is a far more accomplished album.
we went in, I was thinking, 'God, I hope this one comes out as good as
the first,' " said Stev (pronounced "Steve") Franks, 31,
the band's other guitarist and lead singer. (Bassist Ken Dusman, 28, and
new - and permanent - drummer Jason Barrett, 22, round out the group.)
fact, though the band has been together since 1991, when it formed while
working at Disneyland (the name actually comes from the American Indian
figures on Tom Sawyer Island), Franks says it's only in the past
"It's not like something was missing before," he said. "It's only now that we've become the band we always wanted to be."
success does a bit more than beckon, however, the Indians are still plugging
away at outside careers: Meltreger is a free-lance writer and fourth-grade
teacher in Garden Grove; Dusman continues to develop
There's strategy to be had through such a high-profile leader's contacts, and, Franks noted, "We're certainly going to be more aggressive with this record, in terms of trying to get a record contract from it."
But, he added, laughing, "We are probably the least organized band in the county, and for as large as our following may get, we can just as soon squander it."
part of what makes the Indians so enjoyable is that they aren't so driven.
They seem like ordinary Joes who just happen to know every
that Barenaked Ladies comparison? "I used to worry about it a lot,
much more than the other guys," Meltreger said. "But we're sort
of over it now. I mean, they're great, but it's not like they invented
"With a sound that combines a bit of The Beatles, a touch of The Police, and plenty of Barenaked Ladies, the group is fast becoming one of the sharpest traditional pop acts in O.C."
Ben Wener, OC Register
"The year is young, but The Friendly Indians' debut CD promises to be one of the best releases of '97 - in or apart of the Orange County music scene. The band's spirited music and approach is a far cry from the aggresive and angst-driven rock of many of its contemporaries, but The Friendly Indians have found a welcome niche with songs such as "She Lies" and "Stateline". The Orange band's "If I Was Gay" was featured on KROQ, 106.7.
Robert Kinsler, OC Register
"The Friendly Indians emerged as the day's strongest local entry, offering an engaging set of melodic pop-rock from their likable "Greetings...From Lake Dolores" CD. The emotionally charged "You Sometimes", hard-driving "Stateline" and a thought-provoking blast at stereotypes, "If I Was Gay", were among the Orange County quartet's highlights."
John Roos, LA Times
"Opening the show - and keeping with the night's theme of politically incorrect band names - was Orange County band Friendly Indians. It was the perfect match up, with the Indians' catchy Replacements/Crowded House guitar pop alternating between somewhat serious to just plain goofy.
Guitarist Tim Meltreger's playing was a particular highlight, with his leads barely staying ahead of the band's powerhouse playing. A good portion of the crowd was clearly there to see the Indians, and given time, there would have been a couple of encores."
Mark Brown, OC Register
"Greetings ... From Lake Dolores is more than another independent release from a local band, it's a promising look into the music scene. At a recent live show at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, the band came off as real as possible. They don't seem too pretentious, they enjoy playing and connect well with the crowd. The Friendly Indians are definitely worth checking out."
Marie Loggia, Comcast Online
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