SANTA MONICA, California — The 88 have worn street clothes to one show. It was Halloween.
"And we looked so terrible," said drummer Anthony Zimmitti, who, like his bandmates in the L.A. pop-rock fivesome, routinely performs in a suit. "In fact, a friend of ours overheard a comment saying, 'These guys are great, but they don't even look like a band.' "
Looks, of course, come second to the music, and in that department, there's no question the 88 have it together. Tastemaking California radio stations KCRW-FM and Indie 103.1 are both supporters, and the band's music has appeared on "The O.C." (four episodes), "Grey's Anatomy," "One Tree Hill," "Laguna Beach" and "The Real World," as well as several late-night talk shows.
And that's all without a major label.
"It's nice to know that that can happen, that it's not like the record company tells them to put this band on the show or whatever," frontman Keith Slettedahl said. "I mean, we slept with a few people, but ... just that someone could like your band and call you up and get you on the show, you know?"
Sleeping around aside, the 88 actually got their break when a sampler they were handing out outside of a show landed in the hands of an "O.C." music supervisor. From there, it's been like a snowball rolling through Hollywood.
"We didn't have any idea we would become the TV band that we have," Slettedahl said. "I mean, we definitely didn't set out to do that."
"Hopefully they'll seek out who they're hearing on the television show, even if it's something in the background or whatever," guitarist Brandon Jay added. "It just exposes us to a larger audience."
Along with infiltrating the world of TV, the 88 also recorded a cover of Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" for the Sarah Jessica Parker comedy "Failure to Launch" and lent their tunes to a Target commercial and a certain daytime talk show.
"My mom watches '[Live With] Regis [& Kelly],' and every time it plays, she calls me: 'You were on 'Regis' this morning!' " Slettedahl said, laughing.
"I would have never been like, when we recorded the song, 'Oh man! Reg is gonna die for this one,' but we're like, 'That's phenomenal!' " Jay added. " 'Cause so many people watch that show that wouldn't necessarily come and see us play at the Troubadour or wouldn't even leave the house to check out any music."
For the 88's next feat, the band will be full-on guests on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," performing three songs, including a cover of the Violent Femmes' "Good Feeling."
"Originally, it was supposed to be [the band playing the part of] Jazz Freddy and the Rock Lobsters or something like that, so I was just dreading it," said Slettedahl, who has a speaking role in the episode. "And then they actually changed it to the 88."
The guys lip-synced their performance for cameras, but producers on the show asked them to play a full set for the cast and crew during lunch.
"I was amazed at how while we were playing, how different I felt," Slettedahl said. "I felt completely comfortable, 'Oh yeah, this is what we do,' and then as soon as we stopped playing, we're like, 'Oh my God! Where am I?' "
"I think it was having his own trailer that really relaxed him," Zimmitti joked. " 'Cause we were all in one."
"Well, he was nice and snuck us some food," pianist Adam Merrin added.
The "How I Met Your Mother" episode airs Monday. In the meantime, the 88 are hitting the road with Matt Costa (see "Matt Costa Credits Career To No Doubt's Tom Dumont — And A Broken Leg") beginning April 30, which means there's some important work to be done before then.
"We have to plan everything around when we can actually make it to the dry cleaner to get [the suits] cleaned," Zimmitti said. "We're tryin' to reach out to Armani and all that 'cause a lot of bands get, like, the Vans endorsement, but we're lookin' for the Gucci endorsement."
He jokes, but to the band, looking good is worth the dry-cleaning bill.
"When we started off, we really loved a lot of the old jazz guys and the old blues guys, and we liked the way they looked and wanted to emulate them," Slettedahl said. "We also feel like when we play, it should be a special thing, not just like, 'Yeah, we rolled up on the stage, I guess we'll play.' We want to make it more of an event and a show. That being said, sometimes it would be nice not to wear 'em."
The 88 and Matt Costa tour dates, according to the 88's publicist:
- 4/30 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room
- 5/1- Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
- 5/3 - Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room
- 5/4 - Austin, TX @ Stubb's Barbeque
- 5/5 - Houston, TX @ Mucky Duck
- 5/7 - Lawrence, KS @ The Bottleneck
- 5/8 - St. Louis, MO @ Blueberry Hill's Duck Room
- 5/9 - Chicago, IL @ Schubas
- 5/10 - Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
- 5/11 - Toronto, ON @ Opera House
- 5/13 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Lounge
- 5/14 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
- 5/16 - Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar
- 5/17 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
- 5/18 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Cafe
- 5/19 - Indianapolis, IN @ Radio Radio