Buck-O-Nine Sinks Its Teeth Into American Radio

Album art from Buck-O-Nine's 28 Teeth.

Perhaps not since Elvis Costello's lambasting of the British

airwaves with "Radio, Radio" has anyone aimed joyful contempt toward the FM

dial like San Diego's Buck-O-Nine. Just as Costello's invective was particular

to the U.K.'s programming of the late '70s, Buck-0-Nine's "What Happened To My

Radio," from their recently released 28 Teeth (TVT Records), targets

ultra-formatted American stations in the 1990s.

"It's been ten minutes

since they played this song," deadpans singer Jon Pebsworth, before wondering,

"Is it the band with the one word name? I get so confused, they all sound the


In conversation, Pebsworth comes across as considerably less

vehement toward the airwaves. "I listen to the radio and watch MTV," he told

ATN, "and I think that their programming is pretty sad." The singer maintains

fond memories of Los Angeles' KROQ station. That's where, as a young kid, he

first heard the ska groups that would influence Buck-0-Nine, bands such as the

Specials, the English Beat, and Madness. KROQ also offered a steady diet of new

wave acts such as Wall of Voodoo, whose "Mexican Radio" gets a subtle tip of

the hat from Pebsworth on "What Happened To My Radio."

28 Teeth

marks Buck-0-Nine's third full-length outing, following releases for both the

Immune and Taang! labels. While "Jennifer's Cold" features a sarcasm similar to

"What Happened To My Radio," much of the album is dedicated to musically upbeat

ruminations on failed relationships ("Albuquerque," "Tear Jerky") or youthful

malaise ("28 Teeth," "You Go You're Gone"). Best of all are Pebsworth's gleeful

celebrations of a music-filled world on songs such as "Record Store" and the

band's finest attempt at radio salvation, "My Town."

For all his fretting

about the state of airwaves...

For all his fretting about the state of airwaves,

Pebsworth holds out hope for his favorite medium, largely because American

stations are finally beginning to play ska and ska-influenced bands like No

Doubt, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Reel Big Fish. "I'm really glad to see some

of the bands that we've played with over the years start to become successful

on a little bit higher level than just the underground. I think it's great."

He calls the knee-jerk shunning of groups that finally get their radio due

"a burn." "I think that Green Day and those types of bands should have that

type of exposure because they're so good," Pebsworth says. "They should be

allowed to be heard by more than just your underground punk kid. I'm totally

into it. I'd rather turn on the radio and hear the Bosstones, the Suicide

Machines, Less Than Jake, and Reel Big Fish than listen to the Verve Pipe and

Fountains of Wayne."

Buck-0-Nine took shape five years ago under the

initiative of bass player Scott Kennerly, who first recruited sax player Craig

Arnold. A few well-placed classified ads boosted the membership with Pebsworth,

guitarist Jonas Kleiner, drummer Steve Bauer, and trombone player Dan Albert.

Albert in turn brought in friend Tony Curry on trumpet to complete the band's

horn section.

Pebsworth concedes that he doesn't actually know why the

price of $1.09 was chosen as the group's moniker. "The band was named before I

was in, so I get mixed stories; I don't honestly have the real reason why we

chose the name. But the story that we made up is that we all pitched in our

money for beer one night, and that's what we came up with."

It's a long way

from coming up short on beer money to cutting a record with Nick Green, best

known for engineering Green Day's break through Dookie album. Shortly

after Buck-0-Nine signed with TVT Records, the label asked them to put together

a wish list of producers whose work they liked. One of their choices was King,

who, it's interesting to note, learned the studio ropes as second engineer for

Elvis Costello and Madness. King took a liking to the Buck-0-Nine demos, and

the match was made.

Producer David Kershenbaum was similarly impressed

with the band's tapes, and in the end he produced 28 Teeth's title

track. Kershenbaum had at one time produced new wave angry man Joe Jackson, but

it was actually King who suggested that Buck-0-Nine cover one of Jackson's

songs. The band worked on several numbers, and "I'm The Man" ended up on 28


Though their take on Jackson's song is credible, Buck-0-Nine's

real strength lies in its own material. "My Town"--with its exaltation of

beaches, skateboards, black and tans, and record collections--should play

particularly well when the band takes the stage for half-dozen stops with this

summer's Warped tour.

Pebsworth, who was born in L.A., says the tune is

actually about his second homestead, San Diego. "I should sing, 'My adopted

my town,'" he jokes. That's all the better reason for taking it to someone

else's burgh.