Lex van den Berghe, the self-described "super villain" of "Survivor Africa," says the best thing about his alt-country band, Luckydog, is that brace yourself everyone gets along.
"It's the first time I've been in a band where there is never any arguing and fighting. It feels good," van den Berghe said. "All of us had spent so much time playing we had gotten over the head trips and bullsh-- that usually goes along with having a band. It's been so refreshing because we are all super close friends before we are bandmates."
Van den Berghe, the drummer in Luckydog and third place finisher in "Survivor Africa," called last week from his home in Santa Cruz, California. Until January 10, the day the winner was crowned, he was not allowed to talk to the press, so it has been a whirlwind of interviews since.
When van den Berghe first returned from Africa, a few of the local music scenesters caught word of his adventures on the popular reality show. SpunOut Records, a San Jose label co-owned by Smash Mouth singer Steve Harwell, heard the news and asked for Luckydog's demo. Van den Berghe and his bandmates singer/guitarist John Barrett, guitarist Mike Donio, bassist Mike Jennings and keyboardist Kim Barrett signed with the label and will release their debut album on SpunOut early next month.
"It's kind of ironic when I spent 15 years trying to make it in music, sacrificing everything I had," van den Berghe said. "Now, all of the sudden, this deal came through."
Van den Berghe described Luckydog as a cross between Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, Johnny Cash and a little bit of the Beatles, though he also cites influences ranging from Weezer to Miles Davis.
The members of the band have been friends for 15 years, but they formed Luckydog just a year and a half ago. Van den Berghe said he tried out for "Survivor Africa" for the adventure, not to benefit his band, but that is not going to stop him from using his fame now that he has it.
"I'm hoping now that everything's been blown wide open and people can get in touch with me, some major labels will get in touch with our label and there will be a larger platform to jump from," van den Berghe said.
While the other "Survivor Africa" castaways struggled with things like poor water and food conditions, van den Berghe's biggest struggle was being without music. That changed, however, when he won a pickup truck and was sent to deliver AIDS supplies to a nearby hospital. Off camera, the show's host, Jeff Probst, lent van den Berghe his CD collection for the journey. "I just cranked the tunes as loud as I could," he recalled.
That hospital trip touched van den Berghe, who began planning an AIDS benefit concert as soon as he arrived back in Santa Cruz. The all-ages show, to benefit the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, will be held January 27 at the Santa Cruz Veterans Memorial Building.
At the benefit, "Survivor Africa" fans can bid on artifacts from the show and meet van den Berghe, who is excited for people to see he is not such a bad guy.
"At the end it was all good, but about halfway through the season, my wife was worried, 'Everyone's going to think you're a prick,' " van den Berghe said. "I guess I'd much rather be remembered as the super villain than forgotten as the super hero."