Meet Dub Thompson. The Agoura Hills-based brainchild of longtime friends Evan Laffer and Matt Pulos makes the kind of oddly cacophonous, noisy groove rock that music purists love to hate. There’s a hint of Can, a touch of The Zombies, and an undeniable Captain Beefheart vibe running through the band’s soon-to-be-released debut; an eight-track offering filled with off-kilter pop experiments that boast titles like “Epicondyles” (a vampy, fuzzed-out musing on personal discontentment) and “Pterodactyls” (about the flying dinosaurs, of course). It also stands to mention that both Laffer and Pulos are just 19 years old.
This Friday, Dub Thompson makes its return to Santa Barbara for an extra-special show as part of the Magic Lantern film series. Below, Laffer and Pulos talk band names, their parents’ record collections, and recording with Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado.
How did you guys meet?
Evan: We met in middle school. We weren’t close friends, though. In high school we had PE together and kind of just started talking about music.
Matt: I heard he played drums.
Evan: Yeah. And I knew he played guitar. At some point we hung out and played them at the same time. We were 14.
What were you listening to at 14 years old?
Evan: Talking Heads. Pretty much only Talking Heads. And They Might Be Giants.
That’s pretty impressive for a 14 year-old. Were your parents really into music?
Evan: Nope. Between the two of us, our dads had a bunch of really lame records that were almost cool. I listened to a lot of XTC. My dad had weird taste in music.
Matt: He liked, like, Oingo Boingo.
Evan: He loves Todd Rundgren, but some of that stuff gets really weird. Within a pretty tame record collection I found some whacky stuff and kind of gravitated towards that.
Were there other bands before Dub Thompson?
Evan: We had a lot of names.
Matt: A lot of fuckin’ names.
Evan: Our first band was called Hot Father. Then we were The Mint Condition, then Nuevo Faves.
Matt: They were all horrible.
Evan: For a while we were known as The Wolf Thompson Band, which was amazing. We played at our high school; that was how we were introduced. Wolf Thompson was the name of the dean of our middle school. He was a 6’4” walking slab of meat who made me cry when I was 11. He made a really great name for a band.
Outside of the high-school gig, were you guys playing shows?
Matt: There were no shows.
Evan: We had a really out-there repertoire. For most of high school, we were really into Can and The Zombies. Liking Can was our excuse to not record anything and just jam and jam and jam.
Matt: We totally did the Can thing where we would just jam until songs happened.
Evan: Even some songs on the new record came out of writing like that.
Can you tell me a bit about recording the album? I know you guys worked with Rado from Foxygen.
Matt: Yeah. We went to this tiny house that Rado was renting in Bloomington, Indiana, and slept on the floor. It was very primitive, really. There was no silverware. We bought a lot of canned food, ate off of children’s plates. But we recorded a bunch of songs. We had no idea if it was an LP or a record or that anybody would ever want to buy it.
Do you have a title? Or a release date?
Matt: We have no idea.
Evan: At first we wanted to call it Soundclown.clown.
Matt: That’s the working title.
Evan: The release date is … springy? The earlier part of 2014, for sure.
How do you describe Dub Thompson’s sound?
Evan: Oh god. The one thing we’ve been saying a lot lately is that it’s kind of impressionistic rock music. It’s very formless, lots of broad strokes of—
Matt: It’s like liquid punk, or something.
Evan: I like “liquid punk.”
Matt: But we can’t really describe it. It’s very listenable, but it’s not really catchy. That doesn’t mean it’s not sexy, though. It’s very sexy.
How about the live show — what does the touring band look like?
Matt: It’s a four piece.
Evan: Matt’s the first piece. He plays guitar and sings. I play the drums. Rado does a lot of keyboards and Rado-y stuff. He’s very much playing the mad scientist role.
Matt: Then we have this 16-year-old prodigy god playing bass.
Evan: He’s an amazing jazz guitarist named Andrew. He’s a total Syd Barrett freak. He’s a junior at our old high school.
Matt: He’s way more mature than I was at that age.
I feel like Calabasas/Westlake/Agoura Hills has a pretty rough track record as far as music is concerned.
Matt: [Laughs.] Foxygen is number one.
Evan: Followed closely by Hoobastank.
Matt: Linkin Park, Incubus, The Neighbourhood — we’re following in that tradition.
Do you feel like you’re part of a music scene down there?
Evan: If anything, we’re part of the S.B. scene. We’re playing shows with Dante Elephante and The Trashberries. … But we did kind of cheat just because we never really played any shows. We played once at our high school, and then we played a sold-out show at The Echo opening for Foxygen.
Matt: Now we’re really going to have to pay our dues, be homeless, play for no one.
What’s next for Dub Thompson?
Evan: The next record is going to be immensely different.
Matt: And way better.
Evan: But as a band, we’re trying to tap into something juicier and more directly weird. Our friend Jackie is kind of the prime scholar on Dub Thompson at the moment. She said, “If you listen to Foxygen, it sounds sweet, but they hate you. With Dub Thompson it sounds really awful, but they love you.”
Dub Thompson plays at Isla Vista Theater (960 Embarcadero del Norte) on Friday, January 10, at 9:30 p.m. with The Trashberries. For info, call (805) 966-3652 or visit facebook.com/coolsummerpresents.