Despite the strong surf influence that pervades their music, Ruben Zarate and Kevin Boutin of Dante Elephante agree that they do not fit into the Santa Barbara scene. “There are other bands with similar energy here, but none of them really sound like us,” Boutin told me one sunny afternoon in the back of The Creekside Bar, just one of the dozen or so venues around town that has hosted the four-piece and the first place I saw them perform back in March after the release of their first EP, German Aquatics. My impression that night was of a band focused on fast, guitar-driven songs, with a preternatural ability to hold the attention of the loudest, liveliest room — a survival skill undoubtedly learned in Isla Vista, where they spent their first year as a band, cutting their teeth at house parties.
Perhaps Dante Elephante’s uniqueness to Santa Barbara can be attributed to the fact that only Zarate is a native. Formerly a member of defunct area acts Tigers in the City and Ruby Manslaughter, he met Boutin, Tommy Devoy, and Chris Lopez, all UCSB students at the time, at shows around town in 2010. Within months, they were gigging in I.V. and Ventura and competing in the first annual Downtown Sound Battle of the Bands, where they made it to the final round. Now fully graduated from the house-party scene, Dante Elephante is making tracks all over town: Last year they played with Mad Caddies during New Noise and landed a spot opening for MURS and Mos Def at UCSB’s Springfest. Zarate and Boutin both argue, however, that their crowning moment thus far was their spot at Muddfest in September, which was auspiciously scheduled to coincide with their return from a tour up to Portland.
As for what’s next, Dante Elephante has their sights aimed high: “Our plan is to start working on our full-length record and to start shopping it around to some indie labels,” says Zarate, naming Sub Pop, Secretly Canadian, and Burger Records as their prime targets. In the meantime, catch them while you can at Velvet Jones this Thursday before their recording hibernation begins.