There are songs about Goleta, and almost all of them are disparaging. Take the track “Goleta” by ska band Mad Caddies, which repeatedly describes the town as “not the place I wanna be.” Or Camper van Beethoven’s “(Don’t You Go To) Goleta,” an upbeat little number depicting the seaside community as a playground for “fascist rich kids.” And let’s not forget Lagwagon’s creatively titled ditty “Lag Wagon,” a blistering condemnation of Goleta’s “small-town minds” and culture of “beer bongs and bong hits.”
But here to redeem Goleta’s musical reputation at long last comes the band Queentide and their bass-driven earworm “West Goleta,” a loving tribute to the incomparable charms of gentlemen who exit the freeway at Storke Road. “Out on the street / there’s lots of boys I get to meet,” croons lead singer Madeline Dahm, “but there’s nobody that’s as sweet / as those boys out in west Goleta.” It’s a bouncy, celebratory tune that romanticizes sandy hands and sticky tar, name checks Devereux Slough, and compels the listener to “keep Goleta country!” As a boy from north-central Goleta, I humbly nominate it as the city’s official anthem.
Formed in 2019, Queentide is a collective of creative polymaths, artists, and surfers who first cut their teeth performing at venues like M. Special and SOhO. The band identifies its music as “porch rock,” a description meant literally — early rehearsals occurred on the front stoop of their Westside rental — and one that belies the complexity and seriousness of their work; twee hipsterism it is not.
Lyrically, Queentide’s songs explore a broad range of human experience, from the paralyzing infatuation of “Sliver of Moon” (“It’s time to get out of my dreams / I’m scratching you out of the scenes / rewind / I’d like to reclaim my mind”) to the Pixies-esque “Sticky Salty,” an ode to post-coital contentment: “We wake up warm / we wake up slow / fingers sticky, salty, low.”
Others speak to a kind of agitated restlessness, including gothic surf rocker “Seasick” (“Home’s feeling pretty far / guess I’ll move into my car / staying still’s a little hard”) and the recently released folk-pop single “Filled with Water,” on which guitarist Cameron Crabtree’s beautifully lilting melody contrasts with a sentiment of discomfort: “Sometimes I feel like heading straight for the hills / because something ain’t right when I’m sleeping at night / it ain’t home.”
“I wrote ‘Filled with Water’ on the other side of the world,” explains Dahm, “thinking about missing Santa Barbara, missing the ocean, and coming back and being like ‘Oh wait, it’s not all perfect here’ because you have new situations that arise.”
Indeed, unexpected complications have challenged the group from the outset. Not long after Queentide’s formation, when the band was beginning to hit its stride and had booked a full slate of shows, Dahm was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It was hard, and I was really bald and doing chemotherapy,” Dahm recalled. “The day after my chemo, I’d be lying sideways on the couch with the mic stand propped up, practicing. And then we’d go play our show and all the chemo nausea would go away.”
The experience would inspire “The Situation,” a shouty stomper featuring what is surely one of the American songbook’s finest raps about a malignant growth, penned and delivered by singer Bela Lafferty: “She’s got herself a situation / from the inception of a mutation / No amount of meditation could affect this cancerous creation.”
Now cancer-free, Dahm is eager to return to the stage with her bandmates. But the pandemic has impeded matters, putting a strain on rehearsals and resulting in the cancelation of a scheduled tour throughout the Bay Area.
“Everything just stopped, and it was sad for a while,” explained Dahm. “But there was a certain tipping point we reached when it was like, there’s not going to be live music for a long time. Maybe we can use this time productively and learn how to record ourselves.”
The band is currently self-producing a new album and, in keeping with their lo-fi DIY ethos (drummer Diego Melgoza and bassist Emma Vogan provide Queentide’s cover art), recording it in their makeshift home studio. The hope is that the record will drop in late spring of this year, followed by the opportunity to regale hometown crowds once again with songs about the ineffable appeal of Ellwood boys.
As for the tunes that portray Goleta in a less-than-flattering light, Dahm has a theory that those denigrations are merely a ruse: “All these people know that Goleta is the hot spot, and they’re just trying to deter others from coming here!”