The boys in Beats the Hell Out of Me are green! They're babes in the woods of rock! They're new to the ways of the Business, and by that, of course, I mean the Industry! Check this out: When I met the Tempe quintet--guitarists Tom Coffeen and Chris Bailey, bassist Aaron Stewart, singer Mike Pistrui and drummer Eric Rogan--for a lunch/interview at Restaurant Mexico, they tried to pay the check! And then, above my scoffs, they practically begged to be allowed to leave the tip at least.

But they're the first to own up to their innocent ways. Even though the band has been together since '91, slogged through three national, self-booked tours and has just released its second indie-label CD, Rolling Thunder Music (to prove it, the band will host a CD-release party this week) on Metal Blade Records, the members feel that things are only starting to happen for them.

"We haven't had a chance yet to work our albums on the road," says Rogan, who ordered two chicken tacos. "Our debut release on a label [the group had previously put out a cassette and a CD paid for from their own pockets] was last year, and we did not get to support that. Now, it's like we're a new band, we're going out starting fresh. All the work that we've done for the last four years has led up to this point. Now, we're actually a band that's on the road with albums in the store. Now, we're a cog in the wheel."

"I've never felt that way," counters Coffeen, who ordered nothing for lunch, but did manage to freeload teeming handfuls of chips and salsa. "It's such a vast learning process, and there's so much to know about each level of the whole [business] experience. It's like the music itself; it's as deep as you want to make it. I can't say, 'Okay, now we're legitimate'; the process is just so endless."

Unlike many local acts that rarely seem to get outside the Valley--let alone tour nationally--BTHOOM has performed its high-energy/hard-groove/angstcore/postalternative punk (really) with Tempe long lost in the rearview mirror.

"We've played here just a handful of times," Rogan agrees. But why? It's not like they got run out of town or something. "We got fan mail from people from out of state, and I guess we were attracted to the lure of the unknown--and we thought it'd be kinda fun," he says.

Kinda fun, with the accent on kinda. Though BTHOOM has had many a rewarding experience on the road, the greatest lesson can be filed under Learn While You Earn.

"I think a lot of bands [who haven't toured] just don't know the mechanisms to do it," offers Coffeen. "There's not a lot of access to the resources you need to do something like that. You have to figure it out yourself, call clubs, make it happen. It was a big, scary thing for us, we wanted to tour nationally--well, how do you do it? It can be so daunting. I think a lot of people give up before they get started." The band has driven and played--"mainly the Midwest and northern East Coast in stretches of four weeks," Rogan explains. "We'll go to the same places each time, and play 25 to 30 dates."

And in that glorious handful of days when the lads aren't giving it up for the fans, what do they do? "We go see dinosaur bones or the biggest ball of twine in the U.S.," offers Coffeen. "It's the chance to do things like that that make our lives so much better than normal people's."

The quintet is set to take the step that will move it even further from the norm. "We've finally got a booking agent," Rogan reveals, "and we'll be on the road most of the rest of the year. Pretty much everything in our lives is built up so we can get out of town."

And even the most normal of people--parents--are agreeable to the situation. The Beatsmen (all of whom are 26, except for Pistrui, who towers above the others in experience and maturity at 27) claim that the folks from whose loins they sprang have no problems with their babies dropping out of college to work "shitty jobs" and live in low-rent group houses. All for the sake of rock. "Mom and Dad are cool with it," says Rogan. "I don't think anyone's parents have a problem; it's not like we're juvenile delinquents or something."--

Beats the Hell Out of Me is scheduled to perform on Saturday, June 10, at Nile Theater in Mesa, with Dirt Clod Fight, Jesus Chrysler, and Manhole. Showtime is 8 p.m.


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