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"We do a song called 'Molly' which Igor wrote for Molly Ringwald because, for a while, he and she were the hot couple in Hollywood. Once they both decided to go into Jack in the Box topless," Garvin marvels. Yet the song sidesteps this alleged controversy and merely repeats her five-letter name over and over. The Zens also close their current live set with "Mack Truck Tracy," traditionally the Dead Brains' big-finish number.

One could see these strictly-for-laughs home recordings taking off with the music underground and Dead Brains following bands like Ween and Jack Logan into the realm of oddball critical faves. Could fiction overtake the Zens' reality?

"We've never thought about doing a Dead Brains live set for real until the other night when Frank didn't show up for practice and I got behind the drums," says Garvin. "We should get an opening gig doing this stuff."

In the meantime, you can catch Zen Lunatics doing its stuff, which includes originals and cheesy covers like "Right Back Where We Started From" by Maxine Nightingale, Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In," the theme from Maude and Lennon's "Imagine" performed as if it were the Beatles' cover of "Act Naturally."

But that's only pulled out when Chris breaks a string. The group also plans a self-released CD for the fall, but given Chris' admission, "We're pretty lazy," it might take longer.

Any band entering its fifth year faces a make-or-break point where outside pressures demand it progress to the next level. Zen Lunatics' endearing inability or unwillingness to meet those demands will have to be addressed at that point when Terry or Chris or (God forbid) Gil will have to do some mandatory schmoozing.

Terry Garvin grudgingly vows he will, but presently is uncertain of whom to schmooze. And why it's even worth it if he's enjoying himself fully now.

So the men from Zen will continue to celebrate the cult of banal TV personalities on their fliers, the funny familiar faces that represent that horror Medusa head known as fame. Possibly, it's their way of saying, "Look, we can't even begin to come near the sphere of influence that a Landon or a Hasselhoff wields, so we're just going to keep doing what makes us happy and steer clear of talking cars and bearded angels, thank you."

"I don't know if I'd want to get in over my head with something like a major-label deal," Garvin says, grimacing. "Just hearing the horror stories from people I know who've gotten signed, it makes it sound really . . . " he pauses to find the exact word.


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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic