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In establishing its signature ethereal grooves, the band frequently goes beyond its traditional setup of two guitars, bass and drums, and peppers its sound with myriad instruments and sonic doodads. The weapons range from a Fender Rhodes to a cheap Casio -- whatever, they say, fits the moment and mood best.

"You know, it's not like we're gonna get rich off of this band," offers Wendt. "So we might as well play whatever we want to play. Even if it's a little weird."

"Yeah," pipes up Block in mock anger, as the others collapse in gales of laughter, "we're gonna do whatever we want to do -- quote me on that."

New California is currently in the final stages of mixing a five-song EP titled Ego-A-Go-Go. The band has spent several stretches over the past three months recording at Glendale's Gray Room studio (home to west-side twangers Juarez). Marschall -- who works at the Gray Room part-time -- has been handling engineering and mixing chores. Before arriving in town, Marschall earned a music degree from the University of Colorado at Denver ("Bachelor of Science and Music, with an emphasis in audio engineering. I just love saying that," he chides). His major credits include work on The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone for Elephant 6 combo The Apples in Stereo.

"You did that?" asks Block of the spectacularly ornate pop platter. "Damn, why don't our records sound that good?"

As to New California's own effort, Block says the group's current recording, which has proved a fairly consuming project for an indie band on a shoestring budget, is an exercise in discipline.

"The idea behind this recording is that we've consciously been taking our time. We decided that we were going to make sure any sound we heard, we captured. And not -- as I've been doing my whole life -- half-assing through it. We're really proud of what we've got and we're not even done yet."

Three of the five tracks ("Ego-A-Go-Go," "Una Ventura Loca," "Dark Vulture Skies") were also recorded during the A Starlit Pond sessions, while the other two ("Made of Lies," "Silver Jews") are being tackled for the first time.

The band is hoping to have the disc in stores by late fall. Austin, Texas-based indie imprint Six Gun Lover (home to Rhythm of Black Lines and Cassius Clay, among others) has already expressed interest in releasing it along with a follow-up single, a two-fer of fresh cuts "In Blue" and "New Shiny Things."

Despite a very low-key career that's included stints in little (but fondly) remembered combos like Zipperback Monster and Champion, the normally nonplussed Block seems content, even happy with chemistry and direction of his current ensemble.

"This is the best band I've been in. I've been kicking around in bands for a decade and this is it for me. I'm just very proud to be able to play with them," he offers earnestly, even movingly, before turning to Henley and asking, "Can I kiss your cheek?"

The band's upcoming plans include a trip to California next month where it's set to open up a sold-out theater show for Jimmy Eat World. In the meantime, the group is slated to play Modified this weekend, where Block promises the band will unveil a cover of Echo and the Bunnymen's "Bring On the Dancing Horses" from the John Hughes flick Pretty in Pink.

"We're not doing it because of the movie, though," he insists. "We're doing it 'cause it's a great song."

"Well," hesitates Henley, "I might be doing it for the movie."

"In that case, we're doing it for Duckie," jokes Block, referencing Jon Cryer's hapless character from the film. "Really, though, it's a good song. It's sexy music. And we're trying to be more sexy."

New California is scheduled to perform on Saturday, July 28, at Modified, with Scott Tennant, Jason Watt, and Plus One. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Into the Sunset: This week Mesa's Sunset Alliance label, which has previously dropped EPs from Fivespeed and full-lengths from Stereotyperider and Redfield, debuts a triple split featuring Fivespeed, Before Braille and Andherson.

Fivespeed -- fresh off a slot opening at Jimmy Eat World's Web Theatre show -- kicks things off with a trifecta of pop-punk-fueled blasts, produced by the sonic brain trust of Bob Hoag and Kevin Scanlon, of the now-defunct Pollen. The highlight of its torrid turn comes with the rousing opener "Blood Over Wine." The group is currently recording a full-length with Mind's Eye Digital studio chief and Bionic Jive guitarist Larry Elyea. Word is that Interscope Records (not-so-coincidentally home to Bionic Jive) is looking closely at Fivespeed, having sent A&R reps out to the July 23 Web Theatre gig.

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Bob Mehr
Contact: Bob Mehr