What could four young guys from Salinas and Santa Cruz possibly have in common with one (insert uncontrollable gag here) Paris Hilton? Try a four-story mansion in the Hamptons. No joke. Last summer, the crafty garage rockers in the Mystery Lights enjoyed two weeks pimpin’ it out in an extravagant pad that’s also been used to house the Maiden of Vain. Flown to New York by the band’s Closet Trekkie Records, who signed the quartet after coming across its MySpace, the Lights fulfilled an agenda of playing nine East Coast shows and recording the entire time.
Talk about ironic: the lavish digs were the background for the kind of deliciously dirty, paint-peeling retro riffs that would make Paris jump out of her stacked Versace heels. For a group that’s used to practicing in a little shack in Prunedale, it all came out of nowhere. But then again, the Mystery Lights story has been riddled with randomness from the start. Forming in 2006, frontman/guitarist Mike Brandon explains how even his role at the mic was a surprise. “We started out playing at an auto shop on Commission Street in Salinas but we didn’t have a singer,” he remembers. “Finally, I started singing in a Misfits cover band, and when Joe [Styles, bassist] saw us play he decided I was going to be the singer.” Four years later, Brandon’s shaggy mop and ‘60s snarl leads the Mystery Lights’ Standells’-inspired rock that’s awash with jangly head-boppers, surf guitar rants, psych meanderings and explosive punk tangents that rumble with drummer Steve Ringer’s meaty attacks. Second guitarist L.A. Solano fills out the raw, amp-buzzing havoc. After releasing an 11-track debut, Teenage Catgirls & The Mystery Lightshow, the group’s toured the Northwest with the Luxury Sweets, taken on L.A. and headed to the Big Apple. “We’ve gotten more into punk and my lyrics got into Eastern philosophies a lot,” the singer also notes of the band’s evolution. Playing this week at the Crepe Place with labelmates the Shivas, the Mystery Lights bring one gritty show. And it’s no mystery: expect flying bodies in faded jeans. Leave the heels at home. | Linda Koffman
INFO: 9 p.m. Wed., March 24. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994. themysterylightsmusic.com.