Close encounters

Saucer: Pop band or band of murderers?

The group’s mug shot.

The group’s mug shot.

9 p.m. Friday with Machinegreen and Secret Lovers, $7. Blue Lamp, 1400 Alhambra Boulevard.

“Did you get rid of the body?” inquired Eric Williams, vocalist and founder of local pop-rock band Saucer. He wasn’t asking me. I was in the restroom while my tape recorder kept tabs on the conversation unfolding at the table.

“Which one? There were two of them,” responded drummer Brian Nickelson, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.

“I’ll tell you what: They shouldn’t have heckled us. That’s the bottom line; you heckle us, and you get murdered,” Williams declared. The conversation continued in a similar vein for several minutes, with Williams finally prodding Nickelson: “You haven’t had sex with the body, have you?”

His question was greeted with a sly response. “That’s between me and the body.” The next thing heard on the tape is “Shhh! Here she comes!”

Either these guys pose a real threat to society, or they noticed that the tape recorder was on. Given the group dynamics, my vote’s on the latter.

Though Saucer has been around since 1996, Williams has an on-again, off-again relationship with the band, which reformed only six months ago. The new lineup includes Williams, Nickelson, guitarist Shaun Ransom, and bassist Adam Dieter, who wasn’t able to make it to the interview—something about ditching a body in the Las Vegas desert.

It took Williams nearly nine months to assemble his crew. Nickelson came as a recommendation, as did Dieter. Ransom joined the group after responding to an ad Williams placed.

“I had tried out like six guitarists. I got a lot of calls from people saying, ‘I’m into Deep Purple.’ Shit like that,” Williams explained. “[Shaun] was pulling out some Sonic Youth-meets-Billy Corgan stuff, which was really interesting,” he recalled.

Saucer’s sound may have changed throughout its many incarnations, but Williams’ rock-steady dedication to pop music has remained at its core. Nowadays, lots of bands get filed under the pop category, which is a fine place to be as far as Saucer is concerned. The band is the first to admit that it’s not reinventing the wheel.

“We play music to make people happy,” Nickelson offered. “We’re not trying to be deep.”

“I like the two- or three-minute pop song,” explained Williams. “I’m really more into the melody than the words sometimes, but I don’t want you to think that the songs don’t mean anything. It’s just that lately the music has been coming first,” he confessed.

“Joey Santiago has been a big influence on my life,” interjected Ransom, who until that point had remained utterly silent. This influence is perhaps most evident in “Hepburn is Dead,” a slow-trodden song about Audrey Hepburn. Williams’ vocals are much deeper than those of Frank Black, but there’s something distinctly Pixies-esque about the music. Even the delivery of the chorus, in which Williams sings, “I’m going fa-a-ast,” hearkens to Mr. Black. It’s not surprising, considering that both Ransom and Williams speak highly of the band.

“The first Pixies song I heard was ‘Where Is My Mind?’ and I was blown away,” recalled Williams. “I was in my friend’s car, and I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ I had to hear it again.”

Other major influences include Nirvana, Björk, Belle & Sebastian, Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices, and Sonic Youth—a band slated to appear on the season finale of Gilmore Girls.

When asked if, given the opportunity, the band would follow in Sonic Youth’s footsteps by appearing on the popular WB program, Nickelson was quick to respond, “Oh, hell yeah. I totally want to sell out.”

Perhaps fearing he answered too readily, Nickelson promptly added, “I think it would be situational. If Ashlee Simpson was like, ‘Hey, Saucer, come open for me. I’d be like, ‘Uh, I don’t know.’”

“There was a time when selling out meant something,” recalled Williams, a hint of longing for yesterday in his voice. “Nowadays, everyone is doing it.”

The television offers have yet to start coming, but that may change once Saucer releases the EP and full-length album currently in the works. Until then, you’ll have to settle for catching the band live.