Hiding out for winter

Local rock band 7th Standard gets ready to spring toward success

7th Standard is left to right: Andy Dibben, Dan Camacho, Jason Mahon, Mike Hernandez.

7th Standard is left to right: Andy Dibben, Dan Camacho, Jason Mahon, Mike Hernandez.

9 p.m. Friday, November 9, at the Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane, Orangevale, with Shortie, Downside and A Burning Water, $7, $8 for minors.

Like it or not, here comes winter. Bears hunker down in caves to await the coming of spring; bear-like guys hunker down in front of television sets to await, well, the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Local rock quartet 7th Standard—which takes its name from a road outside of Bakersfield the drummer stumbled across while driving to Las Vegas—is getting ready to do some cave time, too. Well, not exactly; the band has decided to keep a low profile for a few months, working on new material instead of playing out where people can watch.

“We’re kind of stepping into hibernation to focus on the chemistry of the band, and focus on new songs,” says bassist Mike Hernandez.

The band has been around since 1996, when Hernandez and singer Jason Mahon were attending Florin High in South Sacramento, and drummer Andy Dibben was going to nearby Valley High. Mahon and Hernandez had been playing music, but they hadn’t locked into anything remotely careerist. “We got Andy in ’96,” Mahon says, “and that’s when we began taking it seriously—’cause he was a really good drummer, and we started working really hard on writing better songs and taking it more seriously.”

As a recording act, 7th Standard has three CDs under its belt: A debut, self-titled six-song EP from May ’99; a full-length (11-song) disc, In Orbit Around Us, from November ’99; and another six-song EP, Fire From the Sky, in October 2000. A new guitar player, Dan Camacho, came on board recently. Categorically speaking, 7th Standard plays the kind of radio-friendly post-Nirvana rock that, with a little arm-twisting (or whatever it is that label promotion people do to get those playlist “adds”), could easily find its way into the rotation at modern-rock format stations.

And getting signed to a label appears to be one of 7th Standard’s objectives. The band recently parted with its former management, local promotion company Abstract Entertainment, which Hernandez describes as an amicable split. “I guess we’re extremely confident, as far as individuals, in our music,” he adds. “But we don’t want to end up becoming just another band that had all the potential to reach a national or international level with its music, but who doesn’t take the right step at the right time to get there. So what we’re focusing on right now is getting the artistic side together.”

It’s easy to criticize a group for being excessively focused on “making it,” and 7th Standard might seem to be one whose priorities seem skewed toward following in the footsteps of, say, local radio-rock success story Oleander. All the elements are there, and anyone can log onto the bands Web site (www.7thstandard.com), read about it, listen to MP3s and buy its CDs. But since when is following a path that leads toward commercial success a crime? There’s a huge audience for the kind of big noise that 7th Standard excels in making.

“We like to rock,” Mahon asserts; what comes next flows out of his mouth in an unbroken flow: “We’re basically just a rock band. We have our own style of rock. We’re into a lot of different types of music—we’re into a lot of indie music and popular music. And so we definitely have an edge, but we’re very melodic at the same time. We love melody and lots of vocals.”

The "hibernation" period the band is talking about isn’t completely etched in stone; it may play a show here and there, but its focus will be on writing songs and recording demos. But 7th Standard does have one last show firmed up, and that’s this Friday, November 9, at the Boardwalk in Orangevale.