It’s always about sex

Sacramento girl-punk band the Riff Randals saw the Donnas play once and thought, “Aw, we can do that!”

The Riff Randals, ready to rock your high school.

The Riff Randals, ready to rock your high school.

Live! Saturday, September 7 at 9 p.m., CD release party at Old Ironsides, 1901 10 St., $7, with Go National and Sunshine Smile.

You’ve gotta love a band so determined that it comes together before its members even know how to play their instruments. Whoever has access to a drum set had better learn to play the drums. If someone has parents, or maybe a trust account enabling the purchase of a bass amp, they’re the bass player. An arm-wrestling match, coin toss or game of Chutes and Ladders might decide who sings and who gets to be the guitar god—although who owns what is usually the deciding factor.

When determination runs high, lessons get taken and the woodshedding begins. And, in a best-case scenario, a band emerges with a level of excitement and a freshness rarely found in seasoned pros, a band that hasn’t been turned on by its instruments this much since that first clarinet was handed down the sibling chain in grade school.

So it goes with Sacramento’s all-girl punk-rock rowdies, the Riff Randals. Named for the female protagonist, played by P.J. Soles, in the Roger Corman-produced Ramones film Rock ’n’ Roll High School, the Riff Randals formed after bassist Candice saw the Donnas live and said to herself, “Aw, we can do that.” Which she did with Heather, who quickly started learning to play the drums, Katy, who left after getting “tired of singing about sex,” and another girl who failed to show up for practice one too many times.

With Candice writing the majority of the lyrics, it’s good that Katy’s replacement Lory didn’t mind the ever-popular subject of sex. Amazingly, teenage lust stated blatantly—as in the Riff Randals song “Oral Fixation”: “I gotta have it, I really gotta have it!”—becomes almost shocking again when sung convincingly by, well, girls. It’s a fun shock that has led more than one fan to blushing and grinning stupidly.

“There was a guy at one of our shows who said that he was embarrassed about seeing us play because of the kind of stuff we were singing about.” Lory recalls. “He was like, ‘I shouldn’t be liking this!’”

When comparing the sex in the Randals’ music and the sex that Britney Spears uses to sell her products, Lory knows there’s a difference but has a hard time pinning it down.

“They’re using sex to [say] ‘Like me because I’m sexy.’ We’re doing it to say…” she thinks carefully about what the Randals’ message might be. Heather is happy to jump in.

“Don’t be ashamed of your vagina!” she shouts.

Kortnee, the lead guitarist and newest Randal (like the Ramones, the members adopted the band name as a surname), seems delighted. “Your vagina is your friend,” she adds.

Lory smiles, satisfied that the answer is in there somewhere.

Now a solid gang of four with a suitcase full of songs, the Riff Randals are ready to be heard. And, having secured themselves a place in Sacramento’s music scene—as evidenced by well-attended shows, a Jones Award and a Sammie nomination—the Randals’ empire is begging to be expanded.

While they aren’t waiting for MTV to come knocking anytime soon, a little attention from a smaller label might be just the thing.

“I just want to go on tour,” Heather says, noting that she’s the only band member never to have had the romantic experience that makes up life on the road with a rock ’n’ roll band.

“Touring is so great,” Candice, who’s spent some time on the highway, agrees. “I want a label that’s big enough to let us go on tour and support that.”

Currently, the Riff Randals are bringing it to the masses. And, despite their wishes for subsidized tour support, they didn’t need a record label to do it. With a new, self-released CD called Fun in the Sun, produced with the help of legendary Sacramento sourpuss Skid Jones (who worked similar magic with the Skirts), the Riff Randals are living the rock ’n’ roll dream. And they are coming back our way to celebrate. So be there, in the front row, blushing and grinning stupidly.