Semper hi-fi

Sacto power-pop trio the Mallrats are looking for a few good punk-rock girls

Smoke break on the stairwell! Up for a bit with the Mallrats, (from left to right) Ted Angel, Adam Miller and Steele Strella (with fag).

Smoke break on the stairwell! Up for a bit with the Mallrats, (from left to right) Ted Angel, Adam Miller and Steele Strella (with fag).

Live! Record release show 9 p.m. Friday, September 20, at the Boardwalk, 9426 Greenback Lane, Orangevale, $8. With the Riff Randals, the Helper Monkeys and the Knockoffs.

America is at war with an invisible enemy, First Amendment rights are being thrown out the window and our failed-businessman president and his draft-dodging advisers are threatening war against Iraq, but don’t tell that to the Mallrats, Sacramento’s answer to Brit-influenced power pop.

“The songs are about girls,” says guitarist and singer Ted Angel. “Cute punk-rock girls. I don’t give a shit about political stuff for the most part, so I just write about the things that I go through with girls.”

The Mallrats have been signed to Germany’s Screaming Apple Records and their release Fall In Love All Over Again With… is a power-pop love fest of ringing Rickenbacker guitars and Vox amplifiers, snappy, hook-filled songs about—what else?—girls. Deeply influenced by British bands the Jam, the Who, the Buzzcocks and the Undertones, as well as Elvis Costello, the Mallrats also declare influence by some bands from the colonies, specifically Minneapolis groups the Replacements and Hüsker Dü.

“I just became a huge fan of all that underground power-pop stuff,” says Angel.

The Mallrats, fronted by Angel, also include the muscular rhythm section of bassist Adam Miller and drummer Steele Strella. Everyone in the band contributes to writing and vocals, adding a fullness that goes beyond a normal three-piece group. Prone to performing in tailored suits and ties, the Mallrats strike an impressive image of serious young men who play loud rock music.

“The idea to wear suits and stuff wasn’t premeditated,” says Angel, “but it just came out that way. I searched far and wide to find my suit, so I want to get my money out of it.”

They look totally at home onstage, sweating in attire that is usually associated with business, but the Mallrats mean business when it comes to their music. Angel’s fans and friends often comment on how serious he is onstage.

“I sometimes make a conscious effort to not look angry,” says Angel, “because people say that I look pissed off when I’m playing.”

Angel, who was raised in an unspecified small Delta town, was the typical small-town outcast, who was fascinated by music 6,000 miles away. A few years ago he started Slaphappy Records, releasing records by the Secretions and the Knockoffs; and two compilations, Being In a Band Doesn’t Really Get You Girls and Holy Gobstompers, Batman—Another Compilation That Maximum Rock and Roll Won’t Like. Losing $10,000 in the process, Angel decided he was better off just playing guitar and writing songs. He recently bought his dream guitar, a Rickenbacker 330.

“When I first started getting into guitars,” says Angel, “I went into this guitar store, and it was the guitar that I wanted. It took me 10 years to get it, but I finally got one. I love the look and the chiming bell sound to them.”

To add further to that Brit sound, he used some of his student-loan money to buy a Vox amplifier. “I wanted one of those really bad after I got my Rickenbacker,” says Angel. “So, when my student loan came in, I tracked one down in Texas for $1,300.”

Both Angel and Miller have side projects: Angel stepped in this summer on second guitar and keyboards for the legendary Mr. T Experience, and Miller has his own band, Sunshine Smile. This doesn’t sit well for drummer Steele Strella.

“I’m not down with the side projects,” says Strella. “It’d be nice to spend time on this band, because we have potential for world domination—or at least Europe.”

With their shiny guitars, loud and catchy melodies and movie-star good looks, the Mallrats are as timeless as no-bullshit rock ’n’ roll can get, but that doesn’t mean you’d want your daughter or sister to date one.