FAIRFIELD — Musician James Patrick Regan’s path to playing aggressive surf music in the Bay Area trio The Deadlies was circuitous.
The 47-year old Napa resident’s musical resume features decades of clubbing with a local hard rock outfit, a fascination and dedication to Hawaiian traditional/contemporary music. It even includes a stint touring the world with the Romanian National Circus.
“We started The Deadlies about four years ago when the three of us were playing in separate hard-rock bands,” Regan said. “We had played for about 20 years in Bay Area clubs such as the Keystone Berkeley and The Stone and opened for bands like Black Oak Arkansas and Montrose. It got to the point where it was always the same old thing and then there really wasn’t a hard rock scene anymore. So we took some of the aggression of hard rock and punk and started a surf band.”
Bassist Bob St. Laurent and drummer Jim Lang round out the band.
The Deadlies follow in the long tradition of early 1960s artists like Dick Dale, The Chantays and The Ventures that created the soundtrack to wave riders and beach bums. Each of the seasoned musicians brought their accumulated skills to the project and Regan calls their debut disc “Meet The Deadlies” a collaborative solo record for each member.
Like the great surf legends of the past, the band plays mainly instrumental melodic, guitar-heavy rock and roll.
“You know how every rock song has a really good part, like a guitar riff or something? What I try to do is play all the good parts and string them all together,” Regan said. “That doesn’t require a lot of vocals. We are working on a new album and one of the songs has vocals, so we’ll probably name it ‘This is The Song With Vocals’ or something.”’
The Deadlies are the unofficial house band for Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo and have played on July Fourth and other occasions at the theme park. Later this month, they are scheduled to play at the opening of the park’s newest ride called the SkyScreamer, which swings riders in a 98-foot circle at 43 mph while suspended 150 feet off the ground.
In addition to exposure, Six Flags also indirectly helped name the band.
“Initially we were called The Deadly (or Potentially Harmful) Surfinatics, but the Six Flags people didn’t like it because it was too long to put on all their signage,” Regan said. “So they started calling us The Deadlies, it stuck, and we now relish the name.”
The family-friendly nature of The Deadlies’ shows at Six Flags couldn’t be in more stark contrast to their other standing gig, as the house band for independent San Francisco television station KOFY TV’s “Creepy KOFY Movie Time,” which airs 11 p.m. Saturdays.
“Creepy KOFY Movie Time” is related to the late Bob Wilkin’s “Creature Features,” which ran in the 1970s in that it shows movies few would consider classics. A recent offering was 1971’s “The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Woman.”
However, instead of a soft-spoken, cigar-smoking host like the older show, KOFY’s has a frat-boy feel and the hosts are a demon named Balrok and radio DJ No Name. It features bikini-clad dancers, stand-up comedians and The Deadlies playing live before and after commercial breaks. Regan describes it as “Like ‘Wayne’s World’ but in a really creepy way.”
“Creepy KOFY has bands that play during the breaks and we went on as a one-time deal and basically we fell in love with the hosts and they fell in love with us,” Regan said. “So I suggested they adopt the late-night format like Letterman or Leno, where they have a band that plays in and out of the breaks and we’ve done like 70 shows with them now.”
In addition to their regular gigs, The Deadlies do their best to give back to the community. On June 4, the group is slated to appear at the North Bay Get Together Car Show at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo. The proceeds from the show benefit Bay Area-based Swords to Plowshares, a not-for-profit veteran service organization, and Bikers Against Child Abuse.
On June 25 they will play at Six Flags’ annual “A Walk in the Park” event which benefits Oakland’s Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization started by Marie Osmond.
“We also volunteer our time at Expression College for Digital Art in Emeryville,” Regan said. “We go there and play for them and the kids learn how to record. We do that just about every month.”
The art school students returned the favor by crafting a music video for The Deadlies for their song “Teahupo’o.” It features live action, different styles of animation and includes the group playing the song in a replica of the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine van.
“Teahupo’o” is the lead-off track from “Meet The Deadlies” and refers to a huge wave familiar to surfers. While many of the progenitors of the genre never braved the waves, Regan and his bandmates are actually dedicated surfers.
“Growing up, my parents couldn’t always afford the entrance fee to Disneyland and renting surfboards is much cheaper especially when you have three kids,” Regan said. “When I got older I discovered this place called Hawaii where the water is warm. Bob and I try to take our families there every year to surf if we can.”
In addition to the waves and the weather, Regan adopted Polynesian culture in his music as well. Specifically, a Hawaiian style of guitar featuring open tunings known as slack key.
“I studied under Keola Beamer, who is like the impresario of slack key music. I’ve played a lot of different kinds of music like jazz and that ‘oom-pa-pa’ stuff with the Romanian circus and nothing fits me like slack key does. It’s the music in my head,” Regan said. “I still play it at weddings, restaurants and wineries and that’s how I keep it alive.”
While The Deadlies have only been together for four years, paying their dues for so long has increased their capacity for appreciation of what they have achieved.
“The TV show is completely different from playing at Six Flags and that is completely different from recording at Expressions and having Jack Douglas (record producer for Aerosmith, The Who and others) behind the boards and I absolutely love it all,” Regan said. “But if there’s one thing I love above all, it’s when someone just really gets it and enjoys our music.”
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at [email protected]