They Don't Surf
And neither can you - Atomic 7's intro-rock rises above kitsch conventions

With the Black Coffee Cowboys
Fri, June 3, The Sidetrack Café (10333-112 St), info: 421-1326

After close to two decades playing stripped down instrumental rock, guitarist Brian Connelly of Atomic 7 knows just what he's looking for when he goes searching for new bandmates.

"As for picking guys, mostly I go by people's record collections - that's the tell-all of people's musical tastes I think," Connelly says. "If they had Mickey Baker's The Wildest Guitar, I would dip them in bronze and put them on my mantelpiece, because that's my favourite record of all time, practically."

If you look on Connelly's mantelpiece these days you'll find drummer Mark Duff and bassist Brad Keoghan, but the line-up for the upcoming Atomic 7 show at the Sidetrack features a very special treat for fans of wordless retro-rock. Joining Connelly on stage will be drummer Richie Lazarowich, late of Calgary instro-institution Huevos Rancheros, and bassist Rob Oxoby, an alumnus of the Hellbillys.

No doubt Connelly is due for a good bronzing himself, given his pedigree as instro-rockin' guitarist with Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, whose spare, surf-inflected sound is inseparably associated with the surreal antics of The Kids In The Hall, the Canadian comedy troupe for whom Connelly and his fellow Men provided a swingin' sonic backdrop.

And though he's been a loyal disciple of instrumental music, Connelly is loath to lump his band in with the prevailing styles of the day. As one Atomic 7 song title succinctly puts it, "We're Not a Fucking Surf Band." Nor does Connelly subscribe to the grease-monkey aesthetic embodied by many instrumental bands.

"A lot of instrumental bands latch on to a theme - it's cars and girls - and it's sort of an easy way to sell what you're doing. It's lowest common denominator-ing your music, I guess. I don't have an attention span these days, so the stuff I like instrumentally, it's got to have more than one core influence."

Certainly his band's latest disc, … en Hillbilly Caliente, evinces a wide range of influences - from blues and early rock through jazz, R&B, country, bluegrass, movie soundtracks and punk rock - and an array of hilarious song titles that attempt to eff the ineffable moods embodied in the music. And for its veneer of cosmopolitanism, albeit tongue-in-cheek, the music has a rock-solid work ethic behind it, Connelly says.

"It's a great way to figure out your instrument because you're playing full-out for a whole set, and no one gets to hang back and play a chord and have a cocktail while the rest of the guys are working," he says.

Not only is Connelly stoked about bringing his combo to the River City, he's looking forward to spending some quality time with opening act the Black Coffee Cowboys, from whom he's borrowing his rhythm section. Audiences and players alike will doubtless enjoy the opportunity to compare and contrast, Connelly says.

"The Cowboys do have a pretty serious rockabilly bent to them, and Richie is one of the funnest drummers in the world to watch, so I'm looking forward to seeing them and also seeing what Richie and Rob are going to do to [Atomic 7's] stuff. I'm fascinated and delighted to be playing with them."