Jan. 7 2013 06:18 PM

San Diego psych-rockers want people to party

From left to right: John Kelley, Priscilla Castro, Salvatore Marco Piro, Mike Turi, R. Vincent Bohan and Taejon Romanik
Photo by Nicole Espina

You don’t have to be on drugs to enjoy the music of Wild Wild Wets. But it helps.

Whether you’ve eaten magic mushrooms, smoked weed or taken some “molly” (a pure form of ecstasy), your trip is bound to get a little bit trippier with the San Diego band’s help.

Yet, the way they see it, they are a kind of drug.

“We have some songs that are meant to pump you up—it’s just an exciting party song. And then there’s other songs that just, like, drone out and get you stoned sonically and just make the acid trip without the acid,” guitarist R. Vincent Bohan says. “I want to make a meme that’s, like, ‘Wild Wild Wets: Because you can’t afford the acid.’”

Banging out dirty, stripped-down psych-rock, Wild Wild Wets offer the perfect supplement for lost inhibitions, crazy-vivid colors and those magic moments when reality gets warped. Since first playing live in May 2012, the band—Bohan, vocalist / keyboardist Mike Turi, drummer Salvatore Marco Piro, bassist Taejon Romanik, keyboardist / tambourine player Priscilla Castro and projectionist John Kelley—has built a reputation for putting on a fun, slightly twisted show. Opening for nationally recognized groups like Thee Oh Sees and The Growlers, they’ve garnered a growing following, and they’re currently finishing up a 7-inch.

While local bands like JOY explore psychedelia in a classic-rock vein, Wild Wild Wets stick to the simplicity of garage-psych bands like The 13th Floor Elevators. “Bludgeoned with Fear,” a track on their Bandcamp page, follows a brooding, two-chord guitar sequence for nearly four minutes, joined by a simple synth line and loose drums. They amp up the intensity with the anthemic power chords of “Realized into Redwood,” but Turi’s moaning, reverb-drenched vocals give the song a burnout vibe.

Like lots of young bands, they have a reckless side. During an interview at Caffé Calabria, a North Park coffeehouse, Turi, Bohan, Piro and Romanik share stories about past experiences—like the time they trashed their friend’s house in San Francisco.

“We broke their garage. We broke their patio furniture. We drank all their alcohol,” Piro says. “And somebody pissed all over the floor.”

When they played at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park for CityBeat’s 10th-anniversary party last August, their loud, droning tunes rang through the cavernous space. The performance seemed entirely inappropriate for the occasion— where a lot of nicely dressed people were chatting over hors d’oeuvres—and that’s exactly what made it so awesome.

Asked what motivates them to play psych-rock, Romanik launches into a heart- elt sermon about building community in the West Coast psych scene, forging friendships and maintaining values for an alternative to the 9-to-5 lifestyle. But Piro cuts him off.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Piro says, his eyes bulging with excitement. “You know what attracts me to this? The power in the music. To be able to grab somebody and turn them on. When I hear music, I get goose-bumps, and that’s what I want to do to people.”

Wild Wild Wets came about after the dissolution of The Old In Out, a down-’n’-dirty punk band that Turi, Bohan and Piro played in with guitarist Rory Truesdale. In late 2011, they were about to go on tour when the plans fell through and the band went on “indefinite hiatus.” Piro, with a mock straight face, attributes the fall-out to “artistic differences.”

Turi had a good time playing with The Old In Out, who were together for more than four years. “I didn’t know how to sing at the time, so I was just screaming. And it was awesome. It was fun,” he says. But he likes exploring a wider rock palette. He says that Wild Wild Wets, “out of anything that I’ve ever been a part of, probably has more elements of all the shit that I like.”

Last June, the band had a close call after playing a desert music festival on the outskirts of San Diego County. I joined them in their tour van for the ride, and on the way back home, we got stopped at a border checkpoint—where a drug-sniffing dog took interest in a suspicious, funky smell emanating from the car Piro was riding in.

The dog gave the car a thorough search, but the only thing that turned up was a pipe. (The dog also took a quick whiff of the van, which was loaded with weed and mushrooms, and, miraculously, failed to notice anything.) Piro informed the Border Patrol agent that he must’ve smoked all of his weed, and the agent sent Piro on his way.

The experience didn’t seem to dampen the band’s enthusiasm for certain mind-altering substances. Still, they don’t care which ones you choose—or whether you choose any at all.

“Honestly, I just want people to party,” Turi said. “I don’t care how they do it.”

Wild Wild Wets play with Tropical Popsicle, New Mexico and Christy at The Ché Café on Saturday, Jan. 12. 

Email peterh@sdcitybeat.com or follow him on Twitter at @peterholslin.