By Taryn Harrington 01/02/2014
In the raw
The best place to see Char-Man is in a closed garage with 99 Cent Only store twinkle lights and a leather couch to stand on. Its songs are adrenalized; attendees will jump on each other’s shoulders and fall from overly animated hug swaying. The floor will be quickly covered in blackened footsteps. Everyone is closer to 30 than 18, and most have followed the band since it formed 10 years ago in Ojai.
Char-Man was inspired, just like any respectable garage band, by a curious teen at his local record shop. At 14, founding member Maher Zaidi was determined to re-create the sound of Gibson and ’70s Marshall guitars shortly after seeing a VHS copy of music videos from the Irish punk band The Undertones. “The guitar did something to my brain,” he said. He started songwriting and the band was formed. Later, Zaidi’s older brother Zaryan joined the band and helped solidify Char-Man as one of Ventura County’s favorite garage bands. Also a musician, Zaryan played in several bands before coming on, including The Run. (Today he also fronts Oakland’s Lecherous Gaze). His vocals, raspy and reminiscent of Alice Cooper, add eeriness to any band he joins. Coupled with Maher’s quiet intensity, the band has fun, catchy songs with a slight foreboding undercurrent. Char-Man became a fixture in the local scene, and beloved by many. During this time the band recorded a demo and continued to play until Zaryan decided to move to Pakistan, and Maher to San Francisco.
When Char-Man reunited in 2006, tension between the brothers and the sudden death of a close friend and band mate from cancer made things turbulent. By that time, however, it had recorded two of its best songs, “Zero” and “Surf Jam.” Tony Melino, friend and former drummer for Annihilation Time, was recruited that year. Melino knew the band from the local hard-core scene and was a fan. “I said, I’ll play the drums kind of like Green Day — solid but with catchy feels — but it really didn’t turn out that way. The songs are sloppy and old-school, too, like The Damned,” says Melino. In 2011, Char-Man released “Baring the West,” an ambitious first album with a lot of heart. Songs like “New Wave” and “Wasting My Time” shine, and the album remains enjoyable from start to finish.
All kinds of sexy
Char-Man’s current lineup includes brothers Maher and Zaryan Ziadi, guitarist John Galiano and drummer Tony Melino. Galiano came on two years ago. He is young, talented and as a huge fan he knew how to play most of its catalogue before joining.
Char-Man celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2013 with a special party at the Deer Lodge. Maher’s reflections on the band are intense, albeit enjoyable (lots of intellectual musings about King Kong and Dracula and the meaning of forgotten love). As a whole, he says, the band tries to “represent in a sound for all of the misfits, weird, independent people, and at the same time beautiful girls.” Maher promises Char-Man has new music in the works. They all promise to continue to find the party. “Basically it’s about everyone coming together,” Melino said about the band’s overall inspiration. “Sexy people, unsexy people and medium-sexy people.”