Destination: Earth! sheds battle armor 

Space invaders celebrate four years on planet

When we last checked in with Destination: Earth!, the surf/spy/space instrumental band operating out of Indianapolis, they were planning their global domination and preparing their own animated film.

While global domination has eluded them so far, the spunky trio"s hilarious film, Burned on Re-Entry, was recently released on videocassette. And their albums and appearances on compilations have attracted positive reviews and airplay in Europe and elsewhere.

Now celebrating their fourth year on this planet, Destination: Earth! will play a special anniversary show this Friday at the Melody Inn, along with fellow surf bands Knuckel Drager (from Madison, Wis.) and Dai Kaiju (from Huntsville, Ala.).

It will be the final appearance of the Destination: Earth! "battle armor," the protective metal and plastic outerwear the group has sported since its inception.

It was in 1999 that the space travelers came to Earth, took over the bodies of several veteran Indianapolis musicians and began a campaign to dominate the planet through their instrumental music.

They said they"re retiring the battle armor for various reasons. Lead vocalist Commander 007 says, "We have this symbiotic relationship with the human forms that we appropriated four years ago. We"ve been a little more assimilated into the earth culture and the way you do things."

Bassist Raider-X adds, "You try wearing Exian battle armor in Earth gravity and Earth atmosphere for a few weeks."

"Basically," Commander 007 says, "When we first came here we needed to make ourselves feel more at home so we grabbed all of the supplies to approximate what we would normally wear on our planet."

"It"s kind of hard to hold down a job and be inconspicuous when you have spikes hanging off your shoulder," Raider-X observes.

The group has been busy recording their next album, tentatively called Destination: Earth! Play The Hits Of The Future. They"ve somehow managed to find the right balance between staying true to their musical heritage, which is derived from the great instrumental surf acts of the 1960s, such as the Ventures and Dick Dale, as well as adding a heavier, more modern aggressive edge.

They don"t write any music themselves; instead, they travel to the future and steal its hit music. They bring it back to the current time and present it as their own.

Their new material is brimming with innovation and energy. They"re among the most skilled musicians in the city when it comes to creating catchy melodic riffs.

"Once you"ve taken all of the big hits from a certain period in the future, you have to dig a little deeper," Commander 007 explains.

Prior to being assimilated by the D:E! aliens, the members of the band played in such well-known groups as Acid Green. Drummer R5DW40 plays with doom-rockers Devil To Pay and Commander 007 has spawned the eclectic rock outfit Hipster Zero.

Their stage persona has also earned comparisons to Los Straitjackets and Man Or Astroman, to the point where some have accused D:E! of ripping off Man Or Astroman.

"I never even heard Man Or Astroman before I joined this band," R5DW40 says. "They weren"t an influence on me."

And the band points out that Man Or Astroman has said that Destination: Earth! didn"t steal anything that Man Or Astroman itself hadn"t stolen from somewhere else.

"It"s music," Commander 007 says. "You"re taking these different influences and assimilating them into something else. Obviously, some of our music does sound like Man Or Astroman, but some of our music doesn"t sound like them."

"But if you go out and sound like Creed, you"re kick-ass," Raider-X says.

"Anyone can go out and sound like Creed or the Beatles or the Stones and it"s OK," Commander 007 says, "but if you sound like a lesser-known act, suddenly you"re a rip-off artist."

While they"ve played gigs at most of the prominent music venues in Indianapolis - they"ll headline Niswander"s Beach Party at Birdy"s on Wednesday night - one of their favorite places to play lately has been the Fishers YMCA, where younger crowds have gotten into their sound.

"They"ve never heard anything like it before," Commander 007 says. "I think maybe they like it more than the older crowd, maybe because we"re more of a hybrid of the early "60s style and what"s going on now."

They"ve come a long way from their first gig, when someone threw a 75-gallon trash barrel at them and hurled lit matches at their flammable costumes. With their new music, they"ve finally successfully blended their sci-fi, surf and spy-music influences into one cohesive product.

"We"re more of a hard rock band who incorporates certain sounds in our songs," Commander 007 says. "It seems to me that a lot of the mainstream crowd thinks we"re a little strange, and the indie-rock clique thinks we"re not strange enough. So we have a chance of succeeding with both or failing with both."

"I think assuming more of a human attire has helped some of the people of this planet taking us more seriously," Raider-X says.

As the band continues to play, they"ve altered their approach considerably.

Commander 007 says, "Our first mission was to become the surf band that rocks, so to speak. We wanted to be a more hard-rocking version of the instrumental music that was out there. That was our first album, Trapped In Hyperspace. On our second album, we tried to expand our sound. We tried to become both heavier and more experimental. Now we"re trying to be more straightforward and more expansive at the same time."

They all proclaim their newest work to be their best. "Instead of acquiring stuff from the future at the last minute and then recording it, this time everything we went into the studio with had been acquired and played out for several months before we recorded it," Raider-X says.

When they recorded their second album, Adventures in Newspace, in 2001, Raider-X had only been playing the theremin for a few days. With several years of experience with the strange, spooky-sounding retro instrument now under his belt, D:E!"s new songs capture a more evocative mood.

While Destination: Earth! Play The Hits Of The Future won"t be available for a few months, they"ll be playing selections from it at their shows this week. They"ve received invitations to play on both coasts and in Texas, but finding the cash to fund such a tour is hard.

"We"ve all got Earth cruisers to pay off," R5DW40 says.

Meet Destination: Earth!
Name: COMMANDER 007 Rank: uh, commander Weapon Of Choice: "Burning Lead" Oscillator Recon Unit One of the world"s most skilled secret agents, Commander 007 acts as the primary communicator with the populace through the use of several disguises. His findings are often invaluable to other members of the crew. Utilizing the "Burning Lead" Oscillator Recon Unit as his main source of firepower, evasive maneuvers can be taken through a coordinated effort between Commander 007"s secondary limbs. A daydreamer at heart, he is nevertheless practical-minded in his research, and approaches science in general with a spirit of discovery. As Commander of the Agents of S.H.A.D.O.W., his single-minded devotion to his mission is both his greatest asset and his most obvious weakness.

Name: RAIDER-X Rank: tactical specialist Weapon Of Choice: Rhythmic Confirmation & Support Module As the solid right-hand man of Commander 007, Raider-X is a skilled marksman, almost second to none. Encompassing the fighting spirit of a cowboy from the old West, he often acts on his instincts rather than his intellect. Locates and identifies possible threats to the mission and informs his comrades. Acting as tactical specialist, he is often responsible for the movements of the group. In addition to his use of the Rhythmic Confirmation & Support Module, Raider-X carries a concussion blaster ("X" marks the spot). While likely the physically strongest member of the group, his uninhibited nature often gets him in trouble. Can be baited into dangerous situations where he is an easy target for enemies.

Name: R5DW40 Rank: heavy artillery officer Weapon Of Choice: Encased Hyperconductor Synchronization Interface (E.H.S.I.) Daring in battle, R5DW40 is part man and part machine. He believes victory will come via technological advancement. Adds twin scramjet modules and liquid hydrogen fuel tanks to escape the gravity of the planet. As operator of the Encased Hyperconductor Synchronization Interface (E.H.S.I.), he is by far the most heavily armored member of the crew. In addition to his already vast supply of firepower, he is able to perform virtuosic percussion fills activating a backup generator that supplies the entire group with more power. Prone to occasional mechanical failures due to advanced technology.

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