Fono formed outside London in 1996. Thanks to some early demos that won them a contest, their first gig was in front of 50,000 people opening for Bon Jovi at the Milton Keynes Bowl. After touring the States with the Goo Goo Dolls and Tonic, the band's creative core (guitarist Del Currie, drummer Andy Ridley) migrated to San Diego in March 2002, recruiting two Americans (guitarist Soren Engen, bassist/singer Cindy Milliman) to fill out the new Fono.

Today the foursome live spread out between downtown and Clairemont with their own 1200-square-foot studio facilities on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard near 163. "We had a fully equipped studio on Scripps Poway Parkway that burned down during the fires last year," says Del Currie. "We lost everything -- all our instruments, amps, a '74 Les Paul Special [guitar], tour souvenirs, computers. All I had left was an acoustic guitar I'd brought home. Just the day before, we had dropped off the masters to a new CD we were working on. We thought the studio would be a safer place to keep them than our houses." The band found out about the fires via a 6 a.m. phone call the following day. "Later we went out there to the spot and there was nothing left, just dust. You couldn't even tell what anything used to be -- the heat was so great that everything just melted, even the metal."

Thanks to a sponsorship deal with a guitar manufacturer ("We all play Gibsons; mine's a Firebird"), Fono began replacing their equipment and were able to move on to their new studio by February 2004 ("This place is so fireproof -- there's not a tree within a mile of the place"). Their new seven-song CD It's The Way That You Use It will be released this week, on the anniversary of the meltdown. Available at Lou's, Off the Record, and http://fono.net, three songs are survivors from sessions at the destroyed recording studio. Alan Sanderson (Rolling Stones, Weezer, Green Day) produced, and the mastering was completed by Bill Dooley (Madonna, Deftones). You can catch Fono playing tomorrow night, Friday, November 5, at 4th & B.

FAVORITE CARTOON THEME?

"SpongeBob SquarePants. Just for the sheer ludicrousness of it, really. I sing it out loud when it comes on, every time! The band has no plans to cover it. Not until we're done with our versions of the orchestral works of Tom and Jerry."

DESERT-ISLAND DISCS?

U2, The Joshua Tree

Foo Fighters, The Color and the Shape

Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head

AC/DC, Live ("...at Castle Donnington.")

Jeff Buckley, Grace

MOVIE YOU'VE SEEN THE MOST, HOW MANY TIMES, AND WHY?

"This Is Spinal Tap, 50 times. If you play in a band, Spinal Tap is so true to life that it's frightening. A lot of that stuff has happened to us. Like doing an in-store signing where nobody has ever heard of you and nobody shows up, you're sitting behind a table doing nothing all day."

COOLEST CELEB ENCOUNTER?

"In 2002 we opened four shows in England for Robert Plant, and he was this amazingly humble guy. He just walked up, held out his hand and said, 'Hello, my name's Robert.' We were just nervously laughing, 'You don't need to tell us who you are.' After [we played], I remember he came up to us and said, 'You guys were pretty good, but you're a little too melodic for my taste.' "

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