Best known as Tom Waits's alma mater, Hilltop High's current rock scene is identified by its two active camps: you have the fashion-conscious emo kids and the always-aggro hardcores.
No One Home, nicknamed the "Hispanic Strokes," don't play either game. The five hardcore bands who attend the Chula Vista high school don't appreciate it.
"They call us various names," said lead singer Robert Martinez, 17 (his four bandmates are 15 and 16). "All they can do is scream, be angry, and play real fast. They are horrible musicians. They hate us because we know we play real music, and they can't. Sometimes they have flyers for their shows that show a hardcore kid beating up one of us or one of our fans. It says, 'Hate wussy bands.' They talk crap. One of us has been jumped. But it doesn't intimidate us. We're dedicated to real rock and roll."
"They focus on their tough image and get-ups," says drummer Danny Mendoza. "They all sound the same."
No One Home's original music won them second place at this year's Del Mar Fair Battle of the Bands. That led to a recent Saturday night show at the Casbah, a rare prize for a high school band.
The chance to play the Fair's Battle of the Bands reactivated No One Home, which had become disillusioned over the lack of local gigs. "We needed some form of success," said singer/guitarist John Bilben. "We had been working at it for so long." All the members of the band except Martinez had been playing together for three years. Guitarist Nick Camacho says venues like Soma didn't seem interested. "Most of the bands that play there aren't our style." No One Home were inactive when the Fair called.
Bilben says six bands played at the June 29 Battle of the Bands finals. "We were told around 700 bands had applied from all over Southern California," says Bilben. "Then they narrowed it to 20, then 6." He said the winning band, Invictus, won $1000 and a chance to play live on Fox 6. The others got nothing.
"The fact that Invictus beat us was a slap in the face," says Martinez. "When they won, they were the only ones who cheered. We just looked at each other. They were the worst band of the night. I would have been a lot more content if we had lost to someone else."
"The judges kept going to the beer garden," said Camacho.
"They were drunk off their asses," said bassist Esteban Garcia.
No One Home appears Saturday, August 4, at the Epicentre.