Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was the Hairbrain Scheme. Each member of this Santa Barbara quartet was carefully constructed over the course of approximately nine months inside his mother’s womb. I’ve been told that all four band members were particularly ugly babies, but I’ve been unable to confirm this report. What I can confirm is that they’ve grown into musical terrors and that their rise to the forefront of the local music scene has been swift and merciless.

There are four full-time members of the Hairbrain Scheme. Former Rod Stewart cover band crooner, Grant Parsons handles the bulk of the vocal duties. Parsons cut his teeth singing classic Stewart tunes like “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Maggie Mae” for raucous Isla Vista audiences. Now his teeth are sharp enough to break flesh, but Parsons generally prefers to deliver his vocals peacefully. He may jump around, scream, and even sport a bloody nose or two, but he probably won’t bite your flesh. After all, he’s not a cannibal. He’s just a damn good singer.

Parsons is joined in the group by keyboardist Chris Nava and bassist Nate Harris. Nava and Harris first met in 2003, when the two musicians were students in UCSB’s music department. The talented pair hit it off immediately and subsequently formed the now-defunct Isla Vista psycho-punk outfit Stereoklang. Though it lasted only a brief while, Stereoklang made a profound impact on listeners with its unique brand of aggressive electro-punk. True to their past ventures, Nava and Harris continue to push the limits with their integral contributions to the Hairbrain Scheme’s warped musical stylings.

While Parsons, Harris and Nava have been with the band since its first Isla Vista performance, drummer Bobby Halvorson was a relatively recent addition to the crew. Halvorson first started performing with the group in the spring of 2005 and has since become the full-time percussionist. Before Halvorson’s arrival, Hairbrain drum duties were handled by local resident Derrick Dille, and later by Veinglory Ace Dan Bellinger. Though the drummer position has been a bit of a revolving door, Halvorson has settled in nicely, adding another dynamic element to the Hairbrain Scheme’s evolving sound.

What exactly is the Hairbrain Scheme’s sound? That’s a tough question. In an age where every unknown band thinks it’s pushing the boundaries of music, the Hairbrain Scheme offers a truly unique auditory experience that defies immediate categorization. Described by some listeners as disco punk, the band’s sound draws on a wide variety of genres, incorporating elements of jazz, hardcore, punk, new wave, indie rock, pop and electronica. The end result is a fresh sound that’s conventional enough to keep heads bobbing and bizarre enough to keep people scratching their heads.

Audiences may have a hard time categorizing the Hairbrain Scheme’s music, but they haven’t had a hard time connecting with its macabre appeal. The group’s shows typically draw large and lively crowds. Some spectators have even reported seeing a strange, spandex-clad beast running amok in the audience during Hairbrain performances. The band refuses to divulge this mysterious creature’s name, but admits that their loveable mascot was discovered in a Goleta dive bar after a night of heavy drinking.

It must be pretty nice having an obedient mascot and a loyal following, but things weren’t always so rosy for the Hairbrain Scheme. The group initially struggled to overcome local apathy. Despite the slow onset of positive public response, the band maintained a grueling schedule of shows and embarked on several small tours, which found them sleeping in a borrowed van and playing at extravagant venues like Santa Maria’s Motionz Laser Tag Adventure. During one particularly uncomfortable night on the road, Parsons is said to have slept on a slide in a McDonald’s PlayPlace.

This struggle took a turn for the better when the group converted a dumpy Isla Vista tavern called Menehunes into its home field and began scheduling shows at the tiny venue. As the months passed, more and more people turned out for the eclectic shows. Menehunes soon became associated with the burgeoning Isla Vista music scene and the Hairbrain Scheme soon became one of the most prominent bands in the area.

Perhaps the highlight of the Hairbrain Scheme’s first year was its victory in the 2005 UCSB Battle of the Bands. Dressed in Civil War garb, the band ran roughshod over its adversaries and secured a convincing victory in the competition. This victory earned the Scheme a spot on the 2005 UCSB Extravaganza bill, where they opened for Busta Rhymes and Damian Marley. Despite this encouraging success, the group remains strictly blue collar.

The life of an upstart band isn’t glitzy. It’s a lot of hard work, but it can also be a lot of fun. In addition to being partners in musical crime, Parsons, Nava, Harris and Halvorson are close friends with a mutual passion for debauchery. Zachary Friedberg, Harris’ housemate, says, “If I had a nickel for every time the Hairbrain Scheme trashed my apartment, I’d have about two dollars.” Drunken band members have been known to throw knives, burn Christmas trees, and leap from tall balconies in a single bound.

These guys know how to let loose, but don’t be fooled by their offstage antics. The Hairbrain Scheme is a serious band with considerable talent and ambition. Although the group remains relatively obscure outside of the Santa Barbara area, one gets the feeling that these local lads are on the cusp of something tremendous. Their forthcoming EP, You’re a Nation, offers an exciting glimpse of their immense potential and provides an appropriate introduction for curious music enthusiasts who have yet to indulge in this native delight. The band will celebrate the release of You’re a Nation with a performance at Zelo’s in Santa Barbara at 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24.

The last 15 months have been a wild ride for the Hairbrain Scheme. I don’t know what’s next for this young group, but if the past is any indication, then it will probably be a lot of fun to watch. It may even involve a spandex-clad humanoid running around the crowd, growling like a hyena. Stay tuned and see for yourself.