Grandaddy: Southampton University, Saturday

IF YOU thought big American beards went out with ZZ Top then you'd be mistaken.

US rockers Grandaddy - who boast some prodigious facial hair of their own - are currently taking the UK by storm on their latest tour, which calls in at Southampton University tomorrow night.

The band from Modesto, California re-released their single The Crystal Lake on Monday, which when it first came out was a Radio One Record Of The Week as well as being A-listed by London's XFM. And, as if that wasn't enough, the band are still reeling from the success of their summer long-player The Sophtware Slump, which was in almost every national music magazine's top 100 albums of last year.

"The Sophtware Slump reared its head while I was wandering through mountains of cast-off computer components in thrift stores," says vocalist Jason Lytle.

Last year saw the freaky fivesome work their way up the musical ladder with headline performances at the Reading Festival and tours with the Super Furry Animals and Elliott Smith.

The Sophtware Slump has been more critically acclaimed than the band's previous effort, Under The Western Freeway.

Jason explains: "The last album had songs that had been around for a while and I thought it was more difficult to record.

"This album has more cohesion, musically and thematically. It feels more current and more exciting."

Music has been in Jason's blood from an early age. He says he is unsure what he'd be doing if he wasn't a musician. "I'm not sure what drove me to start making music, I just did it.

"I'm one of those people who need to feel they're being creative, whether it's carving arrowheads, designing suspension bridges or turning dead appliances into robots.

"In fact Jason's non-musical days make him feel decidedly dull. He admits: "It's like I'm treading water and I'm extremely unpleasant to be around.

"I'm always more comfortable with my head down and nose to he grindstone. Too much theorising starts to water itself down."

Discussing the band's new material, Jason is less open.

"I'm hesitant to elaborate on the less obvious, for fear of detracting from what I consider to be a primary component of music - the unexplainable, the intangible, the mysterious.

"But rest assured - the machines will always be operated by humans and not vice-versa."