Houston Calling

Ten questions for Local H

May 30th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Local H, a Chicago band you might remember from their 1995 hit “Bound For The Floor” [video], recently released their seventh album, Twelve Angry Months (which I previously wrote about here and also recently reviewed for Space City Rock). The band–Scott Lucas and Brian St. Clair–are on tour supporting the new album and hit Texas this weekend (Lola’s in Fort Worth on Saturday and Emo’s in Austin on Sunday).

Local H's Scott Lucas

I recently asked Local H frontman Scott Lucas a few questions for Houston Calling. Enjoy.

Houston Calling: What brought about the idea of the week-long set of shows in Chicago to lead up to the release of the new album? How do you feel about the success of the shows [all sold-out in advance]?

Scott Lucas: That was our manager’s idea. It turned out to be pretty good one–but I don’t think it’s something WE would have wished on ourselves. There was so much fucking work involved in rehearsing and getting the songs together that, pretty early on, we regretted ever consenting to the idea. However, it turned out to be a pretty great experience and was a lot more fun than I ever thought it would be. It was weird, too–to sing all those songs–it was almost like a week of public therapy. I think I learned a lot about myself–and most of it wasn’t pretty.

HC: Obviously, you wrote about some personal things on Twelve Angry Months–more so than it seems you have on any of your other records (or at least in such a blatant way, in my opinion, except for maybe As Good As Dead‘s “No Problem”). How did you feel opening yourself up on this record?

SL: One of the rules that Andy Gerber (our engineer/co-producer) and I had during the vocal sessions was that all the lyrics should be embarrassing. Like if you had a friend listening to the record–you would want to leave the room immediately. The more open and honest and PAINFUL the better. There’s really no reason to make a record like this unless you’re going to go all the way.

HC: In that same vein, a friend of mine wondered if singing the new songs has an impact on your feelings about the ex–does it make you relive those times or continue to put a nail in the coffin?

SL: At this point the feelings expressed on this record could be about a number of people. At first the ideas and emotions were very specific but as time went on and the album progressed it became much bigger. It’s like you start with a specific detail that feels honest and then before it’s over it blows up into something that’s more universal. I don’t know if that makes sense–but that’s why you should never TRY to be all things to everybody–or try to be universal. If you’re honest, all that shit takes care of itself.

But I will say this: when I sing these songs on tour now–I find myself thinking of someone else and NOT the ex from four years ago.

HC: You recently toured in Europe and the UK with another Chicago band, The Tossers, and I enjoyed reading the MySpace posts you made while overseas. Overall, did you enjoy the time over there? What was the best thing about it, in your opinion?

SL: Yeah, that was fun. I needed to get out of town for a while and, as luck would have it, the Tossers needed a bassist to go to Europe. I’d never been there before and it was cool going over there with a different band and not having to feel any pressure and just enjoy the trip. Someone asked me to write a blog when I was over there and I really got into that as well. It’d been a while since I’d done any writing–other than songs–so that thing just took on a life of its own. It was fun, though.

HC: How do you view the music scene in Chicago these days? Obviously, you’ve got some tried and true Chicago-area musicians on Twelve Angry Months, such as Randy Payne and Hushdrops/Ness member John San Juan. And you’re in The Prairie Cartel with former members of Fig Dish and Caviar. Do you think it’s as closeknit as it seemed to be in the mid- to late nineties? Why or why not?

SL: I think the music scene is and always has been pretty great. There’s a lot of great bands doing really cool things and that seems to be the way it’s always been. I think too many things tend to get looked at through rose-tinted glasses and people romanticize way too much. I mean–WAS it so closeknit back in the 90’s? Who’s to say the bands in Chicago today aren’t as tight with each other as the bands from the 90’s? Or the 80’s? There seems to be a wider variety of music coming out the city than there was in the 90’s–and that can’t be anything but good. I’d like to say it’s not as careerist, but we all know that would be total bullshit. There seems to be a relatively high number of Chicago bands moving to L.A. these days–so I would say the bands here are just as career-minded as ever.

HC: What’s your goal with The Prairie Cartel? You guys recently released an EP and have played during SXSW in the past–and have a song on the new GTA4 video game, right? The group’s music is pretty different than what you do with Local H, although there’s definitely more of a rock element in the songs you sing on. How did the style of music the band plays evolve? Also, what do you think of the band’s audience versus who you typically play for with Local H?

SL: I’m not sure I have ANY goals. It started with us just getting together over at Mike’s [Willison] and throwing shit around to see what stuck. It sounds naive–but it’s really just friends getting together and writing songs. I can’t play baseball–so they take pity on me and make up extracurricular activities that I can participate in.

HC: Which of your songs do you enjoy most playing live?

SL: I like playing “Buffalo Trace”. “What Would You Have Me Do?” is fun. We’ve got a version of “No Problem” that I really enjoy. There’s a B-side called “Tag-Along”. And all the new stuff is fun–especially “The One With Kid” [MP3]–although I’m not very good at playing that one yet.

HC: I recently read the Spin review of the new album and wondered if it annoys you that Local H still often gets lumped into a “grunge”-era band, when really your band just happened to come out at a particular time and wasn’t really like those bands. Or is it something you even think or care about?

SL: You’ve gotta look at who writes that shit. I believe the review you’re referring to was written by Chuck Eddy. Chuck’s been a supporter of the band for a while–ever since he put Pack Up the Cats in Spin‘s top 20 of ’98–but I always get the feeling he’s slightly ashamed to like us. So he uses phrases like “bubble-grunge” and calls us “hicks”. So it can be very back-handed. Now I don’t know about you, but being called a hick is NOT a compliment–I don’t care how many positive reviews you give us. We know what we’re doing–our music isn’t an accident–and to play the same old New York regionalist card and denigrate us because we’re from the Midwest is total bullshit. And I’ve said this before–but if I ever see Mr. Eddy and he thinks it’s alright to call me a hick to my face–I will show him what a hick really is and knock his elitist teeth out. But having said that, no. No, it doesn’t bother me at all.

HC: What’s your take on the state of the music industry, vis-a-vis the “next Nirvana”/”Bound for the Floor” days to now; particularly in light of $150 million deals with LiveNation for a band’s entire scope?

SL: I don’t really feel the need to comment on any of it. Once again, I feel the current state of music is pretty good. There are some things I don’t like–such as, too many bands seem to have too many members–but I think music now is WAY better than it was in the 90’s. And who cares about LiveNation
and Madonna or whoever? Really? WHO cares? There is SO much music out there and there’s practically no reason at all for anyone not to be able to find something they love and that speaks to them personally. You’ve just got open your ears and find things for yourself.

HC: Since the early days on the major label [Island], you’ve mostly done one-off record deals to get your albums out. Do you feel that’s anything you’d ever want to do on your own or are the logistics of distribution, marketing, etc. more than you’d want to have to deal with? A lot has changed in the music business since 1995, though–do you think labels are still important or necessary?

SL: The main thing a label can do for a band like us is to let people know that we have a new record. Just TELL someone. There’s no point in us cutting down any more trees if no one’s around to hear them fall. And Shout!Factory seems to get this and is doing a great job. The only reason we’ve hopped around so much is because we keep finding ourselves in bad situations–there’s no reason to change if it’s a proper fit and things are mutually beneficial. We’re not masochists. But we DO like to do things OUR way and that’s not always cool with people. But, whatever–here’s where we are now and that’s that.

Thanks to Scott Lucas for taking the time to answer these questions. You can check out Local H live in Texas this weekend–at Lola’s in Fort Worth this Saturday (5.31.08) and on Sunday (6.1.08) at Emo’s in Austin. No Houston show this time around…

Check out Local H online here. Buy the new record, Twelve Angry Months, at amazon.com or at the iTunes Music Store.

Tags: Music

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