Luscious Jackson – Feature Of The Week MTV.com
1997

With “Fever In Fever Out,” Luscious Jackson moved from the chunky beats of their previous work into a smooth groove without losing an ounce of urgency. The silky shuffle of “Naked Eye,” the album’s first single, earned the band a strong foothold on radio and on MTV, and the band is now following up with the equally infectious “Under Your Skin”

In addition to heavy duty radio play, the band is also popping up on television series, in commercials, and even in video games. Throughout its career though, Luscious Jackson has worn its New York City pedigree like a badge. The band even took to the streets of the city in the midst of the Yankees’ World Series victory celebration to snap publicity shots.

When the band returned to New York during a stop on their tour with Live, MTV News caught up with frontwoman Jill Cunniff and drummer Kate Schellenbach to discuss their various projects, their increased visibility, and their feelings about the city they love in the wake of one recent ugly concert mishap.

MTV: First of all, how did you guys wind up on (Nickelodeon’s) “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”?

Kate: (turning to Jill Cunniff) I thought it had something to do with you. No? But didn’t Scotty work at that show? Okay. Well, besides nepotism, which apparently had nothing to do with it, we got asked. Gabby was a love interest of Big Pete, and we all love little Pete too, so… I think it was the funnest, most satisfying, best thing we did that year, seriously.

MTV: And then you guys turned up in an “I Love New York” tourism commercial. How did that happen?

Jill: Once again, we were approached so… basically the people who set up TV shows and ads, as we know, go through all the people who might be celebrities or interested in it. You know, certain TV shows have asked us to do it, and unfortunately we haven’t been able to do them. Some of the ones like “90210” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or whatever… “The Drew Carey Show,” but that’s something that I think Luscious Jackson needs to improve on, more TV. I think it’s good for us to do TV. More people saw that “Pete and Pete” than any of our tours.

Kate: And plus it’s breaking into a really nice children’s market which is a good place to be.

MTV: Considering that you guys wear your New York influence on your collective sleeve, the “I Love New York” spot must have been an honor in a way.

Kate: I think so. I think we were like, “Wow! They want us to represent, like with the Knicks and Tony Randall.” I don’t know, it was just a strange cross-section of New Yorkers. We’re like, “No one’s gonna know who we are. They’re gonna be like, ‘Who are these girls?'” You know? But, I never saw it, did you ever see it?

Jill: We never caught it. A lot of people saw it though. Yeah.

Kate: But, you know, we love New York. I’m even wearing a New York shirt today.

MTV: Considering what happened at the K-ROCK show (at which a New York crowd pelted Bush, Foo Fighters, Blur and others with debris, and actually hit Jill during Luscious Jackson’s set), do you still love New York?

Kate: Well, our own shows are always really great and the last show we played was the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was like the opening of that club, and before that (we played) Roxy and Irving Plaza. I mean, we’ve always had really good shows here. That felt like, I don’t know where we were on that (K-ROCK) show… That’s never happened to us before, and hopefully will never happen again.

MTV: Can you just shake something like that off, or does it stick with you the next time you step on stage?

Jill: Well, I actually had an injury from it. I got hit with a full bottle of water, and that’s when we left the stage, and I was injured for like three weeks, with an internal bruise. Because it was thrown from 50 yards away, I’m guessing. I don’t really know how far but there was enough power behind it to really give me a whack, so I actually was pretty traumatized and upset by it. I mean, I’m not sitting there worried about it every time I get onstage, at all, but I think those things have a lasting effect definitely.

Kate: It definitely is an anomaly but, when you play those kind of festivals there’s always an element of mob mentality, and usually what they do is hand out tons of beach balloons which sort of curbs the appetite of throwing things and hitting things. In this case, all there was were frisbees, which is not a very smart thing to have at a show like that, and plastic bottles of water. Urine. Bottles of urine, well there you go. But I don’t think that represents New York per se. I think it’s a weird… it’s a K-ROCK thing. It’s all Bush’s fault (laughing).

MTV: The ironic thing is that different members of Bush were nailed by things thrown from the audience at two different shows earlier this summer, but they escaped the K-ROCK show unscathed.

Kate: Is that right? Well, we had a long talk with Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters after that show about all the stuff that got thrown at Nirvana, and how, like people… I don’t know, it’s really insane. They think it’s like a… I don’t know, it’s a weird thing. But previously, I think we’ve gotten Birkenstocks thrown onstage and fun things like that, like sweaty tee shirts and, I don’t know, love letters. Photos, model photos, modeling photos.

MTV: So does it feel good to be playing to your crowd again, or is this mainly a Live crowd?

Kate: I mean, this is a Live show so it’s a mostly Live crowd, although there’s always like a pocket or a couple pockets full of Luscious fans. You can see them. They kind of stick out. I think they wear brighter colored clothes in general, and they dance and they sing along, and a lot of people know “Naked Eye” for obvious reasons. Hopefully we’ll be affecting some of the Live fans and they’ll remember who we are and enjoy what they saw.

MTV: The new record (“Fever In Fever Out”) has a much smoother feel than your previous work, and now that you’ve had a chance to road test that material a bit, how is it fitting in with, say, stuff from “Natural Ingredients”?

Jill: It fits in really well because a lot of the stuff previously we’ve adapted to our stage show. It all flows together really well. I mean, we all play our instruments on every song. There’s not a lot of sampling used in the live show. There’s some, but it’s mixed in with the live stuff so I think it all works together really well, and we’ve brought a percussionist tonight named Ann Hariston and our DJ, Alex Young, and we’ve just sort of transformed things that might have been sampled on the recording into live… performance. So it’s a little bit different, it’s a little more, sometimes it’s faster, sometimes it’s slower, you know it’s a little more intense. But I think it all works.

MTV: So you’re bringing a new energy to the new stuff?

Jill: Yeah, I think that that’s an important thing for a live performance, that each song has it’s own, you know, dynamics or vibe or intensity or urgency, and maybe it’ll be a little different than the record. I think that’s good. I think it’s good to hear things done in a heavier way or with added stage instructions as the case may be.

MTV: You guys have a very cool publicity photo (featuring the band standing amid the mayhem of a parade honoring World Series champions, the New York Yankees). Did that idea come from within the band, and what was that shoot like?

Jill: That came from Danny Clinch, the photographer. It was cold and really fun and exciting, but actually Vivian (Trimble) was a little sick. So she was dying and she was just like, “Come on already,” you know, but we had so much fun at that parade. It was like mobs of people and ticker tape and mania and chaos.

Kate: New York City policemen were like “Are you guys famous? Uh, let me get an autograph. What’s this for?” Originally it was for “Rolling Stone,” that shoot, and then we bought the pictures for our own use so that whole thing… it was very New Yawk. And we all wore kinda bright colored clothes ‘cuz we knew everyone would be wearing navy blue, Yankee colors and so, it came out well actually.

MTV: That had to be a logistical nightmare.

Kate: It was kind of an insane thing to do. It was like… we were doing tons of press, and were like really tired, and we’re like, “Oh, yeah, let’s go where there’s gonna be a million people and take photos and try to stay together as a group.” But it worked out, and Danny Clinch is like one of our favorite photographers, and he’s like really easy to work with. He’s awesome.

Jill: He was standing on the poles a lot, like on street lights and walk signs and stuff so that’s how he was able to get those shots from above, which is basically what we used because then he’s getting the police officers, the crowd, us, ticker tape… he got the whole action that way.

MTV: Jill, you also recently supplied the voice for a video game character (in Sega’s “Enemy Zero”). Are you at all into video games, or did this interest you for other reasons?

Jill: I’m not the kind of person who spends a lot of time in front of a video game, because I don’t really have time, but I might actually. I was at the store looking at all the video games, and they’re so intense and so interesting now, and this is one of the ones that’s very interactive. The character’s name is Laura Lewis. She basically goes to another planet to fight… it’s kind of like “Alien’s” Sigourney Weaver, and she ends up being the sole surviver of this mission. So she goes through hell, basically, and I provided kind of like Captain Kirk logs describing the space station… She falls in love with an android, and then she’s crying because he’s dying, blah, blah, blah. So, crying… all that stuff.

MTV: So what’s that recording process like?

Jill: I was watching a video playback for some of it, and some of it I just read off a script. The video playback… they had already done a playback, so with some of it I was trying to do what the person previously had done, but it was made in Japan, so it was all in Japanese. The dialogue was in Japanese, so for that part, I made up my own thing, and the crying I thought was a little overdramatic in the earlier one, so I tried to tone it down a bit. And the screams, I was great at the screams. It was actually so much fun that I hope that they… Laura Lewis is a digital actress, which means she does other video games, and she’s already well known in Japan, so hopefully they’ll ask me again to be Laura Lewis. And she had the same hair style as me which was accidental. She had a blonde pony tail, and I came in with a blonde pony tail. But they were like “Oh my God!,” so it was kinda’ like destiny.

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