Luscious Jackson Is A State Of Mind…And It Feels Alright by Eric Levin
Stomp and Stammer
March 1997 Five years ago Luscious Jackson rolled into Little Five Points for their first show in Atlanta. They were an hour and a half late for an appearance at my store, Criminal Records. Even the Beastie Boys’ Mike D called to find out where his baby band — the first signed to his Grand Royal label — was. The ultimate reason for the delay? Atlanta’s notoriously shitty traffic. Yeah, I know you were hoping for some lurid gossip about them sitting around a hotel suite smoking crack and watching porn videos, but that’s just not the kind of ladies they are. Uh, at least I’m pretty sure of it. By the time their van pulled up to the store, most of the crowd had already packed up and gone home. It’s a shame, because the then-virtually unknown quartet played a blissfully messy set, and even though it seemed closer to a rehearsal than polished funk, the sheer enthusiasm of it all saved the day. After spending the rest of the day hanging out, shopping, and making friends, their opening set for Bettie Serveert (who?), later that night at the Point, was even sloppier — and more fun. It’s been a real pleasure watching these sassy New Yorkers grow up and become stars. During their rise to the top they’ve always made a point of coming by the store and keeping in touch. One time we threw a graffiti contest for them, and Jill Cunniff (bass, guitar, vocals) picked the best entries and took the winning artists to dinner before their show. Kate Schellenbach (drums) and Gabrielle Glaser (guitar, vocals) did laundry at my house that afternoon. The next year, after a great show at the Masquerade, Vivian Trimble (keyboards, vocals) wondered why my girlfriend hadn’t come backstage to visit. After explaining that she was home sick, Vivian took their backstage bouquet and had the band inscribe a “get well” message for me to take home with the flowers. The last time I saw them they were opening up for R.E.M. at the Omni, and they seemed larger than life. I was thrilled for my friends, but I also felt like that was it — they were big stars and I’d probably never talk to them again. They hadn’t stopped by the store for their obligatory social call, and they’d had two days off in Atlanta. I was very surprised when they made an unexpected visit to our seating area just to say hello. Now when I hear them in the movies (their song “Here” featured prominently in Clueless) or see them on MTV (the smash video for “Naked Eye,” from their new album Fever In Fever Out), it truly is like watching a friend succeed. So it came as no surprise this week when Kate, my old laundry buddy, called from San Francisco to touch base before their upcoming March 11th show at the Roxy. Smack in the middle of another headlining tour of the States, with Fever still selling strong after nearly six months in the stores, Luscious Jackson is busier than ever, not only playing shows, but also dealing with the other responsibilities of a hot band on the rise: interviews, radio station visits, photo shoots “We’re working our asses off right now,” Schellenbach confirmed. “We had a lot of press with the last record, but we never worked like this.” But despite the crazy schedule, she’s animated and friendly, and ready to gab about anything except her, uh, dirty laundry. Some secrets, it seems, shall remain sacred. Here’s what she had to say about a few other topics: Having A Bona Fide ‘Hit’ Album: “Some people say it’s a real big departure and some people say it’s not. I think it’s a real continuation of what we’ve done; we still feel like we’re doing the same thing, writing different styles of music… We’re just exploring different ways of doing it. ‘Naked Eye’ was featured in the in-store play rotation for the Gap and Banana Republic, and I think that says it all!” Working With Producer Daniel Lanois On Fever In Fever Out: “We were looking for producers, and having a hard time finding somebody with a diverse background. We hadn’t really heard of him, but we had heard of the records he had done [including projects with Peter Gabriel, Emmylou Harris and Bob Dylan. He’s a nomad… records in weird places… he’s someone you can talk to, and he certainly knows a lot about recording. I think we were really clueless as to who Daniel Lanois was, or his reputation and how excited people were going to be about such a strange pairing. I think he was interested in us, in that we weren’t so obvious… In retrospect we learned a lot about him, but in a way it worked to our advantage, because we weren’t starstruck by him. We just sort of approached him as another person, another musician… He just came to a rehearsal and we started jamming. We set up shop at our rehearsal place at my house. Some people were like, ‘Daniel’s got that whole New Orleans thing down,’ but most of it was recorded at my place in New York. But the New Orleans sessions were an added bonus. He got us out of the City.” Keeping The Groove: “We still used Tony [Mangurian, their old ally who co-produced the Natural Ingredients album], and he and Daniel hit it off really well Tony was also a really big influence on the record. We could have gone really far into the Daniel Lanois realm, but Tony kept us Luscious Jackson. Daniel was very respectful of that sound and vibe.” Growing As A Band: “We tried harder to get better vocal sounds, better instrumental sounds, drums, guitars, etcetera, and I think that’s probably the main reason [Fever In Fever Out] sounds different. We actually took the time to capture good sounds, instead of relying on samples.” Giving The People What They Want: “Daniel’s presence sort of brought the whole project up a notch, which is something we kind of wanted to do and the record company was interested in doing We wanted to break new ground, be a little bit more successful, so there was a bit more pressure to be more commercial in some aspects. I don’t think we went overboard in the commercial area. I think it’s pretty true.” Dealing With The Corporate Side: “On this record there’s been a lot more involvement from Capitol… We have a really good relationship. We know the way some bands are treated by their labels, [but] we’ve got a good deal with our label. I know a lot of bands jump around from label to label so quickly, that if you have a relationship with somebody, say, your A & R person, and all of a sudden they leave to go to another label, it’s really scary. Of course, Mike Diamond’s not going to be leaving Grand Royal anytime soon. He’s our safety net.” Dancing With Mr. D: “Mike D is really involved in our career. Our situation is unique because we are also on Capitol, we’re the only other artist [besides Beastie Boys] who’s on Grand Royal/Capitol. He’s really, really involved, not only with us but also with Butter 08 and Buffalo Daughter. Atari Teenage Riot, also. We toured with Buffalo Daughter, they’re awesome, and Josephine Wiggs Experience, too. They’ve been in New York a lot, so we’ve seen them a bunch. We’re social with the rest of the guys, but we work with Mike. He’s definitely there for us. It’s nice having him on our side, ’cause he really relates to us. He certainly knows what it’s like to be in the position we are in, like, it’s now or never for us as far as promoting the record and getting it out there.” Finding Compatriots: “Komeda. We were doing an in-store, and they were playing it [on the stereo], and we all wanted to know, ‘What is this?!’ They didn’t have any in stock, so we went to another record store… We’d love to play with Komeda. We’ve been talking about an ultimate summer tour-type thing, with them and Beck and Buffalo Daughter. Buffalo Daughter are awesome, we were just in Japan with them. Jill brought Mike D the Buffalo Daughter record from Japan, the first time we were there.” Touring with R.E.M.: “I think at that point we were so done touring, and they asked us to finish the second leg, to end in Atlanta. What could we say? We can’t turn this down! By that point the Kostars [Vivian and Jill’s side-project] had begun their record, and we were done. It was difficult playing the old stuff, we really wanted to work on new material, [but] it all worked out in the end.” Championing Causes: “We always try to fit those things in. Of course the Beasties are into it, it’s [Adam] Yauch’s thing. We’ll get to a point where we can do more things, [but] if we do a benefit we really want it to make money for the organization, and we aren’t a big enough draw yet. We did the Stone Mountain [Earth Day] thing with 99X in your area [in 1995], and we’ve done Rock for Choice, we donated a track for that record [‘Queen of Bliss’ showed up on last year’s RFC Christmas compilation]. We talk about what our cause should be, and if we were to put on a show, how much would it cost? Would it be beneficial, what with crew, transportation, etc.? How much would we make for the benefit? And we aren’t quite there yet. Maybe if it was us and somebody else.” Moonlighting: “The Kostars still have a lot of songs under their belt. Josephine [Wiggs] and I keep talking about doing more Ladies Who Lunch [another LJ offshoot]. We just haven’t been home long enough to do anything. Gabby keeps making noise about doing something. But Luscious Jackson is going to do a fan-club-only CD with demos and remixes.” Dodging The “Mall Culture”: “I come from a background of not having Tower Records growing up — we had lots of different record stores all over the place. Each record store had a different kind of thing that they specialized in, and you always knew the people there. I used to spend a lot of time hanging out in record stores as a kid. There’s a lot in the Village [in lower Manhattan]. The music biz is scary, it’s huge, huge business. Now [companies] are just relying on their new artists. They can’t take as many chances as they used to, [because] it’s their revenue. Of course, all the big records that they expected to do so well didn’t, like R.E.M., but it’s all cycles. And ‘commercial alternative’ radio doesn’t help. I mean they’re supposed to be alternative but they basically play Bush 24 hours a day. They’re everywhere, playing Bush!” Reprinted without permission, if you want something taken down, just ask and i’ll oblige

©1996-2007 The Luscious Jackson Source