Photo via Audrey Keller Photography
Scott Lucas clearly loves Christmas. How else could one explain his predilection for holiday carols through the years? And with Christmas around the corner, Lucas and his Married Men outfit have posted a new take on an old classic, available for download below. Taken from the group’s Hideout Holiday Music Hour this past Saturday, get in the mood with Scott Lucas And The Married Men’s live rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,”…featuring Rowlf?!
Scott Lucas And The Married Men – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
For video from the Hideout event, including the above linked performance, check out clips below.
“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
“Christmas Time Is Here” (Featuring Purple Apple)
For those left wanting more of the above, the band will stream the Hideout Holiday Music Hour performance for the entirety of Christmas day at its official site. The set is loaded with holidays staples including and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Finally, revisit some of the singer’s earlier holiday offerings with Local H Christmas cuts below.
Local H – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”
Local H – “Disgruntled Christmas”
Local 101 Audio Archive: Scott Lucas (Local H, Scott Lucas & The Married Men) & Brendan Kelly (The Lawrence Arms)!
Last night on Q101‘s Local 101, Scott Lucas of Local H and Scott Lucas & The Married Men and Brendan Kelly of The Lawrence Arms were guests on the program. Show host Chris Payne interviewed both artists in advance of upcoming events, with Local H playing out this Saturday, October 2nd, at Beat Kitchen and The Married Men hitting Empty Bottle Tuesday, October 26th for a free show with RSVP to email@example.com. Kelly, meanwhile, performs at Metro on Thursday, October 7th, for a solo acoustic performance, before joining up with The Lawrence Arms Friday, October 8th, for a full band show at Congress Theater. Both Kelly’s solo performance and TLA’s Congress set come as part of this year’s Riot Fest events. To listen to the interviews from last night, click on the streaming players below.
First off, Scott Lucas checks in with Local 101 for a two-part interview (one stream in the media player below), about the two EPs he’s set to drop on October 19th, from Local H (Local H’s Awesome Mix Tape #1) and his Married Men project (The Absolute Beginners EP). Lucas reveals the thinking behind releasing two EPs on the same date, in addition to discussing the origins of Local H releasing an all-covers effort. The frontman also shares the reasoning for quickly following The Married Men’s debut full length with an EP less than a year later, as well as the motivation behind covering a Local H song (“Hey Rita”) for a Married Men release. Stream that Local 101 interview below.
Also from last night’s Local 101, Chris Payne checks in with Lawrence Arms frontman Brendan Kelly about his upcoming performances as part of this year’s Riot Fest. The vocalist explains why Chicago is the ideal location for his band, in addition to shedding light on his Static Age program on Chicago music program JBTV. Click on the player below to hear that interview.
This Sunday, December 27th, on Q101’s Local 101: Scott Lucas, The Tossers, and Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!
This Sunday night, on Q101’s Local 101: Chris Payne closes out 2009 with Scott Lucas, hometown institution and man of many musical outfits. Lucas reflects on his busy year, alternating between performing with Local H, as well as his side ventures The Prairie Cartel and Scott Lucas And The Married Men, and Chicago covers supergroup A Perfect Circus, featuring members of Alkaline Trio and Kill Hannah. Lucas also looks towards his upcoming dual New Years Eve performances, early on opening for The Tossers (who also guest on this week’s Local 101) at Reggie‘s, then headlining at Double Door with Local H.
Also this Sunday on Local 101: Kid, You’ll Move Mountains, who play Metro January 2nd, and whose record Loomings, available for free download here, was named Chicago album of 2009 by The Red Eye.
Local 101 is hosted by Chris Payne and produced/booked by Jaime Black, and airs every Sunday night at 9pm on Chicago’s Alternative, Q101. Local 101 streams live at Q101.com, and can be found online at MySpace and Twitter.
Time Marches On
It was fairly early on the fifth night of Local H’s seven-night stand at Beat Kitchen when it became apparent why the two-man outfit are so beloved locally, somewhere around when gruff but affable frontman Scott Lucas spit out “Fall Out Boy’s on the radio,” in the middle of fan favorite “California Songs.” Chicago loves Local H not only because they’re ours, but because the duo — including thrash-machine drummer Brian St. Clair — are not above us, and they get it.
While the rest of their mid-’90s Chicago rock class have either exited the building (Triplefastaction and Fig Dish, the latter who returned to open one night of the residency) or only exist as a hypothetical (what happened, Veruca Salt?), Local H have remained a constant. The cycle of new material and performing throughout the city culminated May 7th through 13th, when the group delivered an album each night save one for rarities, leading up to celebrate their latest release, 12 Angry Months (Shout Factory). With a presence like that, it’s not hard to see why Local H are considered hometown heroes. Hell, Smashing Pumpkins haven’t sent so much as a postcard since their reformation.
Yet for all of Local H’s time in the scene, Lucas doesn’t subscribe to any sort of nostalgia when it comes to the Chicago rock landscape. “I think everyone sort of has their own take on the Chicago scene and what bands matter to them. And you’ll get a lot of people who will talk about a golden age, and I think people only say that kind of bullshit because they don’t listen to new music. They don’t go out there now and check out the bands that are on the scene now. And so, I guess all that kind of thing would depend on who you talk to, and I tend to think that, as people get older, they tend to want to shut the door on what goes on. When they talk about how great bands used to be, or how great the scene used to be, they really don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. So, I hate to place some kind of historical context on something that’s never gonna end.”
Lucas did seem fairly comfortable last month, however, providing a level of insight and context into his band’s history. The outfit’s discography-spanning residency allowed each night’s sold-out crowd to witness an evolution, from fresh-faced sons of the fading grunge era (1995’s Ham Fisted and 1996’s As Good As Dead) to eventual pop-rock-experimentalists (1998’s gleaming Pack Up The Cats), to unapologetic, full-on rock purveyors (2002’s Here Comes The Zoo and 2005’s Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles?). It was the perfect build-up to the calendar-inspired 12 Angry Months, a recorded journal of a year lost to resentment, blame, atonement, and varying levels of acceptance. Easy listening, this is not.
“It was pretty obvious right away that I wanted to make a breakup record,” Lucas recalls, “but a breakup record that had some heft to it, and a little bit of weight. So I’d listen to things like [Bob Dylan's] Blood On The Tracks and Aftermath by The Rolling Stones, and I just would take a look at breakup records that I thought were really good.
“I didn’t want it to be idealized,” Lucas continues. “One of the problems I think people might have with songs about relationships is, something has happened, where they’ve been taken over with this sort of gutless, sort of neutered take on what romance is and what relationships are between people, and the mall-punk version of what emo has become, where it’s just really neutered, and it’s not interesting, and it’s ‘Why did you do this to me?’ in a really uninteresting way. And then, when you listen to a really good breakup record, it’s mean, it’s disgusting, and there are some really terrible things that people do to each other, and really terrible things that you go through, so, I wanted to touch on those things. And so, you think of records like Marvin Gaye’s divorce record [Here, My Dear], those things are pretty legendary, and, those feelings are real, that was definitely the kind of record that we wanted to make, rather than a record . . . that sounds like a James Blunt record or something.”
True to his word, there’s nary a moment on Months that could be mistaken for the syrupy, soccer-mom blandness of Blunt’s “Beautiful.” Instead, the record moves really, really quickly, diving headfirst and steadfastly into rarely pretty but undeniably honest themes like jealousy, bitterness, and wondering what happened to your record collection, as explored on album opener “The One With Kid,” wherein Lucas demands to know where his ex has taken all his AC/DC, Interpol, and Kyuss records. (She never liked them until she met him, you know.)
“That was one of the things about just taking something about relationships that you don’t necessarily hear in music all the time, and that [is] all too real, and that everyone goes through,” Lucas offers. “But, you don’t hear about that stuff, people would rather talk about how their love is as big as an ocean, or something stupid and that has absolutely no fucking meaning and doesn’t mean anything to anybody.”
Judging by the tone running throughout 12 Angry Months, Lucas’ choice words about love and relationships, and the way they’re handled in pop music, should come as no surprise. Thematically, Months may be H’s heaviest effort to date, devoid of the type of music-industry references that peppered previous albums. It’s a move that, according to Lucas, was definitely intentional.
“We always get noticed for lyrics that have something more to do with just music, or something more to do with the music scene,” he, not incorrectly, extends as a reason for the album’s markedly serious lyrical approach. “And it’s the kind of stuff that I think music writers pick up on because they want to listen to songs . . . that are in-jokes about music. So, it’s not like we’ve never written songs that aren’t snarky, that aren’t honest, that don’t deal with things like this. We have. But, they just don’t get a lot of play. So, one of the things was to make sure that this record wasn’t a put down about songs about California, that there was nothing on this record that could go that way. That it was going to be accepted on this term and there’d be nothing you could do.”
Not only is Months free of the irony and acidic insights into the music business, but it’s a brutally candid venture, one that finds Lucas putting himself and a bevy of personal emotions front and center.
“I think we’re really careful to just try and make sure that all the lyrics were completely 100-percent honest,” he remarks, “and nothing that was something that could have fit in just any random song. I wanted to make sure that, when I was singing these lyrics, that they were fucking embarrassing, and I didn’t want anybody to hear this stuff. And my favorite stuff that’s on any of our records is something that I’m embarrassed to have people hear at first. So there’s maybe one or two tracks on every record that, I’m like, ‘Ah, I don’t know if I can release this.’ And I was pretty terrified of this entire record, to tell you the truth.”
Part of which, no doubt, is due to the presence of startingly naked, especially by Local H standards, fare like “Summer Of Boats.” The song comes directly off the harsh and abrasive “White Belt Boys,” a terse rocker whose stomp-and-shout chorus recalls Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” and barely gives up more than repeating a barbed refrain of “Hope you have a lonely life.” By comparison, “Boats” is not only surprisingly emotionally vulnerable, but an unapologetic and unabashed acoustic-tinged power ballad.
“In any breakup, you take it to that point,” Lucas begins, “where it’s like, look, obviously, it’s not all her fault, and you kind of start to exactly examine what you did to fuck this up.
“When you get to ‘Summer Of Boats,’” he continues, “you’re like, ‘Part of this is my fault, and I’ve done things,’ and the whole point is, everyone should be allowed to make their own choices, and [that song] talks about being allowed to change, so, that’s the idea of that. Once you get to that stage, you’re almost there, you’re almost home, where you can just fucking move on.”
“Boats” may be one of the most mature and accepting moments on 12 Angry Months, but it’s surrounded by the sounds of a relationship in varying states of deconstruction. March (”BMW Man”) and April (”White Belt Boys” — Lucas’ breeziest jangle-pop song since “Eddie Vedder”) examine the torturous experience of finding out your ex is dating again, and, even worse, discovering whom she’s with.
“That’s the new boyfriend section, where you meet this guy that she’s been hanging out with, and you just can’t understand how,” Lucas begins before remarking, “It’s somebody that’s so completely different than you, and you can’t understand how she could do that. You can’t understand how she could go from you to some ex-college jock, who likes ESPN and votes for Bush.”
“White Belt Boys,” especially, expands on that theme, bringing paranoia into the equation. “You can sort of see what happens at that point is that, this girl has sort of become more successful, and she’s become more sure of herself, and, you’re just totally like, ‘Fuck you. I don’t even want to know you anymore.’ And so moving on from when you meet one person that this person is involved with, you start to realize that this person could be involved with the whole city, and it could be some guy you’re drinking next to in a bar, randomly, and he’s like, ‘Oh yeah, I went on a date with her.’”
It’s a scenario anyone who has ever had to wonder what their ex is up to can relate to as terrifying. And, according to Lucas, it’s an entirely justified apprehension, when he points out “Chicago’s not that big of a city, so, it certainly happens.”
Not only does it happen, but it moves the album’s story into even rougher waters, over June and July’s “Taxi Cabs” and “24 Hour Break-Up Session,” which Lucas refers to as the “dark chocolate center of the record” — snapshots of moving away from the possible acceptance, or at the very least resignation, that seemed to surface earlier during “Boats.” If the bitterness of “Cabs” and defeatism of “Break-Up” seem like a step back from the hints of calm and acceptance that surfaced in “Boats,” there’s a reason for that, Lucas counters. Originally, when considering a direction for the album, Lucas considered the 12-step program as well as the five stages of grief as possible themes, but opted out.
“The problem with the five stages of grief, it seems to me,” he explains, “is that, it presupposes that you don’t double back. You don’t skip back and forth between stages. So, once you hit stage three, you would never go back to stage two.
“One of the ideas of going with it, the 12 months, was that you could sort of go back and forth,” he continues, “so, say on something like ‘Summer Of Boats,’ when you’re talking about it happening in May and you’re starting to accept that this is over, and then you go over the next three months, and you still don’t accept it, you go back the other direction, and then you have to go through this whole acceptance situation again, four months later.”
The record culminates with the eight-minute “Hand To Mouth,” a song as loaded with subtext and open to interpretation as any H have written yet, that ominously promises “You’ll learn/what really matters/You’ll know/what really counts/You’ll hear the chitter-chatter/they say/When you’re living hand to mouth.” It’s a song, Lucas says, about total collapse, which may or may not be such a bad thing.
“When you do hit the bottom, I think there’s a point where you . . . can put things together,” he suggests, “and that’s the best point. You’re like, ‘All right, this is what really matters. What matters isn’t all this bullshit that I thought that did, but what really matters is that you can find somebody who completely and totally understands you, and understands you for you.’ And, I don’t really see that as an unhappy ending.”
If finding someone who’s there for you isn’t an unhappy way to close things out, then, by comparison, the group’s Beat Kitchen residency is practically a fairy-tale ending. The stint welcomed a sizable portion of the Local H faithful, many of whom have shown support since the beginning. It was a week that offered a rare glimpse at a band’s development in chronological order, with album favorites battling covers-loaded encores, not to mention long-forgotten rarities, soundtrack cuts, and singles. From “Purple Rain” and “Don’t Fear The Reaper” the first night to an impassioned version of Guided By Voices’ “Smothered In Hugs,” fan-favorite Concrete Blondes cover “Joey,” and closing assorted nights with Cheap Trick’s “Goodnight,” the stand delivered plenty of pleasant surprises. Night six even focused exclusively on the surprising volume of rarely heard tracks amassed over the years, including melancholy ’90s deep cut “Tag Along,” as well as an encore that included the whole No Fun punk-covers EP.
Tonally, the difference between certain nights was more pronounced than others. The residency’s third night, for example, focused on Pack Up The Cats, and was easily the most pop-centric of the stand, as Lucas and St. Clair delivered the record not only in its entirety but in its original playing order, including the album’s numerous transitions and segues. It was a tactic that proved effective, notably on upping the impact into “What Can I Tell You?” out of “500,000 Scovilles.” The highlight of the evening, however, was album closer “Lucky Time,” a perfect indication of the gleaming sheen that coats the majority ofCats.
Other nights offered different flavors of the band’s development. Local H blended their rawer punk tendencies with inherent pop sensibilities throughout night four, where the group focused on Here Comes The Zoo. Lucas prefaced the evening by remarking, “It’s nice to be playing a record about aging really badly, and losing your edge . . . on your birthday. Ha ha, very funny, God.” And while “Keep Your Girlfriend Away From Me” stood as the performance’s most sing-songy moment, for the most part a heavier, strong-armed approach ruled the evening, as evidenced during “Creature Comforted” and “Half Life.” As became the tendency for the residency, the duo saved some of the most remarkable and epic selections for last, with Zoo’s dark closer “What Would You Have Me Do?” serving as no exception. The song, a New Year’s Eve gone horribly wrong, played out with more speed before reaching its eventual and drawn-out ending, and St. Clair spacing out the song’s final beats, waiting longer between each crash. Lucas, meanwhile, howled and let the feedback bleed all over the room, smearing it all over St. Clair’s hits, before eventually letting the reverb stand alone as the drummer exited the stage. It was a performance made all the more surprising by the sudden appearance of a birthday cake.
It was a reminder that, as Lucas signed off on another year, the crowd around him, too, had aged — a fact nights one and two drove home. While Lucas seemed (understandably) rusty on Ham Fisted’s material (once commenting “Did I miss that bridge? Fuck that bridge!”), songs like “Mayonnaise And Malaise” held up surprisingly well. Night two, meanwhile, hosted a number of Local H’s most widely known selections, including their breakthrough single, “Bound For The Floor.” The most celebrated moments of the evening, however, came in adrenaline-fueled and angst-laden cuts like “High-Fiving MF” (a song decrying meathead fans that ironically spawned a fairly ballcap-clad mosh pit), as well as boredom lament, “Fritz’s Corner.” Both served as examples of H’s tendency of writing angry material that’s more clever and self-aware than it originally lets on.
It was a tendency that carried over to Lucas’ onstage persona, as he engaged the audience and countered snarky crowd banter with a bit of his own. Such was the case on night six when one audience member remarked a song was a jam, to which Lucas coolly replied “I know.” “I thought you need the encouragement!” the fan responded, prompting Lucas to admit “I do. That’s why I’m playing seven nights. I can’t get enough encouragement,” before adding “I think I need a couple shots of encouragement.”
It was nights five and seven, however, with H’s most recent works, P.J. Soles andMonths, on display, that demonstrated a culmination of everything the group had displayed up until that point. Soles‘ “Heaven On The Way Down” and “Hey Rita” remain two of the most mature — and melodic — H selections to date, with the latter evolving into a longer jam dipping into a tease of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” that warned, “And if you’re worried about the weather/You picked the wrong place to stay.” But it wasn’t until the end of the group’s Monthsperformance the true paradox of Local H revealed itself, with Lucas closing out the entire week-long stand by way of a solo performance of “All The Kids Are Right.” There’s a certain telling irony to the fact he would close out a string of celebrated, capacity shows with one of the group’s most beloved songs — one steeped in self-deprecation. It’s actually entirely likely that, by being so ever-present all this time, Lucas isn’t even aware of the impact his group has made in the city over the last decade-plus. It’s a concept that suggests Local H may never stop playing, bringing to mind the lyrics “I’m in love with rock ‘n’ roll/but that’ll change eventually,” sung all the way back on the third night’s “Hit The Skids Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Rock.”
“I think that line is kind of about people who get into music, and eventually they stop listening to music, ’cause, that’s their job,” Lucas offers up simply. “And I don’t really not listen to music. I continue to do it, and I always have.”
Probably because he’s one of us.
– Jaime de’Medici