Busy as always, I chatted this week with Local H frontman Scott Lucas about early work on the band’s eighth studio album, this week’s release of the second installment of Local H’s Awesome Mix Tape covers series, a holiday themed show he has coming up Saturday night at Hideout with his side project Scott Lucas & The Married Men, a Local H New Year’s Eve show at Cubby Bear and more…
If the end of 2014 is any indication, 2015 should start as a busy year for Chicago alt-rock duo Local H.
After spending much of the last year on the road for his first Local H shows with new drummer Ryan Harding, Scott Lucas launched an ultimately successful PledgeMusic campaign to fund the eighth Local H studio album at the end of November, beginning those recording sessions – Harding’s first with Local H – in Chicago with longtime cohort Andy Gerber producing at his own Million Yen Studios with additional Gerber-led sessions taking place at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio.
But fans don’t have to wait until the spring to hear new Local H music as this past Tuesday marked the release of the band’s Awesome Mixtape #2. Mixtape #2 is the latest in a series of cover albums that began in 2010 and features the band’s raucous take on everything from Daft Punk and Lorde to Iggy Pop and REO Speedwagon.
And as the duo preps for what has become one of the more unique New Year’s Eve rock traditions in Chicago (a different theme each year in an annual Local H effort to trump those past) with a show on December 31st at Cubby Bear, Lucas is actually pausing for a moment to ponder the Christmas holiday. His side project – Scott Lucas & The Married Men – features members of local, Celtic folk/punks The Tossers, and in their only performance of 2014 (one that is being recorded for a webcast that will air at the Married Men website on Christmas Eve), the group nods decidedly in the direction of the Christmas holiday during their fifth annual “Hideout Holiday Music Hour.”
I spoke earlier this week with Scott Lucas about his initial foray into the world of crowdfunding, work on the band’s latest studio effort, the key to making a cover song unique, some of his favorite Christmas music, New Year’s Eve, Godzilla and much more…
Q. Let’s start with the new album – This will be the first Local H album to feature Ryan on drums. As always, you guys toured a lot. How were the shows and how long did it take you guys to gel, so to speak, before you entered the studio?
Scott Lucas: We kind of just sort of spent the whole year just touring and trying to gel, get that thing together. We recorded a few songs throughout the year but I think the plan was to just sort of take the year and tour and get tight and get that “thing” and then make a record.
Q. In regards to the new album that you’re recording now, were these songs you had in the can before Ryan came into the fold or was he part of that creative process?
SL: No, they weren’t in the can. There was probably one song that I sort of had kicking around, the idea, on the last record. But it just wasn’t gonna fit thematically on the last record. But everything else was just stuff where we’d record bits and pieces throughout the year at rehearsals on my phone.
So when it really came time to sort of buckle down and make this record, and we had booked the time in the studio, I was just kind of like, “Wait a minute… I don’t really have a record and I don’t have the songs.” And I just kind of freaked out for a second. Then I listened to my phone and kind of realized that we really did have the songs. They were just sitting there.
Q. Over the last two studio albums – 12 Angry Months and Hallelujah! I’m a Bum – certain ideas or concepts kind of influenced the overall themes of those records. Were there any kind of ideas that influenced the writing of this album as a whole?
SL: No. Not really. I mean, there are certain ideas and sort of recurring themes that I noticed in some of the songs but that’s just kind of a reflection maybe of where my head is at. The idea was sort of not to make a concept record this time. So it’ll be interesting to see whether or not we actually succeeded when I kind of step back and look at the lyrics [whether] I go “Oh, there is a theme.” We’ll see what happens.
Q. This project was kind of your first experience with the crowdfunding process, right? What were your initial thoughts going into it?
SL: It is, yeah. I really didn’t… I didn’t want to do it. It was just a thing where… Once I kind of realized that basically all it was was sort of like a pre-order type of thing, I thought, “You know what? It’s fine.” People are buying the record and they’re getting something. It’s not like we’re asking them to give us money for nothing. It seemed to work out fine.
I’m just glad that people were into it, you know what I mean? I was worried that it was just gonna be f—ing embarrassing, that we’d put it up there and nobody would give a sh-t. So it’s more a relief than anything.
Q. Obviously, that’s not the only Local H record you’re involved with as the second volume of the Mixtape was released this week. It balances some stuff people might not be overly familiar with alongside your take on some stuff that is more well-known. How difficult is it to strike that balance when you’re putting a project like that together?
SL: It’s not that difficult. I think that sometimes you pick a song and it’s like, “Oh, hold on – everybody’s covered this song.” And you might not even know that until you look it up and do some research and then realize, “Oh sh-t. Everyone’s done this song.” And then you kind of have to weigh that and sort of figure, do you care? Can you do something that sort of makes your version, I don’t know, have a reason to exist I guess?
Q. That’s got to be the most difficult part of it – Especially with something like Daft Punk or Lorde that everybody knows. When you take something like that, and you put your own spin on it, what’s the key to making sure that it stands on it’s own?
SL: Usually it’s like… If you pick a song like, [Daft Punk’s] “Da Funk,” you kind of just have to play it and it’s gonna sound different than the original version. If you play an electronic song with guitars, you really don’t have to do much work to make it sound different. It’s just the fact that you play it. The hard work is done.
Q. You’ve got the Married Men show coming up Saturday night at Hideout, which features primarily holiday music. To me, there can be a fine line between Christmas music that’s fun and Christmas music that veers off into a sort of hokey territory. But what is it about the holiday themed music that’s kept you coming back to it over the course of the last five years with these Scott Lucas & The Married Men shows at Hideout?
SL: I like Christmas music. I don’t really have a problem with it. I mean, there’s a few songs that I really hate but I think some of those songs are great. Most of them I think are great.
Q. Whether it’s the couple Local H Christmas songs or the full shows with the Married Men, you’ve taken on a lot of music over the years in that particular genre. In your experience, how do you keep that material from veering into the ridiculous?
SL: I’m not so sure we do. I mean, most of our takes on those songs are cheesy. There’s only so much you can do.
Q. Do you have a particular Christmas favorite?
SL: I don’t know… Probably that Nat King Cole “Merry Christmas” song is pretty great. That’s probably the best one.
Q. Finally, New Year’s Eve – Local H performs this year at Cubby Bear. Every year you guys manage to find some sort of original way to ring in the new year. What can fans expect this year?
SL: Godzilla movies. That’s basically the main theme this year.
– Jim Ryan (@RadioJimRyan)
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(Details on Saturday’s Scott Lucas & The Married Men show as well as Local H’s New Year’s Eve show below)
Scott Lucas & The Married Men
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Doors open at 8PM
Show starts at 9PM
Also performing: Wolvereen (formerly Purple Apple)
$12 Click HERE to purchase tickets SOLD OUT
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Doors open at 8PM
Show starts at 9:30PM
Also performing: Kevin Flynn & The Avondale Ramblers and Workout Music
Click HERE to purchase tickets