Dan Abbott is led astray by Boston's obscenely talented Lilys
There's a mysterious unmarked area somewhere upon the Ocean of Popular Music that acts as a kind of inverse Bermuda Triangle, periodically ejecting from its depths the most unexpected of melody vessels. This autumn, a ship of high surprise appeared on the horizon, a ship from Boston USA named Lilys, laden with new album 'Better can't make your life better'- a highly exotic cargo.
Lilys make psychedelic music, music you can see. Psychedelia not as in comatose dead-head wah wah sludge, but as in buzzing wide-eyed stream of consciousness beat music. Songs/ Energy/ Madness. Though the playing and production bring to mind mid-period Kinks, the actual music has an air of sound postcards sent back from the 21st century, like discovering Victorian etchings of the moon landing! Playing games with song structure is a Lilys' trademark, numbers like 'Shovel into Spade Kit' and 'Daz en el Hogar' wind their way through numerous disconcerting changes, each song containing enough parts to build seven or eight new ones. Though the Lilys' songwriting style is bound to be slated by some as 'quirky', 'artrock' or just 'too clever', here the songs flow so n aturally that it's hard to believe they could have been achieved in any other way. This is happy music!
Having survived two albums with previous Lilys incarnations, founding father Kurt Heasley selected himself an entirely new line-up for the current album. Today the five Lilys are: Kurt Heasley (Vocals, guitar), Tim Foote (Keyboards, percussion), Thom Monahan (Bass, vocals), Torben Pastore (Guitar) and Aaron Sperske (Drums). In search of various whys, whens and mainly hows I spent an evening of questions, laughter and word-association games in the company of these amiable lunatics.
A few words to sum up the band?
All- Monkeys!Monkeys! Monkeys! Chimp rock!
Kurt- We're the smartest monkeys in our tree! Actually, we're just five guys who got together to entertain each other, that's all. We're as random a happening as you'd ever wanna get!
You're clearly in love with The Byrds, The Kinks etc, but what of your less obvious influences?
Kurt- Can you take acid and listen to The Andrews Sisters? Bing Crosby, crooners, BIG entertainers from way back! We only like the 60's because it was a period like the 20's/30's when people had the audacity to look and live a certain way regardless of it being the best thing for them. We're not a rock band, we're popular music, music of the people! Wearing our 60's influences on our sleeves, it's a folk interpretation and folk music has been popular in America ever since the pilgrims first landed and had to entertain themselves before they froze to death!
A lot of your songs sound very 'English', intentional?
Kurt- I'm sorry, but as a colonist, I really do still consider myself an English citizen, subject only to a revolt that I had no part in! The guy that said 'Kiss my ass!' (George Washington) smoked so much weed that I don't wanna be held responsible for anything he did! We call him 'Hemphead'.
The new album is quite extraordinary...
Thom- It sounds like it's a bunch of people getting together and just rocking out, it was anything but. That album was cobbled together by chance, a bunch of random pieces thrown at the wall... The guy who produced and worked on the record, Mike Demming, is an incredibly learned musician who can arrange horns for a big-band and then also knows every abstract electronic record made in the last thirty years!
Torben- When I first joined this band I considered myself to be a painter first, musician second, but when I heard the music I thought 'Sound! It's like paint!'. It's beautiful the way it mixes on record, the way it never would just playing in a room.
Kurt- We'd been a band for about 24 hours, got to know each other, then began to write and record the album, which was done about two months later.
Thom- We basically lived in the studio, which is a haunted gun factory...
Kurt- Built by Samuel Colt, y'know, Colt Firearms? It was built in about ninety days by the U.S. government, just before we entered World War Two. So all that beautiful reverb you hear is the sound of a bathroom in a gun factory!
The word 'psychedelic', has it become an archaic and misleading label?
Kurt- Archaic? It's been a popular word since about 6000BC! Men have always yearned to take themselves, not so much away from where they are now, but to get the full experience of where they are now... and when you get in touch with your world, when you just look. It's all points of honesty, when things become less reality based, more what's in your mind, your perception. Oh, I wish there were more definitions for exo-psychology! But we're not saying 'Go play guitar, jump through the garden and feed yourself on the fruits of the earth!', life's not like that, paying bills, snow, food shortages...
So who would you rather vote for, Tim Leary or Ken Kesey?
Kurt- Probably more Tim Leary and John C. Lilly... Richard Alpert, he was a good guy, he went to India after being a very uptight, false person and said 'There's a lot more to life than just being a liar!'.
Lilys' lyrics sound at times very, very stream of conscoiusness...
Thom- Kurt's very good at weaving together all the different experiences a person could have or think about... the lyrics do sound stream of consciousness but I've always thought that there was a thread running through them. None of us had any idea of what the lyrics were going to be, they just sorta came out of the ether and seemed right.
Kurt- Ten tracks were dedicated to me, on a 24-track machine, because I would sing different things in different pitches on each take. We'd have ten versions of me singing totally different lyrics and Mike (Demming) would assemble them between words.
Many of your songs sound as if they were custom made for listeners with Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.)...
Kurt- I've gone from writing five minute meandering songs to two minute meandering songs and pretty soon I'm gonna have a ten minute song that doesn't do anything twice, it'll be for kids with ADD and tons of time on their hands! It's music therapy!
Aaron- We're ADD rock by and for ADD people!
How far do you feel that avant garde music has been assimilated into the mainstream? Don't you think that folks in general are now more open to strange noises on records?
Thom- There have been odd noises ever since the beginning of recorded music, novelty records and so on... If you were listening to a bluegrass band play at a state fair in Virginia in 1870 and a train went by, that was a weird sound...
Aaron- I think that there's a current trend for eclectic recordings, like the new Beck record. Top forty albums seem to have a lot stranger sounds involved and not just be novelty songs.
Torben- I think eclecticism in music can be put down to the way things are catalogued more now. People are more used to seeing 1920 next to 1980, next to 2000BC... and so if you can see it on a computer screen, why not hear it? It doesn't really mean anything.
Aaron- I remember in my neighbourhood it was a really freaky thing when Run DMC and Aerosmith got together... and now Beck mixes heavy metal and hip hop and bits of Frank Sinatra and everyone's 'Groovy!'.
So, what does the future hold for Lilys?
Thom- Steel drum orchestras!
Kurt- And they're only a part of the rhythm section for the new Lilys! The new Lilys shall involve elements of the past three hundred years as assimilated by someone who's conscious of the last five-and-a-half million years, and when the results of the recording have equalled the results of our combined experience, we shall release a new record. Also, you can expect so much more from the new Lilys because there will be a drastic change in input from one person, to five! We're probably gonna move sideways, because as much as you want to be horizontally in-tune, you're always vertically aggressive, which means that you write chord progressions...
Give me a meaningful and snappy one-liner that'll look good at the end of the interview, the bottom of the page...
Kurt- I have $2.98 for a $3.00 pair of shoes.
taken from BoB #47
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