The Lilys Blossom With Seductive 60's Sounds
Rolling Stone, Dec. 12, 1996

Kurt Heasley is not a man known for his sense of commitment. "Basically, I bail on situations," says the lanky frontman for the Lilys. Since 1991, Heasley has piloted his brainchild on a zigzagging course that's taken the band from mopey shoe-gazer rock to '60s-inspired pop. The group's new album, Better Can't Make Your Life Better, owes large debts to the Kinks, the Beatles, and the Monkees, which are light-years away from the sleepy sounds of the Lilys' 1992 album, In the Presence of Nothing. Along the way, Heasley has become the band's sole constant member.

By now, Heasley's friends and fellow musicians are used to his restless weirdness. "Its not like I owe people money and run out on my phone bill," explains the 25-year-old guitarist and singer, who attended a Quaker school in Virginia until seventh grade. "This [unpredictability] goes for all elements of my life: bands, relationships and apartments."

The Lilys' current lineup – which, in addition to Heasley, comprises drummer and percussionist Aaron Sperske, bassist Thom Monahan, guitarist Torben Pastore and organist Timothy Foote – took shape at a studio in Hartford, Conn. That's where Heasley and his pal Monahan hooked up with the like-minded Sperske, who according to the band's frontman, "was someone who listened to music which wasn't audio vomit."

With non-audio vomit in mind, the Lilys began churning out happily chaotic bubblegum rock with friendly melodies, Davy Jones-like tambourine parts and soulful, singsong vocals. Although the band wrote the music for Better Can't Make Your Life Better collectively in the studio, the obtuse lyrics are all Heasley's. His choice of song titles says a lot about his character. Take, for instance, "The Tennis System (and Its Stars)," a lofty tune sheathed in sonic layers; or the guitar-driven pop of "Shovel Into Spade Kit"; or the pretty "Elevator Is Temporary."

"If this record has lots of big, seductive '60s sounds," Heasley explains, "it's because the closer we get to death, the more we look back. That shit you got off on as a kid - that's no bullshit."

While there is on denying the album's feel-good vibe, the recording process wasn't so cheery. After the Lilys completed the basic tracks, Heasley was so run-down that he ended up getting horribly sick. According to Sperske, the band's producer had to force the singer to perform. Sperske's account of it seems to sum up Heasley's modus vivendi: "It was like those stories of [Pink Floyd's] David Gilmour following Syd Barrett around the studio with a microphone." NILOU PANAHPOUR





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