|ROCKWIRED INTERVIEWS LUSTRA
BEATING THE CURSEAt the turn of the millenia, rock music had morphed from the melodic crunch of post-grunge into the aggressive and confrontational sounds of rap metal, and nu metal. Atthe time, the transition seemed hurried and unnatural, but condsidering the tumultuous decade ahead of us, these sounds of prescribed rage and alienation seemed to be the best that we could expect out of the GEORGE W. BUSH-era. The band LUSTRA - formed in Boston and now based in Los Angeles - is a refreshing reminder of post-grunge's glory days with their raw rock approach, but don't mistake this band as some sort of late-nineties nostalgia act.
CHRIS BAIRD AND NICK CLOUTMAN
TALK TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THEIR FORTHCOMING CD 'WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT YOU GET'
BEATING THE "BOSTON CURSE"
AND SUPPORTING THE TROOPS
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
LUSTRA is on the verge of releasing 'WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT YOU GET', the follow up to their 2006 debut LEFT FOR DEAD, and this sophomore effort is far from beinga slump. CHRIS BAIRD (bass/vocals) and NICK CLOUTMAN (guitars/vocals) have proven themselves as pop rock scribers in the vein of JAGGER and RICHARDS with the anthems such as the strutting WHITE POWDER, the raucous BARNBURNER, and the reflective, driving first single 'IT'S A SHAME ABOUT BOSTON'. However, no pop rock album is complete without a relationship being dissected and analyzed to death as it is on the track DINOSAUR. This gritty rock n roll gem is the perfect panacea to the over-produced, over-sequenced self-pity and adolescent rage that has made rock rado of late so indigestable.
ROCKWIRED spoke with CHRIS BAIRD and NICK CLOUTMAN over the phone. Here is how it went.
'WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT YOU GET' is a great CD! With it's release date creeping up (November 11, 2008), what's all going through your heads?
CHRIS: Go for it NICK. I'd like to hear what's going through your head.
NICK: A lot of air at the moment. It's too premature to tell what kind of reactions are coming about. Of course all of our friends and family are pretty positive about it. We're looking forward to officially getting it out there for people to hear. It'll be interesting to hear what people think, after our last release.
CHRIS: I guess I agree with that too. We just hope that we can reach the right group of people that we think would like it. We've worked really hard on it. We're happy with it and it was a lot of fun making, so hopefully that comes through when people listen to it.
NICK: As a sort of sidebar to that, we were lucky to get some backing to make a pretty substantial donation to the troops again this year. We did one for our last disk and we figured that we would continue on in that spirit, so we're making a holiday donation this year and a special edition of this disk, so hopefully we'll get to do some military touring.
What's different with this album as opposed to the previous release?
CHRIS: I would say that the songs are little more thought out. We did a lot more layering. We got in as much studio time as we could. We paid for the studio time ourselves. With this album, I guess you could say that we moved into more of a melodic direction. All in all, you could say that we had a little more time to think about this one. And better artwork, of course.
NICK: On the last album, we had various producers contributing and on this one, we aligned ourselves with this guy JOHN PATERNO, who we like a lot. This album sounds more like one creation as opposed to the last album. This album seems pretty solid to me.
You've got a new member.
CHRIS: We've got a drummer named MANNY BALDANZA. He's from Switzerland so he's very peaceful. He's a great drummer and a great addition to the band. He get's where we're going which is good.
How did this band get started?
NICK: It sort of happened by accident. CHRIS and I met in college and sort of fell together and played in different incarnations of the band, but the real solid years have been the last couple of years out here in L.A.
CHRIS: It was sort of like the movie ANIMAL HOUSE where they put all of the real geeks together who have no chance of getting into the fraternity. That was kind of like us.
NICK: It's true, nobody wanted to play with us.
I was reading that you guys were eager to get out of Boston to avoid the "Boston Curse". What is that?
NICK: There are many versions of the 'Boston curse', but in terms of bands, Boston is a notorious haven for producing these acts that get really hot really fast, then get picked up by labels and get spit out right away. I figured that we should leave before we were in danger of that.
CHRIS: Also bands that are from Boston tend to get bigger outside of Boston once they leave. It just feels like there is more room to breathe. The music was great in Boston when we were there and it always will be, but a band like THE PIXIES was never really big in Boston. Not until about five years ago which is ridiculous. They were huge overseas and big all over the place, but not in Boston. BUFFALO TOM was really big in California, but only had this mediocre following in Boston.
Explain the bands name to me.
NICK: Your guess is as good as ours. Since we've come up with teh name, we've been contacted by people in Poland saying that it means "mirrors" in Polish. It's also the name of a Scandinavian environmental agency. There's also a racehorse somewhere named LUSTRA.
CHRIS: We were called SEVENTEEN and we got sued by SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE. We actually had to pull our disks off of the shelves.
CHRIS: Yeah, that sort of sucked. We couldn't fight The media company that owned the magazine. They charged that we were vying for the same audience. Their audience is seventeen year old girls. I don't quite understand that. There are no GARY GLITTERs in this band, as far as I know.
CHRIS, what got you into music in the beginning?
CHRIS: When I was growing up, my parents would always have records playing. They had PET SOUNDS by THE BEACH BOYS and I didn't even understand what that was. There was always music around, but my parents were never musicians. My brother got me into CREAM and CREEDENCE and THE KINKS, and from there, I got into LED ZEPPELIN. Music is something that's always been apart of my life. It's always been the best way to meet people.
NICK: You totally left out the breakdancing part.
CHRIS: I was breakdancing for a little while, but I wasn't as good as I could've been.
NICK: You didn't apply yourself.
CHRIS: My brother was in a band when he was in college. Whenever you have an older brother doing something, you want to do it yourself. I went and saw his band play and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world, and that was what got me into it.
How about you NICK, did you ever break dance?
NICK: You don't wanna see me dance. Dancing and running, I do it once a year.
How about music? What was the starting point?
NICK: To be honest, I don't know. From a really young age, I was always interested in listening to the radio. I remember having it on all of the time. It seems to me like parents used to play a lot more music back in the day. I remember my mother having the radio on while she was making dinner and I was so psyched to be listening to whatever the hell they were playing.
CHRIS: NICK's mother is also from England and they didn't have cable, so you had to listen to the radio. You had a choice of AM radio of DOCTOR WHO. I'd rather listen to AM radio.
NICK: (To CHRIS) You'd rather listen to that than that awesome DOCTOR WHO soundtrack?
How smooth was the transition from Boston to Los Angeles?
CHRIS: I don't think there were any real troubles with the band. I think any real troubles had to do withthe music industry and the people in it. 95% of them really suck and they don't have a clue about what they are doing and they don't care about the music itself or the integrity of the artist. I'm not saying that we're PRINCE or anything, but theres a lot of flyballs and you can get a chip on your shoulder if you can't let it roll off. We've been doing this now for fourteen years and the people who actuallly have their heart in the right place are few and far between. Not that I'm negative about it. We've been through so many situations where we've been told one thing and another thing happens and it frustrating. There are a lot of people doing this for the wrong reason and I think that we're doing it for the right reason. But at least there were no nervous breakdowns or drug overdoses or pregancies that I know about. We're just trying to keep our heads on.
How do songs get written in this band?
NICK: It's never the same formula but ussually, CHRIS and I will hash something out and when it's evolved enough it ends up being something that the whole band molds together. It's always interesting to see an idea develop from when you had it in a room by yourself on a crappy acoustic guitar and them it turns into a fully fleshed out song with other people putting in their ideas. A song never goes the way you were expecting it to go for better or for worse.
CHRIS: NICK and I pretty much script out the song and have the drummer and bass player come in with their part. However, we try to keep everything in the initial mold that we've had set for the song. We try to keep the songs as structured as possible.
Of the songs on this latest release, which songs stick out for you the most and why?
NICK: Just off the top of my head I'd have to say 'DINOSAUR', 'WHITE POWDER', and 'IT'S A SHAME ABOUT BOSTON' are probably my favorites, but I'm probably forgetting something.
CHRIS: I tend to agree with NICK, I think 'DINOSAUR' is the strongest song on the album and I think 'WHITE POWDER' shows a good amount of diversity in the songwriting.
What was it like working with JOHN PATERNO?
NICK: It was great! I don't what to say other than that. He's always good at giving direction on everything and that's something that a good producer should have. They should always look at what a band is doing and then offer up their suggestions on how a song could be better. He was willing to explore ideas with us and if they didn't work, we would continue on with the way we wrote a song.
CHRIS: Yeah, he made great suggestons and he's an incredible guitar player with a great ear. He really cares about us and he cares about the music. It's been a great working relationship and we are very lucky.
You guys talked a litle about the ugly side of the music industry, and I think I remember a while back where MYLIE CYRUS had a song that sounded like one of yours.
NICK: There was a lot of speculation out there. The notes were exactly the same. Someone had brought it to our attention and it was -
CHRIS: It was pretty damn close!
NICK: Yeah, but at the same time, we didn't want to get ourselves involved in some ugly lawsuit. It would've ended up being a David and Goliath battle with DISNEY. They weren't even returning any phone calls to comment on the matter, but it was definitely funny to see peoples reactions to it.
CHRIS: Obviously, we are a band that writes it's own songs and MYLIE CYRUS has people that are the tastemakeers that plug her into their sort of set up or paradigm of what they think that music should be. It's almost note for note but we can't afford a musiciologist for five thousand dollars to sit in court and play guitar to show how the songs are or aren't similar. So, we've decided not to delve any deeper into the issue.
With all of that behind you, what would you like someone to come away with after they've heard WHAT YOU NEED AND WHAT YOU GET?
NICK: A profound sense of enjoyment.
CHRIS: I would like them to not use the CD as a coaster for their beer. That's one thing that would make me happy. I think this CD will be good for a kid's first sexual experience. They should have it playing in the background.
NICK: How young are you talking about?
CHRIS: Like eleven or twelve.
NICK: That's what I was thinking too.
CHRIS: There is always a place for rock. There was a bunch of people that didn't know what to gravitate to after grunge and maybe this album can be something they could listen to as sort of a graduation from that. There are a lot of people out there that don't want to listen to LINKIN PARK and FALLOUT BOY.
It is interesting how rock music took that turn overnight.
CHRIS: People are more celebrities now than they are musicians. It's like 'who gives a shit who you're dating?' I really try to give the radio a chance. I really do because I want to know what I'm talking about or know if I like something or not and I can't listen to it. I really can't.