Since crashing the grunge party in the early ‘90s as one-half of the enduring rawk duo Local H, Scott Lucas has been shredding his vocals and cranking out the guitar riffs for people that like a healthy dose of distortion and self-deprecating bravado. Local H's just released Awesome Mix Tape #1 provides eight examples of what happens when that band puts their spin on eight songs by others, like Concrete Blonde’s ode to an alcoholic lover, “Joey,” and a cover of “Wolf Like Me” that snarls more than the TV on the Radio original.
But Lucas has also been pulling something out of a brand new bag this year.
It all started with the time tested harbinger to some of the best music ever recorded: a break-up. When Lucas was dumped, he came up with a novel way to deal with the pain by composing a song a day to his heartbreaker and e-mailing it to her in hopes of winning back the love. When the bloodletting cleared, he had enough songs for a whole album, but the stripped down and painful paeans to complications that often come with relationships would square peg in the Local H round hole, so Lucas decided to make it a solo effort.
Rounding up a bunch of fellow Chicago musicians he dubbed The Married Men, Lucas slicked back the hair, threw on some nice duds and dropped the textured-but-stripped-down George Lassos the Moon in February at the tail end of a particularly snowy winter.
So in addition to the Local H release, this week also brings The Absolute Beginners EP -- its title taken from the David Bowie song -- kicking off a more polished Married Men set that also features reworked renditions of two tracks from the outfit’s debut as well as one Local H number.
Having hit up the CMJ Music Conference in New York last night, Lucas decided at the last minute to make an out of the way stop in Boston before heading back to Chi-Town. He and his merry band of Married Men will be touching down at Church tonight, and I caught up with Lucas earlier in the week to talk about his bands new and old.
Most guys dealing with a break-up would do stupid shit like show up at their ex-girlfriend’s work with flowers or write letters to their parents telling them what a wonderful daughter they have. What made you decide to do something so completely non-boneheaded?
Well, I did plain boneheaded stuff too — there’s just no physical proof of that lying around. This just one of the things that I do, it’s the sort of thing where that’s all that’s on your mind and it’s going to come out one way or another when you’re writing a song.
This started as just a you-and-the-acoustic thing, that wasn’t expected to see the light of day. Now, you’ve completely Glenn Miller-ized it. Did you ever imagine that happening?
There was really no thought put into it. It was just a type of thing where writing these songs that had no forethought. They were just for me and one other person. It had been awhile since I had done something like that where it was just songs that weren’t for a new record or for any other reason than for the songs to exist, so it was a completely different headspace. It wasn’t until I had gotten a bunch of songs together that the idea to put together another band even started.
Did you ever think the fans of Local H would think, “What the hell is he doing here?” Because the songs are such a drastic departure from that sound.
Well maybe – yeah, but I think it’s important to open yourself up to ridicule and do things that you’re not supposed to do. I didn’t care if fans of Local H ever listened to this, they’re certainly not forced to, but some of them may want to and that’s fine, it’s not a package deal – you can take us or leave us.
It’s kind of a thing where you do something like this and you want to be accepted on this term and this term only and there’s the temptation to present this music to people who haven’t heard Local H and they don’t know you from Local H and they only know you through this. Then you realize that’s almost impossible. You can’t divorce yourself from what you’ve done in the past and what you continue to do, so you just do it and don’t worry about it.
What about exposing yourself emotionally; were you worried that there might come some criticism with that?
I had just come off a Local H record, 12 Angry Months, where there was a lot of opening up on there and I think a lot of people really got that record. Fan-wise, I felt rewarded for opening myself up, and I was encouraged to just do whatever I felt like doing.
The most successful Local H songs have always been the ones where during the recording process I think to myself, “Shit, should we be doing this?” That’s what you want to do in music; you want to go past any sort of fear. You don’t want to stay safe and try to rewrite the same song over and over again because then you turn into a band like Everclear.
The way you’ve approached The Married Men is DIY, the whole getting back in the van thing. Is that part of it welcome or is it, “Man, now I remember how much I hate doing this.”
No, I don’t hate it. And the funny thing with The Married Men is it really feels like playing that first Local H tour; you’re just going out and have to prove yourself and you take that comfort zone away. It is something completely new for me, and it’s a different experience. As far as it being DIY, we’re in control, and I’m proud of what we’re doing. It would be much worse if I were doing something I didn’t want to do and being forced to do it in order to make money.
Do you see yourself doing Local H shows in 30 years, doing stage-dives and bleeding out your vocal cords nightly, or smoothing out the coif, putting on a suit and saying, “I’m gonna be with The Married Men.”
I think this certainly has retirement plan written all over it. But the thing that starts to happen, when we went out on the road, each night the guitar solos started to get a little louder and we’d start rocking more. We’re in a bar, and you want to rock, you want to play louder and you don’t fight that anymore. A man can’t deny what’s in his nature forever.
And the new stuff, which we’ll play in Boston, will show that we’re going in different directions. The band doesn’t sound like Local H, and I didn’t feel comfortable forcing these songs into a Local H record. I wouldn’t do this if it didn’t show this other side of me, because if it sounded the same, there wouldn’t be a reason to do it.
The venue you’re playing in Boston is called Church. When is the last time Scott Lucas went to church?
A few years ago, we actually played a church. We did a bunch of goth songs. It was an undead party in a church, a Catholic church. But those places don’t count; they’re just a temple for money, so I didn’t feel like we were doing anything sacrilegious. And this place is in Boston, and it’s still a Catholic stronghold there – right?
Irish-Catholic all the way.
Yeah, so I wouldn’t worry if we were doing this in a real church either.
Halloween is just around the corner, and on the new Local H covers EP, you give the Misfits chestnut “Last Caress” the acoustic treatment.
Six or so years ago I did a Christmas benefit, it was like a children’s benefit, and I was doing an acoustic show –
And that’s what you play for an acoustic children’s benefit?!
Well, it wasn’t like there were kids there; it was money for the kids. And somebody was really upset about it, and I was like, “What is your problem lady? Go buy a sense of humor.” After that, I would drop it into acoustic sets every once in awhile. It’s also a song that Metallica had covered, so I wanted to do that U2 thing where “Metallica stole this song from the Misfits and we’re stealing it back.”
Do you think Danzig is pure evil, or does he sit at home on Saturday nights singing show tunes and watching Lawrence Welk reruns?
I’m sure there are demons, like his personal demons, but his songs just have an impeccable air of familiarity. He reminds me more of Roy Orbison than anyone else. I think those songs really stand up no matter what sort of treatment you give them.
Did you see that recent shot making the rounds on the Internet of him in a supermarket parking lot post a kitty litter purchase?
He’s gotta have something for his evil cats to lounge around in. Maybe his evil servants were out for the day and he had to go pick up the kitty litter himself. It’s a full-time job being evil Jack.
SCOTT LUCAS & THE MARRIED MEN | Church of Boston, 69 Kilmarnock Street, Boston | October 21 at 9 pm | 21+ | $6 | 617.236.7600 or churchofboston.com