A Conversation with Lux Lisbon
Lux Lisbon's Stuart Rook (vocals, piano) and Chris How Kin Sang (guitar) kick off the MaxBumps.net series of band interviews. They are charming blokes who make some lush, epic rock music... Lux Lisbon. W00t!
Batface89: Tell us the story of how the band formed. Who are your band members?
Stuart Rook: There are six of us so this could take a while - maybe put the kettle on here. We met at University in Nottingham, before moving to London, broadly speaking - I was always a fan of Chris' guitar playing in other bands so roped him in, and the songs lent themselves to the whole boy/girl harmony thing so we saw Charlotte Austen (vocals, guitar) playing a house party and thought, "yeah, thats it". You had to be there really. We borrowed/stole Ellie (Eleanor Garlick, violin) from another band who we were mates with in Nottingham and Ali (Alistair Jones, bass guitar) is a mate from halls with no discernible band history.
Chris How Kin Sang: We met our drummer Kris (Toczek) on the internet CH:when we all moved to London. Like most skilled occupations in England, drummers are in short supply. Ours is from Poland. He came over to rock.
BF: Why did you choose the name Lux Lisbon, a character from Sophia Coppola's film, The Virgin Suicides?
CH: The main reason is that we used to have a really long name for the band that people couldn't remember or abbreviate easily because it was too long. So, our name now is easier to remember when you are typing luxlisbon.com into your computer.
CH: Thanks... so, we were forced to change it. Even though it was literally awesome. One thing I have learnt: no use having a band name no-one can remember or repeat back to you. No matter how ace it is.
BF: It's a great name and the film was so beautiful and tragic.
SR: We quite liked the film. It was quite good. Even aside from literary reference, as two words it sounds quite nice.
CH: And it alliterates and has a 'x' in it which is the best letter of the alphabet.
BF: X is a terrific letter.
SR: Just ask a scrabble player.
BF: How would you describe your sound?
CH: We settled on "widescreen-epic-indie-rock". The songs drive the sound we go for but having the boy-girl harmonies, violins, tremolo/delay guitars and so on kinda makes it quite a big soundscape and (in theory), whatever the musical equivalent of cinematic is.
BF:Who are your musical influences?
CH: We all different things but commonly like The Beatles, Radiohead, Arcade Fire - basically bands with great tunes that also can turn it on the big stage and with big production.
SR: The Beatles at Shea Stadium, now that was a light show.
BF: Can you talk about your song writing process? Are you the main songwriter or is it a collaborative process?
SR: They are all my songs and I have the original idea and normally a fairly well formed idea of how it should all sound. I tend to go to Chris with a song and we'll work on it together and hammer it out in a rough form before presenting it to the band and it's taken from there. None of our songs come from 'jamming' - I hate that expression - fun is fine, but only in moderation - that's my view. Stop having so much fun and get back to work. Look busy.
BF: Let's talk about The Sixty One. This is the first place I heard your music and immediately I knew you were going to get some serious bumps.
SR: If only I were an underdeveloped teenage girl old girl who's bustier friends were teasing her, that'd be music to my ears...
BF: How do you think the musical landscape will change with artists communicating directly with fans, a la The Sixty One?
SR: I'm really surprised that The Sixty One seems to be the only site that shows a band who has listened and liked a tune instantly and then lets you get in touch. On some other sites like MySpace you don't get that sort of feedback, which can make it feel a bit empty. The fact that someone spends their points on you on The Sixty One gives bands something to go on. You still need a 'traditional' site with more info and material than you can put on The Sixty One - I'll mention again now: www.luxlisbon.com
CH: Not as good as mine.
BF: Has the site brought a lot of new fans your way?
SR: Well, yes, it has, but the site doesn't seem to have taken off in the UK yet, so in terms of getting anyone to come along to a show, which is really what unsigned bands need to get going, it hasn't translated into new faces at gigs. It has translated into lots of kind words from Americans and Canadians though. So, thank you.
BF: My pleasure. What is your favorite other band posting on The Sixty One?
CH: I like Simon Wilcox. She is quite good.
BF: I agree. She's incredible.
CH:Though like a man from the stone age, I bought her CD's rather than downloaded her MP3s. Not very 2008! But, she is from Canada so I can't really get to her gigs.
SR: Not with that attitude.
BF: How easy/hard has it been to get exposure for the band?
CH: I don't know what it's like in America but in England that's illegal.
SR: And it may well be one of the only things that is very easy and very hard.
BF:This is a general question from The Sixty One listener and MaxBumps contributor Apocalpyse. How do artists keep their musical integrity? For example, the Rolling Stones selling their songs for Cadillac commercials). How do you know if a musician has 'sold out'?
SR: I must say I don't buy the whole idea of 'being a sell out' and get a bit annoyed when bands kick up a stink about other bands selling songs to adverts or whatever - they'd probably be better advised writing some tunes people like - rather than moaning on to score cheap points. I dunno, bottom line is why shouldn't Mick and Keith let some guy use their tune over a car advert? The tune is still the same and I reckon as long written a song you are proud of what happens to it afterwards is neither here nor there.
BF: I agree. I like hearing new music in commercials, like that new Kia commercial with the great Joe Purdy tune and Sarah Bareilles' Love Song in the Rhapsody commercial.
CH: It's up to the band really. Frank Zappa was once asked to be on the cover of Rolling Stone - he told them to fuck off. Fair play. But does that make the people who appear on it sell outs or have less integrity? I suppose selling out is doing something inconsistent with your own values. Assuming your own values weren't really obviously terrible in the first place. Besides, it's probably the record companies that do this as they own most of the rights.
BF: I wonder if Modern English is happy about having 'I Melt With You' selling the Cheesy Beefy Melt at Taco Bell? I wonder. Thank you very much for the interview and I wish you the best in the future.