Les Savy Fav: An interview with Syd and Harrison

I wish I had the picture of Charlie and Tim from the Casbah, the one with Tim signing out of the microphone he stuffed down the front of Charlie’s pants. Fucking iconic! In honor of Les Savy Fav’s latest and greatest Let’s Stay Friends and their tour (Starts tomorrow in NYC then goes to EUROPE???). They’re not coming west this time around, which sucks, though I’m hoping they’ll make their way out here come mid-winter or spring. Below is an interview I did with Syd and Harrison when the Fav played the Casbah oh-so-long-ago. 


Les Savy Fav: Skipping Steps and Taking Breaths.

Yeah that’s a line from LSF’s “Disco Drive,” a song that appears like a phantom rock machine gun less than midway through their latest full-length, Go Forth.  Tim Harrington (vocals, keys), Seth Jabour (guitar), Syd Butler (Bass, French Kiss Records big wig) and Harrison Haynes (drums) are all skipping steps and taking breaths as they bequeath their sound upon an unsuspecting, trusting public that can’t seem to get the idea of dancing [and boozy exuberance] out of their minds when LSF plays live.  Now, don’t take this the wrong way, LSF live and LSF recorded are mirror images, looking glass twins that more than occasionally sneer and stick tongues out at each other but nevertheless always go hand in hand in front of the children (fans).

Les Savy Fav live is like a variety show from mid-sixties France, tres bizarre and really exciting.  The energy is unmistakably borne of some need to release the sarcastic, especially in all those gathered for the live music ceremony and with lyrics that chant, “Apocalypse can go down easy/ Ya gotta know its an acquired taste…” Its no wonder the rest of the same song, “Pills,” is replete with similar tongue in cheek-ness.

The crowd sings along unabashed with the bearded lunatic (Tim) on the stage.  Tim crawls across the stage, sweating and spraying spit and looking directly into the crowd, jumping from the stage, floating on a mattress from the alley of the venue with total disregard for why the previous owner might have thrown it out in the first place. And yet, they hold him up, reverence in its purest rock form, everyone living in the moment, everyone singing along and every face has a smile and a raised eyebrow in anticipation of what might come next. Syd says, Yoda like, that the attraction of playing live is, “the instant of creating your music live.  To share with others, your joy.”

LSF recorded, like it’s sneering live twin, has its own peaks and valleys, or chutes and ladders (or some other equally vague simile) and comes with all the things most rock albums come with-except more soul and sass.  Like a tri-athlete, LSF has cornered and tamed a sound uniquely their own, a sound that lay somewhere between the Pixies and early nineties retro pop with splashes of Dub and sonic art, making crawling beautiful while winning the musical Iron Man.  Go Forth; LSF’s latest full-length is a testament to the brilliance of the band, recorded by Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Built to Spill), Go Forth has some catchy riffs that are well represented and accented by the rhythm section of the band, Syd Butler (bass) and Harrison Haynes (drums).

Harrison started playing music at the age of 11, took four years of lessons and also learned one of his most memorable beats in school, that’s right-the beat from Michael Jackson’s, “Billy Jean.”  His early musical influences were Corrosion of Conformity, Circle Jerks, The Police and the Repo Man Sound Track.  According to Harrison, the time it takes LSF to write a song, “depends on how late Palace Fried Chicken is open.”

Syd says, more seriously, “anywhere from 1 hour to 1 month.”

Syd started playing the trombone in Jr. High, and then picked up the bass when he was in the 10th grade.  Syd says that some of the benefits of school music are, “Being surrounded by other musicians that were at the same level (proficiency). It created a safe environment to fail or to play the wrong note and not get into trouble.”

Syd also took random bass lessons from anyone that would teach him and then, “One time I went to where Joe Lally (Bass player for Fugazi) worked and during his break, got a lesson or two.  I was consumed by the bass, it was all I thought about.”

Syd says that in the early days he had, “some contacts from D.C. that I used to figure out where and who to call about booking shows.  We recorded a demo and sent it (with all info!) to anyone and everyone.  Friends, friends, friends… We were also in Providence at the time and there were a lot of great bands that supported the “scene” like, The Hydrogen Terrors, Arab On Radar, Lightning Bolt and Six Finger Satellite.”

Syd and Harrison are both playing their dream instruments, sort of.  Harrison is playing a, “copy cat, pieced together attempt at Charlie Watts’ drum set.”

Syd plays a 1964 Fender P Bass through an Ampeg SVT, which is his dream rig.

Les Savy Fav started rehearsing as a band in 1995 and in the eight years of their existence, they have managed to help create a new aesthetic in independent music, one that rocks but isn’t some parasitic fashion statement.  The songs they write together as one cohesive unit has taught them how important communication is among band, fans and people.  If they come to your town, go and see them, it will be an experience you will never forget, or at least you will remember it for a while. Like a good blackout on a still drunk next morning, you can’t wait to hear how much fun you had from your friends.