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.


Records you should be listening to this week: Aesop, Tegan and Sara, Les Savy Fav, Akimbo, Big Business

Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass Defjux Records

Aesop comes correct with this delightful answer to all the Kanye’d out crap hop pop, questioning existence, social status, and our place as humans in the grand scheme of things. Clever rhymes over slick beats produced in majority by Blockhead with the standout single and album namesake being one of the strongest. El-P lends his tasteful ingredients to “Gun for the Whole Family” and Aesop comes as the strongest closer with tracks 1, 7 and 11. This is a must have and will definitely be making my top 10 for 07.

Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends FrenchKiss Records

Tim Harrington and the gang took 6 years off to have a bunch of other slightly less interesting adventures while we all languished in their absence. Luckily they’ve managed to deliver one of their strongest albums to date. The post-punk guitar work of Seth Jabor cuts through Tim’s humorous barks as bassist Syd Butler and drummer Harrison Haynes provide one of the strongest backbones this side of Fugazi’s Joe Lally and Brendan Canty.

Big Business – Here Come the Waterworks Hydrahead

Well looks like Warren and Coady have accomplished what I didn’t think they’d be able to do – outshine the Melvins (a) Senile Animal with Here Comes the Waterworks. The two bands have been intertwined for some time now with Big Business official members of the legendary band. The addition of guitarist David Scott Stone to the drum and bass duo added that level of mid-range tonality they’d been missing on previous records. Waterworks is still incredibly dense and percussive. “Shields,” is one of my favorite tracks, it is intense. And I got it on 180 g gold vinyl!!!

Tegan and Sara – The Con Sire

For a major label release this album is ridiculously well produced. It helps that these twin nymphs employed the skilled hand of Chris Walla who for the past 5 years has crapped nothing but pure pop gold. While 2005’s So Jealous was a tad more acoustic guitar rock friendly, The Con welcomes Matt Sharp and his deft syth skills on more than a few tracks, giving this record some amazing hooks. Tegan and Sara’s lyrics have matured as well. This will be another record that radio stations will pass over but that doesn’t mean you should. Besides, who listens to the radio anymore anyway? You should listen to DJ Rosstar or Nic Harcourt at the very least anyway.

Akimbo – Navigating the Bronze Alternative Tentacles

For former Dead Kennedy’s frontman Jello Biafra’s record label that doesn’t have any bands doing any touring or moving any units, Akimbo is carrying more than their fair share. Touring in a van, eating Ramen noodles and drinking copious amounts of beer and playing places like San Diego’s illustrious local drunk drain, Scolari’s office make Akimobo’s brand of rock that much more palatable. “Wizard Van Wizard” contends to be the cock-rockiest of all nine tracks but the boys show their tenderness by moisturizing their thumbs prior to insertion on “The Curse of King David,” a riff driven aural assault.