Much of the indie music scene seems, lately, to be riding high on a robust group of up-and-coming soul artiists like Cee-Lo and Fitz & the Tantrums. Locally, we have Dessa and the Robinson Cariso Organization.
The Chicago-based group, Lubriphonic, play into the new wave of soul enthusiasm, but put an entirely welcome funky spin on it. The group itself is massive – bringing a man on the keys, a three-man brass team, a guitarist, bassist, drummer – and Giles Corey, the lead singer / guitarist.
Opening the show was local band Absolute Gruv, whose “foot stompin’ music” was a perfect match for Lubriphonic. For those of us keen on the Twin Cities local music scene – these guys are a group to watch. Last February (2010), they were on the road and were in a relatively severe accident on icy roads. Thankfully, all the band members walked away, but their gear was less lucky. The local music community, to no one’s surprise, came together around Absolute Gruv and threw a benefit concert at the Suburban World Theater, called Gruv is in the Heart. The event raised thousands of dollars and helped to guarantee that Absolute Gruv with continue making fantastic dance music for years to come. And by the youth and enthusiasm shown on the dance floor at the Cabooze, there is no doubt in my mind that no only is the band in it for the long haul, but their fans will doubtlessly be right behind.
Then Lubriphonic took the stage and all of the Cabooze erupted into a party. There were girls in bikini tops and belly dancing scarves on the upstairs balcony, working on an art project. Downstairs, there were hipsters in jeggings, university students dancing their hearts out, soccer moms (and dads!) blending right in, a great deal of cheap beer, hostess passing out free samples of Jameson, and a dancer working the floor with a hoola-hoop. Even with all madness on the floor, the band on stage couldn’t be ignored.
Listening to Lubriphonic – they have a way of playing fast and loose, while still remaining tightly in sync with one another. Every instrument on stage – including the drummer, which happens all too rarely – had a significant and impressive solo. Both my favorite picks from The Gig is On (“Pimp Limp” and “The Chicken is Worth More Alive than Dead”) did not make the cut, but I still thought it was a smashing good time.
Head on over to the local live music podcast, Minnesotunes, to listen to the interview with Giles Corey or check out the transcript below..
And, as spring ever so slowly creeps in, start thinking about planning a mid-summer trip down to Chicago to see these guys play for a home crowd. This was music that is great any time, but was made for hot summer nights, cold beers, and busy dance floors.
Michelle: So – I just wanted to say, I think that The Gig is On is really good. I’ve been listening to it at work all week – it’s kind of weird to be sitting in an office listening to Lubriphonic. It’s a little bit of a disconnect, but I’ve been enjoying it. How did you all come together?
Giles: Rick King, our drummer, and I knew each other from the blues scene in Chicago. Rick used to play with Coco Taylor on the drums. I used to play with Otis Rush and people like that. We wanted to make our own music, we didn’t want to be side men forever. A lot of the first members of the band, we all came out of the blues scene. This was a few years back, so there’s been some changes, but everyone comes out from the blues or the jazz or the gospel circuits in Chicago. These are all really important themes in Chicago – obviously blues is a big part of Chicago music, but it’s also known for its gospel music and jazz as well. Everyone came out of those circuits as side men to come and form Lubriphonic.
Michelle: What is it that makes Lubriphonic sound different? You said that you wanted to make your own music – what does that sound like?
Giles: It’s the intersection of all the stuff. We worked in the opposite direction of most bands. Most people set out to start a band and they say, “We’re going to start a bandand it’s going to be a metal band or a reggae band” – some sort of definition. We were just going to get some people together and play and then whatever the sounds happens to be is what the sound will be. That’s how the Lubriphonic sound came about – it’s the intersection of all these converging, different influences. Like I said before, I come out of a blues back ground, so does Rick. Our bass player comes out of a gospel background. Our horn players and keyboard player are coming out of a jazz background. You get all those backgrounds intersecting and you get our sound. Everyone puts their own stamp on it. I come in and write songs, but by the time everyone gets done with it, it becomes this unique thing.
Michelle: That’s really cool. I know that you’re the primary songwriter, but what is the division of labor when it comes to making music?
Giles: The way that we’ve been doing it – I’ll come in with a song, usually it’ll be most of the way done, but it’s just a melody and I have my part and some chord changes, but everyone will play their own part. I don’t usually come up with a bass line; I don’t come up with a drum groove or anything like that. By the time it’s all done, I’ve come in with a skeleton and everyone fleshes it out. That’s been the best way to do things.
Michelle: The CD sounds great, so obviously you’re doing something right. As the songwriter – I don’t want to ask you what kind of bands you listen to because everyone asks that – but what are your non-musical sources of inspiration?
Giles: You know, I don’t know. I was an English major in school so I try to come from a poetic standpoint – not to say that my music is poetry or anything. I come out of a blue background, too, which is a very matter-of-fact sort of folk music. As far as inspiration, I just try to write about the everyday sort of struggles that everyone goes through and survives.
Michelle: Where does the name Lubriphonic come from?
Giles: It was named by a friend of ours, actually. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to name a band…
Michelle: Only hypothetically.
Giles: … but it’s a really, really frustrating process. Everybody hates everything. So it’s just best – this friend of our came up with Lubriphonic, like lubricated sound, and nobody hated it. So we were like, “Great – let’s go with that and move on.” We were going nowhere fast trying to come up with one on our own.
Michelle: What were some of your reject names?
Giles: Oh god, I don’t even remember. There were some stinkers, I know that. I must have blocked it out and put it behind me.
Michelle: That bad, huh?
Giles: I don’t know if they were that bad – they were certainly not memorable.
Michelle: Yeah, not having a memorable band name is almost worse, because then it’s like, “Oh yeah, I say that band last week…but I don’t remember who.”
Giles: It’s funny with Lubriphonic too, because people either get it right away or they don’t. Typically, if you have a four syllable band name, you’ve already got your work cut out for you. But it seems like people either instantly react to it or they’re completely puzzled by it. There’s nothing in between.
Michelle: So when you have listeners taking in The Gig is On – what do you want them to take away from the album when they’re done?
Giles: First and foremost, I look at myself as a song and dance man and we’re a live band. I try to entertain people. Hopefully it’s something that they can enjoy and it helps them get through their day. I don’t necessarily care if people know all the words or really take the songs to heart. But if I can also help them out with their blues, with their hard times – there are certain songs on the album that are part of that and hopefully they can relate. That’s what music is all about, on that level – something you can commiserate with the human race.
Tim: Giles, I was wondering – you say you’re primarily a live band. I noticed on the album that a lot of the songs have a live feel to them. Were the songs recorded live in the studio or is there a lot of mixing?
Giles: Yeah, they were [recorded live]. There was a little bit of overdubbing, but that was pretty much what we were trying to do – create as live a feel as possible. Most of the cuts are first or second take. We’ve been playing all these songs live on the road for the better part of a year, for most of 2010, before we actually put the album out. But we wanted it to have the spontaneous sort of feel.
Michelle: For what it’s worth, I don’t know if I had the blues, but “Pimp Limp” made me laugh out loud. At my desk.
Giles: [laughter] Yeah that was the idea. I broke my ankle pretty badly in 2009 and I needed surgery.
Michelle: So you had the pimp limp? “Pimp Limp” is about you?
Giles: What happened was that it took me awhile to recover and I’m still a little gimpy. I don’t know if you’ve ever broken an ankle, but if you have surgery, you never really heal back all the way. So I have a little bit of a limp and sometimes it’s more pronounced than others. But I’m a little self-conscious about it and I was at this gig and this girl just came up and said, “Man, you’ve got an awesome pimp limp,” which is like the nicest thing she could have said. I was really moved.
Michelle: That is amazing.
Tim: That’s fantastic.
Giles: So I kind of wrote the song about that.
Michelle: Now I like that song even more. So – what is your favorite song to play live?
Giles: For me, it’s just the newest stuff. Right now, there are new songs in the set that are going to be on the next album and invariably, those are the ones that I enjoy doing the most. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy doing songs that we’ve already done, but I guess as an artist, you’re always most excited about your new stuff.
Michelle: What’s the most memorable show you guys have performed at, if you’ve got one? It sounds like you’ve been touring a lot.
Giles: The one that sticks out right now is the most recent one. We closed the southeast tour that we played at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, which was a trip. It’s Mardi Gras and there’s parades going on – we opened up for Anders Osborne. It was a really cool experience all around. We were the opening band and we didn’t know what kind of response we’d get, but Tipitina’s is a great venue – it’s a famous place in New Orleans. The house was full and the crowd was really receptive, so that was a big deal. The other gig that equaled that was when we played at Chicago’s Blues Festival, which was last year. That was a big deal because Rick and I have played it a bunch of times, but it was always working for somebody else. It was kind of cool to come back last year. We’d been out on tour for a month and we came back, had our own slot at the Blues Fest – it really was validation, I guess, from the home town.
Michelle: Definitely. There’s nothing quite like playing for your home town. And what’s your favorite show that you’ve attended? It’s a completely unfair question, so whatever comes to mind.
Giles: I really liked – I saw Merle Haggard and Bob Dylan together a couple of years ago. The Bob Dylan set was cool, but Merle Haggard was just the most genuine, storytelling, entertaining person I’ve seen. He had a whole theater full of people in rapt attention as he’s telling stories and playing songs.
Michelle: That sounds really incredible – I wish I’d been at that show.
Giles: Oh, it was great. And it was his birthday the day before, so he was hungover.