Chicago power duo Local H released its first-ever greatest hits collection, Local H: The Island Years, on April 5th as part of Universal Music’s ICON series. With this release, they join the ranks of a select group of legendary artists who have been touted by Universal as representative of a genre and a generation. To celebrate this honor, Local H will take a trip down memory lane, embarking on “The Singles Tour: All the Hits, All Night” on April 14th. The two-man band, frontman Lucas covers both guitar and bass through an extra pickup in his guitar, while drummer Brian St. Clair pounds out the rest of the sound, is known for their gut-quaking live shows and incredibly loyal fan base. They continue to tour extensively and have released three additional full-length albums and a bunch of EPs since leaving Island. Their most recent release, Local H’s Awesome Mix Tape #1, came out last fall and they are currently working on a new album out soon.
Kevin – What went into picking out the 12 songs for The Island Years? Did Island have any say or did the band handpick the songs?
Scott – They had a preliminary list and so did I. We wanted to get the singles in, obviously, but I also suggested we get something in there that wouldn’t have been included on any of the three records. We tracked down a b-side from the Pack Up the Cats sessions, a Guided By Voices cover that was on the Sling Blade soundtrack, and a radio edit of “Mayo & Malaise”. We rounded that out with a couple of straight up rock songs, “Cool Magnet” and “Back in the Day”, and that was that. Because of the pricing on the series, it was limited to 12 tracks and only material from the records that Universal owns. So, I suggested the “Island Years” subtitle and that seemed like a good idea. I would’ve liked to put “Fine and Good” on there, but whatever. It’s a good place to start.
Kevin – What are your favorite Local H songs to perform live?
Scott – That changes all the time. Right now I really love playing “Buffalo Trace”, “What Would You Have Me Do?” and “Fritz’s Corner”.
Kevin – How did you come up with the “6 Angry Records Tour” concept, where you had a fan pick one of your albums from a hat and then proceeded to play the entire album?
Scott – We had done that seven-night stand in Chicago where we played all of our records, and were trying to think of a way to take that on tour. We obviously couldn’t shack up for seven nights in every town, so we came up with the hat idea. And it was a lot of fun, because you never knew what was going to happen. A lot of bands are going out and playing their classic record, but the downside is that they know what they’ll be playing every single night. We had no clue until we would hit the stage. It keeps you on your toes.
Kevin – How did your side project, Scott Lucas & The Married Men, come about? Most of the songs are different in comparison to Local H. Did you have songs that you felt would not fit on a Local H album?
Scott – Not necessarily. I don’t like to limit what kinds of songs are appropriate for Local H. Some people will keep a list of songs that don’t fit with their “day” band and then save them for a solo record. Anything goes for Local H. But this was just a chunk of songs written very quickly, over a couple of weeks, and they all had a certain feel to them. It might have been the subject matter more than anything else, but it felt like the right time to make a solo record. I got together a bunch of friends of mine that I had been playing with over the years, and we went into Million Yen and recorded it over a weekend. Mostly live.
Kevin – You’ve been documenting on your Twitter account all the movies you’ve seen this year. Are you trying to see a certain number before the year ends? Also, what are some of the best movies you’ve seen that you could recommend to people?
Scott – No. Just trying to see how many I see in a year, but they have to be seen in a theater. TV doesn’t count. I also go to see a lot of old movies. I think it makes a huge difference. A black and white movie in a good print on a big screen; it looks amazing. I saw The Grapes of Wrath and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. As far as new movies? Another Year was pretty great. Black Swan was awesomely ridiculous, or ridiculously awesome.
Kevin – In “California Songs” you don’t have very nice things to say about either NYC or LA. Is this from personal experiences or are you talking more about how these cities get more national attention in terms of their music scenes in comparison to Chicago?
Scott – Exactly. It’s a big country. There are a lot of people with a lot to say, and sometimes I feel like we don’t get to hear from them unless they’re broadcasting from those twin poles. That and I’m sick of songs about L.A.
Kevin – Who are your all-time favorite Chicago bands that you grew up on? Any newer bands from the city that you are excited about?
Scott – I know they’re from Rockford, but Cheap Trick defines Chicago for my teen years. In a lot of ways they still do. New bands? Big Science is great. There’s this indie metal scene that’s pretty awesome. Bands like Indian, Bloodiest and everything Bruce Lamont does.
Kevin – Your last album, Twelve Angry Months, was your most critically-acclaimed and successful album since leaving Island. What went into making this album and what made it different compared to your past releases?
Scott – It was very focused and had a very specific concept. It took us forever to make, but that concept pulled us through. And I think I may have turned a corner with the lyrics, as far as just having the courage to lay myself completely bare. I’ve always been pretty straightforward with my lyrics, but this one felt different.
Kevin – Can you tell me anything about the new album you are currently working on? I heard it will be another concept album much like Twelve Angry Months, is that true?
Scott – It’s a concept album of sorts. It’s kind of a reaction against the last two albums I’ve done. I want to look around me this time and not be so inward. There’s a lot of bullshit going on right now and I want to comment on some of the action. I don’t know. All I can say is it’s very big. Big in terms of sound, subject matter and scope. It’s also big as far as the melodies go, if that makes any sense.
Kevin – How was SXSW this year? Any notable stories or happenings you can tell me about? There always seems to be mixed feelings regarding this festival. What are your impressions?
Scott – Speaking of big. Jesus. It might finally be too big. But it was a lot fun to be there with the new band. We got caught in the near riot behind the Beauty Bar at the Death From Above show. Tear gas, tasers and riot horses; it was awesome. Plus we were in our suits.
Kevin – You don’t seem to delve too much into politics, besides a few songs like “President Forever”. What are your current thoughts about Obama, new mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and the state of world affairs?
Scott – That’s part of what the new record is all about, so you’ll see.
Kevin – Any new bands that you have been enjoying recently that you’d like to recommend to the readers?
Scott – I love Deerhunter. Wavves. Elephant Stone is really cool. No Joy.
Kevin – What are your plans for 2011? How much time will you be focusing on Scott Lucas & The Married Men vs. Local H?
Scott – Making a new Local H record is my number one priority. The lyrics are so topical that I feel like I don’t have any time to waste. After that we’ll start working on the Married Men record, which is already half-written.
The Singles Tour: All the Hits All Night tour:
4/14 Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
4/15 Akron, OH @ Musica
4/16 Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
4/17 Milford, CT @ Daniel Street Club
4/18 Allston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
4/20 Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory
4/21 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
4/22 Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar
4/23 Long Branch, NJ @ Brighton Bar
4/24 Washington, DC @ Rock And Roll Hotel
4/25 Durham, NC @ Casbah
4/27 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
4/28 Nashville, TN @ Exit / In
4/29 St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
4/30 Dekalb, IL @ Otto’s
5/1 Chicago, IL @ Metro