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Feature Interviews K to O > The Lashes
Get What They Want
By Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
March 24, 2006.
Seattle is known as a hotbed for music
mostly because of the grunge bands of the early 90s. There is a whole
world of musicians from the city who never wore flannel, though. Jimi
Hendrix, Heart, the Posies, MxPx – lots of talented artists have
flourished under the shadow of the Space Needle.
The latest group to appear from the scene
is The Lashes – a fantastic pop/rock band who built a buzz on a
self-released EP called The Simple Simple
and who are now releasing their debut CD
Get It on Sony. Made up of lead
singer Ben Clark, guitarist Scotty Rickard, bassist Nick Mooter, guitarist
Eric Howk, drummer Mike Loggins and keyboardist Jacob Hoffman, this six
piece band has put together one of the best pop music platters of the
young year of 2006.
We called lead singer Ben Clark and
caught him at an awkward moment on the road.
Nice vague question to start, how did you originally get into music?
I was surrounded by it. (laughs)
I’m kind of naked right now. I’m wearing shorts. I took a shower. We’re
in a hotel in Hollywood and our keyboard player Jacob just brought me out
a tweed jacket to put on over my big baggy baggy shorts.
Okay, you need a second to get dressed?
Hopefully none of the celebutants that
visit the café to our hotel will think anything less of me. It’s okay I’m
in disguise. (laughs again)
Sorry, I talk a lot and all about everything.
That’s quite all right; it makes for interesting articles…
Well, I’ve always been around music. I
grew up in a really musical household. My dad was always playing guitar
with me when I was a baby – playing songs and stuff. He really taught me
all about songwriting and music, my whole life. I was actually thinking
about that in the van the other day, because I get asked that question and
I was thinking that the way that all of us got into music – it’s really
weird that we all have parents that were kids in the 60s and really like
got to see the rock and roll revolution firsthand. They were totally
affected by it. We all come from parents who were open about rock and
roll and actually taught us about their record collections. They never
had a problem with us deciding that this was what we were going to follow
as our dream. That’s a really weird thing. Right now is the first time
that you can have parents that are actually cool that spawn kids that get
into rock and roll.
Well, speaking of growing up in rock and roll revolutions, you guys are
from Seattle. As a kid in the 90s, was it sort of inevitable you’d get
into the music scene?
Well, actually I lived in Eastern
Washington, about four and a half hours, five hours from Seattle to the
east. I moved to Seattle once I graduated high school. None of us
actually lived in Seattle during that time, but we all lived in places
that were affected by it. All of us had grown up listening to old records
and listening to oldies stations. We were always really into classic rock
and roll. The first time we all decided to start giving new rock and roll
a chance was when Seattle became big when we were teenagers.
(laughs) But, we were all in surrounding
areas of it, so we got to see all the runoffs of the mall grunge and all
have seen a few places where you are referred to as Ben Lashes, but in
your All Music entry it has your last name as Clark and the rest of the
band’s full names. Are you guys all Lashes in the same way as the Ramones
were all Ramones?
Not really, because that would be a
little too cheesy if we officially went by it. The Ramones started it.
The Donnas already did it. The way that came about is in Seattle there’s
so many bands and there’s only a few bars, so when you’re hanging out,
there’s at least one other guy with your name who plays with a different
band. If you gain any notoriety in the scene; if people actually know
your name then they attach it to your band, like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, the Ben
from the Lashes, not the other Ben from Visqueen.” That’s kind of the way
it goes, there’s like four Shanes that we know in different bands and we
call them all with their last name as their band name just to keep them
all straight. Kim Warnick from the Fastbacks is the first one who
befriended me in the Seattle music scene and she’s the one who started
calling me Ben Lashes, because she had a drummer in her band named Ben. I
think a lot has been made of it and a lot of people make a big deal of –
they think there are dual personalities. What’s the difference between
Ben Clark and Ben Lashes? Which is always fun. But I don’t really care
what people decide to call me as long as they remember my name.
One thing I like about the band is that you are hard, but you aren’t
afraid to have a tune. A few years ago it was something of a sell-out for
a rock band to have a melody. Why do you think the world is so ready for
more melodic rock like your band, the Strokes, the Killers, Franz
Ferdinand and Fall Out Boy?
Yeah. I think that all the kids who
bought the first Weezer record and the second Weezer record and really
freaked out about it when they were teenagers – all of them are in bands
now. I think that Pinkerton has
become like along the lines of the Velvet Underground myth that everybody
who bought a Velvet Underground record the first time started a band. I
don’t know if that’s even cool to say that, because Weezer is still a band
and they’re still fairly relevant in the rock world. So I don’t think
it’s cool to give them the big props publicly yet. I don’t really give a
fuck; because I think that will be true. But I think that melody is
always cool. Any year that you look at the Billboard
charts and pick out the top ten songs or albums or whatever it may be;
there’s always going to be, no matter what the fad is and what the trend
is and no matter how cool ska might be for a while, there are always pop
songs underneath it all. No matter if we’re talking hip hop or country or
teen pop or the fucking biggest metal band in the world, there is still
elements of pop music in all of that. It all comes down to the fact that
the songs that people connect with and the songs that people love always
end up being pop songs with great melodies.
It’s also cool how you touch on a lot of influences like the Clash, Cheap
Trick, the Cars, but the band never sounds retro. Is that a delicate
we get comparisons to all of our favorite bands and it’s really cool. I
think that all of us are really big critics of music and ourselves. We know when we’re paying
homage to something and doing it so that kids will learn about it. And we
know when people are doing it when it’s a complete rip-off. Any time we
were writing songs, we just write the song how we want it. How we hear it
in our heads. All of us don’t think about writing songs when we’re
writing songs. It’s a really hard thing for me to try to put into words.
When we write songs, we write
songs from the heart. None of us are thinking about what Raspberries riff
we can nod at or what Elvis Costello beat we can steal from. All of us
have been such fans of records for such a long time. We’ve listened to so
many damn songs on repeat and studied them and listened to why they are
great songs. By the time that we got into the studio, or by the time we
get into any practice space and start writing a song, our homework has
already been done in the years of loving records. Some of that stuff just
seeps through. That’s what the difference is between sounding retro and
sounding like a band from today who loves some old shit.
Right, for example the song “Please Please Please” lyrically reminded me
of the Smiths, especially in the chorus [in which they quote that band’s
song “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”] and yet didn’t really
sound like the band at all?
No, you’re totally right. I’m totally
bummed, because the real title to that song was “This is Not a Smiths
Song.” That’s how we’ve introduced it since the first time we played it.
It was totally a joke. There are lots of inside jokes and little things
that are in our songs that I write because – I don’t know, I like to be
funny. We had played a Smiths cover night in Seattle. We kind of
purposely got a little sloshy and screwed up the songs a little bit and
had some fun with them. There were these really huge Smiths fans who got
super, super angry at us. It was like, we were just there having fun and
drinking and playing some songs and making jokes and these Smiths fans
took everything so seriously and wanted to beat me up about it.
(laughs) One of them actually had to be
thrown out because he was pushing me and shoving me and stuff. So when we
were writing that song, I was like, well, I think I’m going to make a
little nod at the Smiths and make a little joke, using a little piece from
the Smiths to say something different on my own. But a lot of times
people don’t read into that or they try and take it the other way. I
don’t know how people would think I just accidentally ripped off the
Smiths. Obviously I’ve done my homework. I know what I’m ripping off.
It’s for a reason. It’s for some kid that reads a review of my record to
say, “I really like this record, I’m fourteen years old…” Then they read,
“Oh the Smiths. Who the fuck are the Smiths? I’m fourteen years old; I
don’t know who the Smiths are.” Then they go buy a Smiths record. That’s
exactly why I got into the Smiths, because I read some review that
referenced some band that I liked to the Smiths. So, that’s what it’s all
about, fucking making little jokes in places where you can put in a secret
message to tell some kid to go buy a cool record.
Musically the album is rather diverse, there is rockier stuff like “A
Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody,” “Sometimes the Sun” is rather poppy,
”Yesterday Feels Like A Year” is more midtempo – particularly on the
verses, “Dear Hollywood” borders on being a ballad. Were you looking to
experiment with styles on the album?
Not a whole lot. I
think that on this album we were really making our statement about pop
music. We didn’t want all our songs to sound like all the same music, to
have the same structures and the same number of choruses and the same feel
to it. We really wanted to put an album together that was our statement
on pop and what our band is. Why our band loves pop and why our band
All of the songs have writing credits for the whole band. How do you guys
work the writing?
When the band first started, when it was
me, I started writing the songs. I was really careful. I wanted to be
really careful if somebody was writing songs with me because I don’t trust
that they like all the same things. As the band came together, the only
people who actually made it into the band were the people that everyone
who was in it trusted to write songs. And who was just as good a
songwriter as anybody else. When we finally had our lineup and it
clicked, we all just started writing songs together and it wasn’t
something that we planned out. We never really go into thee
studio and say this is our songwriting day. We just write songs when we
feel them. It’s a weird thing about the six of us really have spent so
much time together and know each other so well and care about each other
so much that when we decide to write a song, everyone knows exactly what
each other is going to do. It makes it a really cool collaborative thing
without having to use hinky words like jam or groove. (laughs)
In the album, when the songs turn to love, a lot of the relationships are
in trouble or dying like in “Sometimes the Sun,” “Safe to Say” and “Wanna
Girl.” As a singer, do you find troubled relationships more interesting
than happy ones?
(laughs) I know! I’m crazy! I’m sure I
do. I know I do. I’m always attracted to the trouble.
You love the drama, huh?
I’d say that I don’t love the drama and I
believe in my heart that I don’t. But for some reason, it’s always around
at some point. (laughs)
I saw on your MySpace page that the band lists as influences a wide range
of people – The Beatles, Cheap Trick, The Ramones, Northwest music, Jay-Z,
Beyonce, Olsen twins, bands with big hair that wear tight pants, girls who
wanna make out with us… Tell me the truth; shouldn’t the girls be first
No, actually Kanye West should be put
there ahead of the girls. Then that list might be alright.
(laughs) The girls can’t come first
because it doesn’t matter how many girls come along, every time they break
your heart, you’re going to go back to the Beatles.
Nowadays musicians have so many more ways to reach out to their fans, the
forum on the official site, your MySpace page. What is it like being able
to communicate with the fans like that?
It’s pretty cool. The really neat thing
is the fact that we don’t think that anybody knows who we are.
(laughs) Unless we meet them personally
and actually go up to them and say, “Listen to us. Listen to us.” We
kind of had that hip hop selling tapes out of the trunk of your car
mentality for a long time. So with MySpace, it was the first time we were
like – you kind of park your car and leave your trunk open and kids from
New England are emailing you. It makes no sense, you know? You’re like
how did you find out about us? That’s so cool. I think that's the
coolest part about it – that you can find out about people who are finding
out about you from random ways across the country. It’s a cool thing when
you’re like, well I know that if I go to the East Coast, no matter what,
that girl Jennifer has totally got my back. (laughs)
At least we’ve got one friend.
I saw a commercial for Get It on
Jimmy Kimmel Live the other day…
Are you serious? No way!
So apparently Columbia is pushing the album. I had heard that the album
was originally slated for last summer. Why the delay, and now that the
album is being released, how weird is it to finally be out there?
Yeah, well, I think that with the delay –
I think the label just had too hard a time deciding on a first single.
They were just like, “There’s so many damn singles on this record! What
do we put out first?” (laughs)
It’s okay, we’ll knock them out… It’s totally weird. We’ve been humbled
by this whole experience. Doing something that has been a dream of our
for our entire lives. Getting to have someone want to put out a record in
the first place and all of that – it was really IT for us. It was what
we’d been working for for a long time. So of course we were bummed and
apprehensive when we didn’t know when our release date was. We’ve had
friends that have waited three years. We’ve had friends that have waited
five years then been dropped. So this whole time we were just hanging
out. We were working hard. We were going on tour. We were playing shows
and trying to make sure everything happened. I think that in the end it
ended up being okay. I mean our record could have come out a year ago,
but we weren’t as good a band a year ago. We’ve learned a lot being on
the road for a year straight and playing shows and going through hardships
and not being the biggest priority on a major label. I never wanted to be
the biggest priority on a major label right after I got signed. That’s
how people get dropped from major labels. I want to be the hard working
kid who somehow made it in the back door and signed and fucking works his
ass off to prove to people that real bands that write their own songs can
still have a place in the pop rock world. When the record came out, I
can’t even say how it felt. I’m damned sure we were the first people to
buy it, because all six of us went to Tower Records in Seattle at midnight
on Monday and bought copies. So we were more excited than anybody to go
into a store and see it. Everytime that we see it somewhere or hear it on
the radio it feels like the first time. We’re very, very happy and
excited about it and feel very thankful about it. We don’t really care
what happens now. (laughs) Bad
reviews, good reviews, fuck it. We don’t give a fuck, man. We made a
good record and it came out. We’re really damned proud of it.