'Still As Deliciously Captivating As Ever!'
With its dark hip-hop-influenced alternative rock, Luscious Jackson recreates the dense, multicultural bohemian world of New York in a collage of sound, where Spanish guitars, jazzy keyboards, funky beats, and breathy, singsong vocals combine into one. Like Beastie Boys, Luscious Jackson's eclecticism doesn't acknowledge boundaries; instead, it takes freely from every kind of music. Luscious Jackson's first two recordings, 1992's In Search of Manny and 1994's Natural Ingredients, earned the band a cult following and positive critical reviews.
The core of Luscious Jackson -- Kate Schellenbach (drums), Jill Cunniff (vocals, bass), and Gabby Glaser (vocals, guitar) -- all met as teenagers on the New York post-punk scene of the early '80s. Schellenbach was the drummer in the original hardcore punk incarnation of Beastie Boys; she met Cunniff when she interviewed the Beasties for her fanzine, The Decline of Art. Eventually, the trio began hanging out, seeing bands that ranged from hardcore and arty post-punk to reggae and hip-hop. When the members graduated from high school, they went their separate ways.
Schellenbach stayed in New York, where she drummed with Hippies with Guns and attended college, while Cunniff and Glaser attended art school in San Francisco, where they both played in a punk band called Jaws; Cunniff continued to edit her fanzine.
In 1991, Cunniff and Glaser returned to New York and began writing songs. Eventually, the duo recruited Schellenbach and Jill's friend, Vivian Trimble, to form Luscious Jackson, taking their name from a '60s basketball player for the Philadelphia 76ers. The following year, the group released its debut EP, In Search of Manny, on Beastie Boys' record label, Grand Royal; it was reissued the following year on Capitol/Grand Royal. In Search of Manny received very positive reviews and the group quickly became a hip name to drop in alternative rock circles.
Natural Ingredients, the group's first full-length album, was released in the late summer of 1994 to generally favorable reviews. "City Song" became a minor modern rock hit in the fall of that year. Before the release of Natural Ingredients, Luscious Jackson spent the summer of 1994 on the second stage of Lollapalooza, per the request of Beastie Boys. Following the release of Natural Ingredients, the group spent most of 1995 on the road, including a stint opening for R.E.M. on the Monster tour. Natural Ingredients eventually sold almost 200,000 copies.
With Luscious Jackson continuing work on its second album with producer Daniel Lanois, the eventual result, Fever In Fever Out, was released in the fall of 1996. Thanks to the single "Naked Eye," the album was a steady seller, expanding the band's fan base significantly even if it failed to become a huge hit.
In April 1998, Trimble left the band to pursue other projects, including a solo album, a collaboration with Jon Spencer Blues Explosion drummer Russell Simins and a band with Josephine Wiggs called Dusty Trails. Continuing on as a trio, Luscious Jackson returned in 1999 with Electric Honey before disbanding the following spring.
Now with the release of Luscious Jackson's Greatest Hits CD along with Jill Cunniff's new solo album City Beach, Cunniff will be playing a live date with the band, Thursday March 29th at 9.00pm at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles.
Taking it from the top and what were your musical influences growing
up born and raised in NYC, and spending your days in Greenwich Village?
And how many still factor into your music today? JILL CUNNIFF - "I hung out in the village of the 70's and the 80's which was different in many ways than it is today. It was definitely a funkier, grittier city over all in those days and music was all over- people just were out in the street connecting and going to concerts. I grew up with punk,hip hop, folk, breakdancing and graffitti art, indie record stores etc. It was quite an immersion."
For the Average Joe who may not know, Luscious Jackson was named
after the former Philadelphia 76ers pro basketball player Luscious Brown
"Luke" Jackson. But why him and not have the band named, say, Luscious Jordan?! "Luscious Jackson was hands down the coolest name we came up with in our initial name search. Luscious Jordan just doesn't have the same ring to it!"
Between 1993 and 2000 you only released three full-length albums,
although your single 'Naked Eye' did garner you your only Billboard Top
40 entry in 1997. In an era when an artist will seemingly release a new
album every year, why did LJ only release just three in those seven
years? Or did others get recorded but just not released due to one
reason or another? "The cycle in the 90's was record for one year, and tour for one year. We basically released every two years. 1992- In Search Of Manny. 1994- Natural Ingredients. 1996- Fever In Fever Out. 1999- Electric Honey. Now the music biz is back to an album a year, like the 1960's. You may notice that albums are getting weaker possibly as a result. If you hire a bunch of track producers, it's a lot easier than writing and recording your own music. That's how pop albums come out so fast now."
When Vivian Trimble left the band in 1998, LJ recorded their last
album as a trio before calling it quits. Why was the departure of
Trimble so devastating that the band could just not go on any more at
that time? "We loved Viv but that was not the reason LJ disbanded. We all needed personal lives and personal time, it had been eight years of touring and recording and kids were on the horizon ( I now have two!)."
Having played in those early days with different incarnations of the
Beastie Boys, helping to sell their records, and then even opening for
them, just how much credit do you thrust upon the trio for helping LJ
achieve the levels that they ultimately reached? "I think being on the Beastie's label was highly beneficial for our group, from the press angle to the career wisdom and oversight we received."
Now that you have announced that LJ have reformed, and I would
imagine now have an eye to recording a new album of originals sometime
soon, how easy (or hard) are you expecting it to be to create a new,
vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses
the musical wonderment's/accomplishments that preceded it within the
industry? "We have already recorded a funky and delicious kids' album."
And with regard this reformation of LJ, why was the time now right to
do such a thing? Had it been attempted (unsuccessfully) before, perhaps? "No- it was the kids that inspired the reunion!"
With the new LJ 'Greatest Hits' CD now in the stores, please tell us
more (in a quick fashion!) about what was going on in your life when
these songs were being written and recorded:
'Naked Eye' - "LJ was recording with renowned producer Daniel Lanois and I was really inspired to create music that mattered."
'Ladyfingers' - "This was a song dealing with femininity and what that means. 'Ladyfingers' was a song about warming up to other people and not hiding behind toughness."
'Why Do I Lie?' - "About facing the truth, man."
'Nervous Breakthrough' - "I loved this concept- that instead of seeing a breakdown as a negative, allowing change to occur when emotional
instability sets in. Also kind of a funny disco song!"
With regard your new solo album, 'City Beach' is an interesting
choice, but perhaps it originates from a more personal standpoint for
you? Is there a theme to it maybe and does it perhaps relate to Coney
Island, New York? "I think anyone who wants to chill out will like "City Beach"- Coney is one of my favorite NYC local beaches. Now I am involved with the Save Coney Island movement- trying to stop condo developers from destroying the heart and soul of that vibrant place. Please see www.Myspace/SaveConeyIsland"
It seems from your lyrics that you are trying to sometimes paint a
picture of a certain aura of that area where if you took a thoughtful
walk you might find the mysteries of the city in which one grew up in -
as opposed to the commercial aspect of what the city has since grown in
to. So, are there indeed such mysteries to be found within both your
lyrics and the city alike, perhaps? "Go to Coney Island this summer and revel in the Real New Yorkness of it before it is gone!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song would you love to
cover today (in your own style) if asked ... and why?! "'Heartbeat' by Taana Gardner. I long to do an acoustic version of this dance classic from the 80's ("Heartbeat, you make me feel so weak ...")"
Lastly, and to end this interview with a comedic curve ball,
Exclusive Magazine love Penguins ... do you?! "I have kids so peNguins are a big part of my life these days. I do adore them."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Back To Archives