Interview: Scott Lucas on his recovery, cover songs, and splitting Local H with Married Men
Photo by Jim Newberry
The last time we talked to Scott Lucas was back in March, a few days before Local H were scheduled to play Brighton Music Hall. Unfortunately that gig, as well as a handful of others, was canceled in the wake of an incident in Moscow a few weeks prior where the frontman of the post-grunge duo was assaulted and robbed. The random attack resulted in damage done to his vocal cords; one of them had to be physically popped back into place by doctors. That nauseating turn of events didn’t exactly fit the recipe Lucas concocts in the Local H cocktail where he mixes equal parts of him shredding on guitar and vox while drummer Brian St. Clair pounds away on drums.
This fall, the H will be back in full force, including an October 6 makeup date at Brighton Music Hall. Until then, fans of Lucas can catch his other project, the multi-piece collective that goes by Scott Lucas and the Married Men, who play tomorrow night at Great Scott with the Weeks. The band is touring this summer in support of June’s Cruel Summer EP, which features a cover of the Bananarama hit.
I caught up with Lucas last week in Pittsburgh to find out the state of his voice, what draws him interpreting other artist’s songs and why his respective outfits aren’t at all like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Michael Christopher: How’s your voice doing these days?
Scott Lucas: It’s feeling better. It’s still not 100 percent, but every night I can do something I couldn’t do before, so that’s the good thing. I won’t play for a few weeks, then I’ll do a show and it’s like, “Oh – I can actually hit that note now.” It’s cool; it’s not as fast as I’d like, but I definitely do see progress, so that’s good.
Did you have any hesitation to set up the Local H tour for the fall, because you’re obviously going to strain your vocals a lot more then; are you hoping it’s fully healed at that point?
Well, we made up a lot of dates; we only canceled half of that tour because of the Russian thing. We went out and did all the west coast shows. I think it’s more important to… I don’t know, keep your commitments, I guess. Unless you absolutely can’t do it, you know? And that was the thing, for that east coast stuff there was just no way, and I needed to see some doctors first. Once I found out there wouldn’t be surgery involved and it was just a matter of taking care of things and drinking a lot of water I was like, “Alright, let’s do it.”
In both Local H and more recently with the Married Men, you have a penchant for doing covers. What is it about a certain song that draws you to it?
It could be anything; maybe it’s a song I’ve always wanted to do – it’s hard to say. It’s just something that touches you is all. I don’t have this mentality where it has to be an old song or a song that people haven’t heard before.
Is there ever a case with, say, “Toxic” (Britney Spears hit that Local H has covered for years), where you know it’s a good song because there are these professionally hired songwriters behind it where you think, “I know I can do it better than some pop tart?”
No, not really. I like pop music, and I always have. I have a weakness for it. For that, maybe people won’t listen to it because it’s pop music, but that’s a great song; it’s dark, it’s got great hooks, the lyrics are awesome. I just see it as a good song, I don’t think that the way you dress it up matters.
What about injecting life into a tired or overplayed song…
Well, look at the Married Men and “Cruel Summer.” I listen to that song and it’s very bouncy and you can’t get a more silly name than Bananarama; and everybody associates it with The Karate Kid, so right away it has a tired rap of ever being taken seriously. But then you listen to it and that keyboard hook is really melancholy and lyrics about a terrible summer of being alone and all this stuff… and there’s something there. It’s trying to find the right way of teasing those emotions out of the song, and the way we do it, it’s not hard to see those qualities in that version.
Then look at the David Bowie cover of “Absolute Beginners” (from the 2010 self-titled Scott Lucas and the Married Men EP), you’re pulling something completely different out of a song that has a fanbase where it’s deeply ingrained in their consciousness.
That’s just a song that I’ve always loved. It’s also a song that not many people would cover or think of when you bring up Bowie; and that was always the first song I would’ve thought of, so the playing field was wide open to go there. It wasn’t like a cover of “Rebel Rebel” where everyone covers that song; no one’s got their filthy mitts on this, let us have it.
But then you’ve done songs like Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” (from The Married Men’s 2010 debut, George Lassos the Moon) which a ton of people have covered.
Right… if I could go back and do again, I might not cover that. I didn’t realize that many people had covered it. It’s like the Married Men doing the Johnny Cash song [“Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)” from last year’s Blood Half Moon]. The first, and only, cover I’d ever heard of it was the Johnny Cash version. So I’m kind of against doing covers of covers, but hearing that version really kind of shook me up, and we were just doing it for this Johnny Cash birthday celebration in Chicago and people really responded to it and by the time it came to record new songs we were just like, “Fuck it. Who cares?” If had the chance to go back, I would still cover that one; I feel like our version is different enough, whereas a lot of people do it very similar to the Johnny Cash version.
And that’s what sucks about some covers. Look at what Blues Traveler did on the John Lennon tribute album; they get to do “Imagine,” and don’t put any stamp on it – carbon copying the original. Like, you’re not that band, that’s not how you play. Turn it into your own sound and it might be really interesting.
It’s kind of like, “How can you do that?” It’s kind of really pointless to be doing a cover where you’re just a fan and you’re really not trying to reinterpret it. “I just love the song, and I’m going to play it exactly like they played it.” But unless you’re putting your own personality into it, yeah, there’s really not much point.
You’ve got the Married Men this month, Local H a next month into the fall. Is there a point where you eventually decide between the two?
Why? Do you have to choose between chocolate and vanilla? I don’t think you do. I don’t think you have to choose between The Beatles and the Stones – you can have them both.
So you’re in The Beatles and the Stones.
Oh yeah, absolutely. Oh wait – you’re asking me if I’m into The Beatles and the Stones or if we’re like The Beatles and the Stones?
Oh no, no, no, no – Married Men and Local H is like… REO Speedwagon and .38 Special.
Ok, but just don’t cover songs by any of those bands.
Don’t tempt me.