Living Things

Silent Uproar: You played a Spin release party last night, right? How did that go?

Lillian: It was great. Spin magazine has been very supportive of our band. Even when the chips were down, they wrote a 6-page story about us because they believed in our message and out music. So it felt appropriate for them to through our CD release party.

SU: Whose idea was the album title and what is the meaning behind it?

Lillian: It was my idea. It is a title that I had for a long time and I felt it really summed up the record. The people who runt he country now are a pack of lions basically. Not only are they devouring other countries, but they are devouring our own.

SU: Did the band have an active hand in the album art?

Lillian: I collaborated with a UK artist names Steve Wolfe. He is an illustrator and has a real gorilla style how he does things. So we collaborated together and I don’t know how much of the artwork you have seen, but we did the entire packaging together.

SU: Do you feel that album packaging is becoming more or less important in the age of iTunes and MP3s?

Lillian: Well I think as of where we sit right now it is becoming less important, but I think in about two years it will come back. I think everything kind of goes in waves and it’s like there is an overflow of technology and then everyone wants to become primitive again. It’s like you can read a book online or on your computer or you can pick up an actual book and read it. Which one is more comfortable? I think laying in bed with a book is more comfortable then sitting at my computer. So even though you can pop on your headphones with your iTunes and lay on the bed, there is nothing like having the CD in front of you and reading the lyrics to each song. I just think that sort of tradition can’t ever go away.

SU: Warner Brothers actually just announced an all digital label where they release songs in batches online only, but the band gets to keep the masters. How do you feel about that as an artist?

Lillian: I think that’s great because I think that you can get more band’s music out because this day and age major labels don’t give bands a fair chance. So by doing that you can get your music out and hopefully you can record more records more often then the typical setup of two years between records. If you look back in the day of Elvis, Beatles, Stones, all that stuff.... those bands recorded singles and then did an album. A lot of those early Stones records were actually like a collection of singles. Or even a Chuck Berry record was a collection of singles and some b-sides. So it’s not really different then how music has been all along. I actually think it is a great idea and just hope it doesn’t get to where bands don’t get to release a full-length, that it becomes hairy, you know.

SU: I think the danger is you are kind of promoting the whole consumer culture of hearing music and then moving on the next thing really quick…

Lillian: I agree, but that is the attention span of today’s consumer. Like well right now I am doing an interview for you for the internet. Well the internet is great, but look at what it has done. It has promoted things like what you are just talking about where people can instantly see a band, hear the entire record, look at their website, look at every picture of the band, get sick of it and move on. Where as back in the day, you had to wait until the next David Bowie record to come out to see what David Bowie even looks like. These days you can play a show and someone can upload a digital file of your entire concert the next day. So the mystery of your band has sort of been lost because of the internet.

I think you have to take the medium and say ok how can I take this medium and continue the great tradition of rock and roll. That is why I think people like Warner Brothers are maybe doing something like that. To maybe work with what’s going on. I don’t know what to say than at the end of the day, the best way to hear music is always live. So the live show can’t be on your iPod.

SU: Speaking of your website, I was looking at it and their seems to be a lot of crazy, random stuff going on, whose idea was the site?

Lillian: I basically control the visual presentation of all things, other than the website that is up right now, which the record label people, who I love them dearly, went ahead and put up a website that I didn’t have a say in. Now we are in the process of fixing that problem. I think what they put up is interesting, but it is not something I would have done.

SU: It seems like you could really use your website to reach out and educate people on some of the issues you care about. What’s stopped you from really loading it down with info on ways for people to get involved and other things like that? Or is that coming?

Lillian: Our website that was up 6 months ago had all of that. So basically over the course of the next month I am getting involved and we are overhauling our website. So it is going to be a lot more in line with our way of doing things, liking people to other places on the web. The web is actually a good place to find real news, not the news that is told to you on channels one through five.

SU: Why didn’t Black Skies in Broad Daylight come out in the US?

Lillian: The record company in the US banned it because it was during the election and they didn’t want that sort of idea or those values as a reflection of their record company. So they said no to the album and we said great, well fuck you, we are out of here.

SU: How did you hook up with Jive/Zomba?

Lillian: Our management company proposed them as a possible place to go. I look at record companies as the people that run them, not necessarily the roster they have. Our last record company had some bands we liked, but it turned into a big mess because the people were assholes. So when we met with the people at Zomba and Jive, it was like these people are great because they believe in our music and they believe in our message and our message is the point of the band. They said the secret words to me, which made me happy, and that was, whatever you guys’ message is, we will get it out. So we decided to go with them.

SU: Which is more crucial to being a good rock and roll band – an amazing live show or a great sounding album?

Lillian: I think an amazing live show because I don’t think an album can ever capture a band. An album can give you a taste of a band, but the live show is where you see the band, hear the band, and the band is right there in the palm of your hand. You can’t do that with a record.

SU: Obviously you put a lot of work and effort into your records, but is the live show where you out your focus and energy?

Lillian: Yeah, I look at our recording as trying to record a live show. We setup and we play, it is that particular days live show, and some day’s live shows are better than other days. So that is sort of what I like about seeing a band live, you never know what is going to happen, is it going to be great, is it going to suck, is it going to be chaotic, you just never know. Most bands I like have shows like that and the record, well you play it once, and it is going to be the same every time you play it. Look at someone like MC5, their live record is better than there studio record.

SU: Does being a band of brothers make it harder or easier to get along when on the road for long periods of time?

Lillian: It makes it easier because we have been traveling together for so long that it is sort of routine. We are driving from point a to point z, it is going to be 300 miles and we are all going to sleep together. We have done it thousands of times.

SU: The political message is obviously an important part of your band, do you think it the responsibility of bands or people in general that are in the spotlight a bit to make people aware of such things?

Lillian: Well why not? When you are over in Europe, people love that you are saying something. Europe is sometimes more affected by what America is doing then America itself is. I think what a lot of Americans don’t understand is what our administration does affects the whole world. Sometimes it affects them harder than it affects us. People outside of America looking in sense that, but since we are sorta inside the skin, a lot of people don’t see that. I think every artist paints about it’s surroundings and right now the surroundings are such. I feel it is more appropriate to tell the story of what is going on. People get all their information through the media, and people are influenced by media of all sorts, so if you keep it all Jessica Simpson like then we are going to have a pretty sad world.

Abraham Lincoln has a great quote where he says, “America will never be destroyed from the outside, if we falter and lose all our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves from the inside.” And that is exactly what I think is happening right now. America is definitely falling apart from the inside. There are no terrorist coming to out country now, and there not going to be.

SU: If you didn’t have the band to express your political views through, how would you get those ideas and thoughts out to the public?

Lillian: If I didn’t have the band, I would form my own church and preach in my own church and hope people come. You can look at concerts like a church gathering in essence. They are a gathering of people there to hear what the ring leader is going to say or do. A rockstar is the same as a stripper even, you are on stage in front of people, you are exposed, you are working the crowd, you are a whore because you have a bear song behind you, it is all the same.

SU: Do you mind being know as much by the political stuff as for the music itself?

Lillian: No that is why our band is called Living Things, because we want to represent all living things. Our band is about what we have to say, not about anything else. Every band has their mission or point of existence, and ours is for what we have to say. Some band’s point of existence is for how they look, or their guitar riffs, or whatever the fuck it is. For us, any fan can come and listen to the music, or listen to the message, I don’t care either way.

SU: Name a band or two that you look up as a role model either musically or politically.

Lillian: I would say Dead Kennedys because like yesterday they pulled out of a concert in LA because they didn’t realize that Coors beer was sponsoring it and so they said they weren’t going to play it if the Coors sign is behind them. I don’t necessarily think that is cool because they are rebelling against the Coors sign, but it is cool because they have been around 20 years and now they are well into their 40s, but they are sticking to the same plan they had when they were in their 20s. Nothing has influenced them to change and they didn’t sell out their values at any point.

Oct 7 2005