Remembering The Lemmings, the Phoenix Band With Flimsy Connection to Lemmy
Editor's note: Here's a Throwback Thursday edition of Heritage Hump Day.
While it's impossible to pass through a minute of social media quality time this week without being reminded of the sad demise of Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, it does also remind me that one band was rechristened his namesake because of some club owner's mistake in New Times.
"It was one of our earliest shows. I wish I saved the ad," remember's The Lemmings co-founder Andrew Lockwood, who would later play in a handful of great Valley pop bands including Danny, Velveteen Dream, Dolphins Kill For Love, The Heartgraves, and Runaway Diamonds.
"I fielded a very real phone call asking if Lemmy was actually going to be there, performing. We probably should have been 'The Lemmys' because we definitely had a big wart on our collective face, but we also had chemistry, and some damn good players and some damn good songs."
After playing in an industrial band called Figurehead, Lockwood recalls an epiphany he had at a Beat Angels show at the Mason Jar.
"I was getting tired of trying to play electro-trigger drum pads in time to a pre-recorded back beat. Beat Angels were fantastic and appeared to be having a ball and that was the end of Figurehead," Lockwood say. "Cemented everything I had been thinking about how I wanted to write catchy pop songs and go to gigs and plug in my instrument and play and sing, versus the construction work I was doing in Figurehead."
Also in that industrial band was guitarist Jim Miles who also realized that he and Lockwood had been playing music they did not even like ands were spending more time building speakers and setting up the stage lights array than writing songs or playing their instruments.
You can hear that release in this track recorded in 1996.
"James Miles brought this song in whole cloth. About the imaginary perfect girlfriend from outer space, I'm pretty sure."
Says Miles, "'Lelekwia' was one of my first stabs at writing guitar pop. I was an awkward geeky pop music guy, so writing about an imaginary girlfriend was right up my alley. We were recording very early on in a new-ish studio in Tempe, Red Mountain, for free, with Kevin Ellison engineering, which we thought was pretty cool because he had recorded Sloan. We barely had any idea what the hell we were doing, except for our drummer Alan Work, who knew how to track drums from his stint in Dave Pratt's Sex Machine Band."
At least until Lockwood's Matthew Sweetish vocals come in, it's a pretty heavy sounding track that Lemmy himself might give his middle finger blessing.
"I still love how "Lelekwia" turned out, but with reservations," Lockwood says. "It's a little too rock, sort of, for James and me. We wanted to sound like Big Star and The Connells informed by The Velvet Underground and Guided By Voices, and somehow still rock and make you want to dance in front of the stage."
Something that might cause Lemmy to give the Lemmings a nod from the Great Beyond? The band actually got arrested at the Sail Inn for drinking onstage during a brief resurrection of the state's arcane cabaret laws that said when you were performing you were technically an employee of the club. The defunct club had to pay a hefty fine and the band actually had to go to court. The charges were only dropped when the Lemmings produced a letter saying they had not been paid!
Bassist Bryan Krol has regrets that the band didn't last past 1997. "It was my first real band. One that seemed to have some promise. When we were a five-piece I thought we had something special. But we fell apart before our true voice as a band was developed. We needed another year or two before our true potential as a group could be realized.
"I was too young to handle that. I drank too much — though not heroic rock star amounts; just enough to make me obnoxious — and they kicked me out."
Krol would later play in the Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Miles, who now lives in Colorado, would go onto play again with Lockwood in The Heartgraves as well as form such bands as Propeller, Wormwood Brothers, and Thee Jaguar Sharks. He recently recorded a solo EP called Apparitions and Rust.
"'Lelekwia' was used in an episode of Forensic Files. I think from 2001. James got royalty checks for it," Lockwood says.
Asessing the Lemmings' short run before the cliff, Miles says, "The Lemmings was a fun band — five guys out to rock your empty club!"
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.