Scott Lucas has been the guitar-wielding and singing half of Chicago duo Local H since 1987, and while the band's blend of grunge tone, classic songwriting smarts, and longevity has earned it plenty of recognition, it makes sense that a few steps to the side would be tempting to Lucas. A two-piece unit may make cutting the night's pay easier, but it doesn't allow the kind of heavy Americana experimentation Lucas achieves with his six-piece Married Men on his new record, Blood Half Moon.
Anchored by the heft of overdriven tube amps, Lucas' somber mediations (akin to those of Nick Cave or Johnny Cash) make for good road music, and that doesn't come as much as a surprise to the songwriter. "The record feels like a 'road record' to me," he says over the phone, discussing how a trip down the remains of Route 66 in Arizona resulted in the video for the album's namesake single.
"I was driving on Route 66, and shooting stuff, and I'd never been to the Grand Canyon before," Lucas says. "I was driving from California to Chicago. So I had the camera sticking out the window and went to the Grand Canyon. It was awesome."
Lucas drew lines between the worlds of heavy metal and Americana while discussing Blood Half Moon with Up on the Sun, and explained how the project differs from the longstanding Local H.
Up on the Sun: Local H was ahead of the curve as far as two-piece rock 'n' roll bands were concerned. Does it surprise you to see so many guitar-and-drum duo bands now?
Scott Lucas: No, I knew it was a good idea. I didn't realize how good of an idea it was.
What makes that arrangement work so well?
I don't know; I think it depends on what kind of music you play, and whether or not you can pull it off. For us, the reason we did it was out of necessity. We didn't know anybody else. So it wasn't a conscious choice; it was just something that happened. Once we made that decision to do it, it was like, we didn't want to change. We'd talk to labels and they'd say, "Maybe you need a bass player," and I'd say, "No, we're not going to be doing that."
I imagine the Married Men is a very different approach, a more open one.
It's a different approach. You can kind of let the songs breathe. I don't have to play so much. I'm starting to really get comfortable with that and realize that I don't always have to be playing. That's something I'm getting used to: being able to leave holes. There's plenty of other people to fill in those spaces; I don't have to do all of it.
"A lot of my friends in Chicago are super into metal and at the same time super into outlaw country. There's definitely a reason for that, all these fucking dudes with goatees and Hank Williams tattoos."
-- Scott Lucas
This record features a lot of people -- production-wise -- that have worked with some really heavy, expansive bands: Neurosis, Pelican, Russian Circles. Are you into that kind of stuff as well?
Definitely, definitely. One of the things that we wanted to do with this record was work within that framework. The way we work is that we record live, and I know a lot of those bands do the same thing, as well. We wanted to get the sound of the room. When you hear those records, you're hearing the room -- a lot. I wanted that to come through on the record. Going to Electrical Audio was the first step in doing that.
With a band like Earth, really uniting the ideas of Americana and drone/heavy music -- when you think about those two realms of music, metal and Americana, do you think there's a pretty natural connection between those two sounds?
It seems like a lot of my friends in Chicago are super into metal and at the same time super into outlaw country. There's definitely a reason for that, all these fucking dudes with goatees and Hank Williams tattoos. It's just a sense that, you know, you could say it's "outsider music." It's music that is outside of fashion. Maybe there's a connection to be drawn there. I don't think a whole lot about it, but you can see that.
I wouldn't do it if it sounded like Local H. If it sounded like Local H, there'd be no reason why it shouldn't be a Local H record. I don't understand people who do stuff for solo records that sounds just like their other band. It seems stupid to me. I mean, I guess I can understand them wanting to get the fuck away from their bandmates, but other than that I don't really see it.
You shot your first video yourself, and for the next, you're encouraging people to shoot footage on their phones, "since they're going to be on their phones anyway at shows." Has that annoyed you in the past?
It doesn't really annoy me. If anything, it's [bothersome] when I go to shows and somebody's got their phone in my way. I went to see a band and somebody just wouldn't put their phone down. I was like, "Jesus, put it down and just live in this moment." Watch the band, and just -- you've already taken a few pictures. How many more pictures can you take of this band? They don't look any different. Get out of the way and let's just move on.
That annoys me more than [seeing phones] when I'm on stage. But sometimes I'm on stage and I'm like, yeah, why don't you just be here with me? Not everything has to be fucking documented. Having said that, we want people to document us [for the next video].
I can't decide how natural I feel our compulsion to document things is.
By doing that you're constantly failing to actually experience what's happening. It's great that you can keep it and watch it forever, but something's lost when it's wasn't actually happening to you. You're watching it through a screen as it's happening. That's not something I'm willing to trade.
Scott Lucas and The Married Men are scheduled to perform Wednesday, June 27, at the Rhythm Room.