Local H has gone through many changes: from their first release, the little-known Ham-Fisted, to being on top of the world with the multi-radio hit As Good As Dead album [Island Records], and now total freedom on a small, independent label today. It’s been a long wait for the new CD, Whatever Happened to PJ Soles? [Studio E], a great marriage between the classic rock experimentation of their last album and the post-grunge that they’re best known for. And that wait was clearly worth it.
“The worst part was when we didn’t put a record out for years—not because we couldn’t find a label but just the situation of talking to labels,” says Scott Lucas, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist. “How long that took! It was like I was saying, ‘I wanna make a move, I wanna make a record,’ and everyone around you says, ‘no, let’s talk to these people, let’s wait for that person…’ Just a total waste of time.”
Listening to PJ Soles, you’ll realize that Local H has gone deeper than ever before. Call it maturity. Call it the new band. Call it whatever you want to, but Lucas’ searing vocal expression and lyrics, alongside that equally emotive guitar and percussion will shake you to the core. Sadness is the prevailing emotion when Scott’s not mocking clichés and tired tradition with Local H’s historic bad-temper. The stuff of PJ Soles sounds like words from someone who’s seen a lot, feels a lot, and yet is somehow able to remove himself from the idiocy of the world—be it through alcohol, anger, or a mental disconnect.
“I would say that this record is probably the saddest [we’ve made],” says Lucas. But when cornered as to how much of this sadness is autobiographical he says, “I’m sure it varies from song to song. Some of it might be based on things that I see happen to other people.”
Who was PJ Soles, anyway?
“PJ Soles was an actress in the 70s who did things like Rock and Roll High School, Halloween and Stripes” Scott says. “So, she was in a lot of these movies that I grew up watching and I thought were really great. Yet she’s someone people don’t really know.” He refers to other forgotten stars he’s mentioned on the album and says, “You turn on something like VH-1 and there’s all this crap like, Where are they now? What has this person done lately? It makes me insane. Who are they to ask all these questions?”
Ah, so now it makes sense! The first track is called, “Where are they now?” The second song on the album, “Everyone Alive,” kicks it up in typical Local H percussive destruction, reassuring the world on the state of Local H. And “California Songs,” which is destined as the first single, is full of disdain for ‘West Coast folks’.
Scott, who lives in Chicago, says, “A lot of friends of mine have moved to LA in the past two years,” Lucas says. “One of the things that I loved about music—say, look at the Minneapolis scene, or the DC scene, or the Seattle scene—there was this feeling that things were happening somewhere outside of New York and LA. I like that. I like the fact that when something like that happens, everyone takes note. It reminds people there is something different. On top of it all, I’m sick of hearing songs about California. It’s time to move on.”
So what about the state of radio, now that Local H’s “Bound for the Floor” is no longer spun every three minutes. Is there anything out there worth paying attention to?
“I think there’s a lot of stuff that people are listening to, there’s a lot of great records,” Lucas says. “Sometimes I even hear some of them on the radio! Every once in a while I’ll hear an Interpol song, or, you know…well, I guess there isn’t a lot. I do buy a lot of records. I go to shows, I see these bands and there’s a lot of people there. They’re there. Radio is pretty bad. It’s always been bad, you just don’t notice it when you’re eighteen.”
Lucas says that after the Pack Up The Cats album, he wanted to do a concept record. “I felt great about Pack Up The Cats, and everybody seemed to like it. But I wanted to do something different. The most different thing I could think of was just straight up—ten songs. At the time, there were people with 17 songs on their records. It was insane! I wanted to put out ten songs, that’s it. Straight-ahead rock. I thought, let’s just do Back in Black. That was the idea. By the time we recorded [Here Comes the Zoo], though, we had demoed the songs so much that a lot of the freshness had gone out of it. It was the kind of record that needed to be completely spontaneous and wasn’t. We knew exactly what we were gonna do, even two years before we got in the studio. With this and everything we do now from now on, we’re just gonna do the song and then we’ll know if it’s good or not. There should be no limits. It was a mistake to limit ourselves, but it was also an experiment to see what would happen if we did a record like that.”
No limits is right. “Heavy Metal Bake Sale” feels like a yard sale, with bits and pieces of hardcore music scattered all around. “We were just trying to do something that rocked. A lot of that jerky, atonal rock that I really dig a lot,” he says.
No matter how hard rocking, no matter how much Lucas is screaming or raspy-throated crooning, despite the great noisy explosions and jangley soft fade-outs, there is always a great pop melody underlying almost all of Local H’s music.
“We grew up on Cheap Trick, you know. That’s just something we can’t get away from. It’s in our blood. Blame it on Cheap Trick.”
But it’s not all Cheap Trick. “Heaven on the Way Down” is so Kurt Cobain-ish in vocals and guitar that it sounds like a lost Nirvana song. The experimental “Buffalo Trace” is reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” with hypnotic vocals that almost sound underwater. Closing the album with “Halcyon Days (Where were you then?)” is clearly a thumb to the nose at VH-1, with a real Good As Dead-era feeling to it.
“I just like really pretty stuff,” he confesses. “There was a decision when we made this record not to suppress any of that and just let it come out.”
Well, no one’s ever gonna listen to Scott Lucas and Local H and think that they're fairies, that’s for sure.
“Yeah,” he laughs. “We don’t have to try very hard. As soon as Brian sits down at the drums…”
While we’re on the fairy-track, is it really true that Scott Lucas likes the Darkness video? (It’s posted as a ‘favorite’ on the band’s website).
“Do I like the Darkness video? I think it’s genius!” he laughs, revealing a tone of sarcasm. “It’s mind-boggling. It’s this generation’s White Snake. Everyone’s afraid to say it, or isn’t aware that bands like White Snake existed!” He drops the excitable tone and gets real for a second, “I can see how certain metal-head friends of mine like it but…it’s crazy. It’s fascinating to me.”