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Ted Leo Interview

| March 30, 2007 | 0 Comments

Ted Leo And The Pharmacists
Pound The Pavement

Leo

Considering Ted Leo And The Pharmacists toured at least four, maybe five times (the frontman can’t exactly remember) behind 2004’s Shake The Sheets (Lookout!), the guys are understandably exhausted. And that’s not to mention the outings behind three prior records, or Leo’s time in the East Coast post hardcore scene (circa late 1980s into the ’90s) with Citizen’s Arrest, Animal Crackers, and Chisel. But rather than popping pills to keep the wheels of alternative intensity turning, Leo and company turned to a rich list of rock ‘n’ roll luminaries for inspiration and realized they’re a hell of a lucky bunch to do what they love for a living.

Appearing: 4/28 at Metro (3730 N. Clark) in Chicago.

“Yeah, I get absolutely tired sometimes, to be totally honest, and the main reason lately has been the amount of touring on the previous record,” says Leo via phone from his New Jersey home. “As hard as it is, to complain about playing music every night of your life because of the physical grind would make me feel bad. It gets down to the simple fact that what you do with your life is make music, which is something a lot of people only dream about.”

Rather than sounding strained on the brand new Living With The Living (which bows on Touch And Go because of Lookout’s recent financial troubles), the troupe are riding high on an energy that has been transferred from the artistic osmosis of listening to loads of The Kinks, The Clash, Billy Bragg, The Jam, and even bits of Squeeze. Plus there’s plenty of the band’s typically rabble-rousing indie rock traits, including lo-fi guitars loaded with jarring distortion, gritty garage-derived percussion, and Leo’s signature snarl.

“Some of these songs are well over a year-and-a-half old at this point and you dip in and out with different love affairs,” Leo explains. “The newest songs were finished at the end of last summer and I was actually listening to a lot of Daft Punk around that time. But now I’m listening a lot to the most recent Phoenix record and on the other side of the spectrum I’ve been getting back into old English punk like Conflict and Rudimentary Peni. And then there’s some stuff I haven’t listened to in a long time, but they are already engrained musical sensibilities. There’s some Squeeze and Kinks and basically the whole mod era up through the soul-meets-new wave thing.”

“Army Bound” best sums up his latter examples, while “The World Stops Turning” and “The Sons Of Cain” ooze with punk-ish power. “A Bottle Of Buckie” turns from the U.K. to Ireland to touch upon electric pub rock (a la The Pogues), while “The Unwanted Things” and “The Lost Brigade” showcase a softer side of Leo’s pipes, which shift to somewhat soulful falsettos. There’s also “Colleen,” a tune that could quite possibly be the band’s first breakthrough pop hit, along with the politically charged “Bomb.Repeat.Bomb.”

“We’d been playing about four of the songs pretty consistently and the other 11 were written much closer to the actual recording — two were actually written in the studio,” he recalls. “All of them had been played at least once, so it wasn’t so much about gauging audience reaction in some cases, but getting the feeling that this group of songs fit into an album in the classic sense.”

To find out how this played out on the new album, grab the April issue of Illinois Entertaier, available free throughout Chicagoland.

— Andy Argyrakis

Category: Features, Monthly

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