Monday, March 3, 2008

The Lonely H

I’m talking to Mark Fredson, lead vocalist of Seattle-area rockers The Lonely H. He’s in a van with his band members trying to navigate out of the parking lot at the Newark airport. This week he was just about the coldest he’s ever been, he says. Four or five degrees. Snow. Next week they’re heading down to Florida.

“Then we’ll let the sun hit our pale, pale bodies,” he says.

I tell him it’s fifty here in the good ole Midwest, which hopefully means it will be warm when they pass through on their way to South by Southwest next week.

He says yeah, whenever he thinks of Kansas he imagines it as dry and hot. Then they came through for a show last month. He took a nap outside of their van and it was, well, cold.

“You took a nap outside of your van?”

“Yeah. That was the worst pre-show ever. Sometimes you just have to get over your sickness and just rock.”

I ask Mark what he and the guys thought of Lawrence. I tell him how whenever I talk to bands they always seem surprised all of Kansas isn’t lame.

“Yeah, when we were driving through Western Kansas we were like, this is going to suck. But it totally exceeded our expectations. Whenever someone asks us one of our favorite places to play, we always say Lawrence.”

(Incidentally, he’s telling the truth. I read an interview where he gave this very response. Way to go, Lawrence!)

The band’s second album Hair is set for release July 24. I ask Mark about the titular track. Specifically the fabulous line, “You like your hair short / And I like my hair long / And I don’t see the problem / What’s so wrong?”

I say, “That reminds me of my father-in-law still trying to get his 26-year-old son to cut his hair.”

“It’s as simple as that,” he says. “Some people just want you to be like them. Because they’re scared of freedom and revolution.”

There’s a bit of playfulness in his last words there. We both chuckle. Joking aside, I say this must be an important concept for the band, since they’ve named the album after the song “Hair.”

“It’s a word that goes along with rock,” he says. “All of our heroes and role models had lion’s manes.”

When he says this I can’t help but ask: when he says hair and rock are inseparable, he’s not referring to the hair bands of the eighties, is he?

“Oh, no. I pretty much discount that decade.”

I can’t help remembering the band members grew up during this decade. When the band released its debut album Kick Upstairs, critics, interviewers and bloggers fixated on the band member’s youth. At the time, Mark was just fourteen.

I ask if some of that buzz has died down, and if he feels like critics or fans see them any differently now – not that they’re exactly long in the tooth at this point. After all, their official site has this to say at the bottom of the band’s biography: “See you this year...without a signed permission slip.”

“It gets people talking,” Mark says. “I’d like to think we’re past the point where age matters. We just want to be seen as a solid rock band.”

I tell him that I teach English, and in class we spend a lot of time analyzing titles and trying to determine a writer’s intent and themes and probably getting it all wrong. That said, I wanted to know where the band name The Lonely H originated.

Mark says, “I think as an English teacher you might appreciate this. Everybody knows the 5 W’s. Who? What? Why? When? Where? Then you got H. Without How, people wouldn’t be able to learn from each other. We’re just trying to stand up for the Lonely H.”

I say my next question might irritate him. Does anyone ever confuse them with Local H, that ‘90s alternative band?

“We get that a lot. People started calling us that on accident. I’m like, you really think we’re the Local H? That guy’s like forty and he’s from Chicago.”

It could be worse, I say. And they do have that one pretty bitchin’ song “High Fivin’ Mothafucka.”

“Yeah, as song names go, that’s pretty good.”

I ask him about South by Southwest coming up next week. Do they approach a festival show any differently in terms of preparations or setlists or strange superstitions or anything like that?

“Not really. We’re going down there to get our names known. Turn it up to eleven.”

“Is that a Spinal Tap reference?” I say. “Nice.”

Mark says they plan on checking out Iggy Pop and Dr. Dogg while they’re down in Austin. After that, with so much good music to choose from, they’ll just “see where the night takes [them].”

I ask if he can get us in.

“Well, we got to choose between passes and money,” he says. “We took the money.”

1 comment:

Hackworth Artifex said...

I didn't like the name, "Lonely H" at all... until I read the explanation. Now I think it is awesome.

If I ever start a band, I might have to call it Decayou. See, cause the 5 W's... or 5 double u's... or 10 u's... or deca-u.