I am a longtime Bangles fan, and was into them before they started having hits, so when I heard The Lunar Laugh, I immediately heard an update of All Over The Place, one of the Bangles' best. I was thrilled about that, as I’d wondered what The Lunar Laugh would sound like. Now I do, as will you, if you want to hear it, and if you are a Bangles fan this is a must hear.
Jared Lekites of the band was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Andrea Weiss: Could you give a short musical history of the band?
Jared Lekites: Connor and I began playing shows together with just us and two acoustic guitars. We'd play a handful of songs I had from my solo releases and some covers we both liked like Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel... stuff that works with two guys harmonizing, basically.
I recorded the bulk of the Apollo album by myself with session guys. Connor only sang a couple of backgrounds on it. One day Graham Colton, who was the main producer on that, suggested that instead of it being another solo outing for me, I should put a band together and give this thing a name. I had just happened to have heard the phrase "the lunar laugh" on the Cosmic Sounds: The Zodiac album the evening prior and I thought it would be a good band name. I took it as a sign and it became The Lunar Laugh from that point onward.
Campbell was introduced to us by his cousin who happened to be backing up Connor and I in our live full band performances at the time. Campbell needed a group to record for an engineering class he was taking in school and we volunteered for that because it meant free studio time for us. We all got on well and we could tell he had talent. Not long after that, Connor suggested we expand the team to a trio and invite him to join us.
Since then, the focus of the band has been the three of us being the main singer/songwriters and then whomever is orbiting around us at the time.
AW: Who are your influences?
JL: We all listen to a lot of music and we each have our share of favorites. I'm one of the biggest Beatles nut-jobs you'll ever find. I love just about anything from the 1960s. That's my favorite era for music. But I also am fond of country music, particularly Garth Brooks. He was the reason I wanted to make music in the first place. He changed my life. I think the Brian Wilson influence is fairly evident in the way we stack vocals.
I know Connor likes Blink-182 and folkier things like The Head and The Heart and Penny & Sparrow. Meanwhile, Campbell's into The Flaming Lips, Prince, P-Funk, Bowie and such. But we can all get into what each other is into, as well. I think that's why the collaboration works so well.
AW: I hear a bit of All Over The Place era Bangles in the music--that is, folk/rock with some garage rock in it. Is that type of music an influence?
JL: The Bangles are definitely in my top 5 favorite bands. I even thanked them in the liner notes for Apollo because I kind of modeled what I wanted our sound to be after what they did. I sometimes get a little miffed when they end up on those lists of "best female bands," because, while they totally deserve the praise, I think they are one of the best bands regardless of their gender. The way they managed to meld together their hardcore 60s influences and still keep them modern enough for the MTV generation is certainly admirable, too.
AW: The lyrics also seem influenced by folk/rock, say, Roger McGuinn. Would you say that's your overall style?
JL: When I write lyrics, I want them to be able to stand up on their own, apart from the music. I want the same thing for the music, for the tune to stand up on its own without lyrics, so I just try to make them as strong as I can. They're often introspective, because I'm working from my own experiences. I keep reworking lyrics until I feel like there's no better way of putting them together. Bob Dylan songs like "When I Paint My Masterpiece" or "Tangled Up In Blue" really fascinate and inspire me.
AW: Why put out a live album? To give an overview of the band, and also sum things up?
JL: It was one of those projects that we would always talk about. We had several shows recorded for our own amusement, but also because we had that possibility of doing a live album on the back burner. Once the pandemic hit and we had to cancel our tour plans, we decided the time was right. We had three studio albums out and we knew we had enough shows recorded that covered all that material and more.
We are lucky to have a sizable following outside of our home country. There are places like Spain, Sweden, Japan, and Australia that we have never been to before, but they know us there and they know our music. We don't know how long it will be before we ever get a chance to visit those places, and since they haven't yet had a chance to see us, we wanted to give them a chance to hear us performing. I think a live album also makes for a nice souvenir after a show, so it is going to be nice to have these discs at our merch booth.
AW: I like the covers. What made you decide on Death Cab For Cutie's "Soul Meets Body" and Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man?"
JL: Our cover choices are typically spontaneous choices. Those are the two that we just happened to have decent recordings of. I think they both stemmed from the same outdoor show where we had to play two sets, so we were pulling in as many songs as we could, because we only had a couple albums under our belt at the time.
We had been doing "Solitary Man" for a while because it's a nice rocker and it always gets a favorable response. The Death Cab tune was something we chose to do with Chase Kerby, who was our special guest on that show.
AW: Could you say a few words about upcoming albums? I think I'd like your studio albums just as much as this live one.
JL: We have a ton of material that we are sifting through to record. We aren't sure when it will be finished or when it will come out just yet, but we all really like the handful that we have so far. Hopefully the wait won't take too long.
AW: What would you tell someone just starting out in music?
JL: Surround yourself with people who impress you, and work only with people who impress you. You are only as good as your weakest link.