Best known for their blistering live shows and unforgettable alternative rock radio hits, alt-rock, power-duo Local H is a band that continues to defy the odds. While rock ‘n’ roll superstardom has continued to elude the band over the past 3 decades, it hasn’t stopped them forging ahead. As a result, they have constructed a solid string of underrated independent rock albums. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of their iconic concept album, “Pack Up The Cats.” The album, produced by Queen’s legendary producer Roy Thomas Baker, included timeless 1990s anthems “All-Right (Oh Yeah)” and “All The Kids Are Right,” which solidified Local H as a leader in the alternative music genre, ranking in at #20 on Spin’s list of the 20 best albums of 1998, #17 on Robert Christgau’s 1998 Dean’s List, and #2 on Chicago Tribune’s list of the best albums of 1998. To celebrate the musical milestone, the band will be bringing the album, performed in its entirety, to audiences across the nation. The tour is set to kick off on September 2nd in Uncasville, Connecticut and will wrap up on November 19th in Chicago, Illinois.
While the band is excited to revisit their classic material, their sights remain firmly set on the future. The band recently joined forces with director Felix Piñeiro and Academy Award nominated Michael Shannon for the release of the band’s latest music video for their single “Innocents.” Shannon, who is best known for his roles in “Revolutionary Road,” “The Shape of Water,” and HBO‘s “Boardwalk Empire,” shines in his performance of a boy-shop welder that falls down a Lynchian rabbit-hole during a wild night drinking at a local bar. This powerful new song serves as a reminder that this criminally underrated band still has plenty of fuel left in the tank. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with the driving force behind Local H, frontman Scott Lucas, to discuss the past, present and future of the band. In the interview, Lucas offers a look inside the longevity of the band, the making of “Pack Up The Cats,” and what the future holds for them.
What went into discovering your creative voice as both an artist and a band?
I don’t know. I think we just kind of toiled around for a few years to try to figure that out. We were really into the records that were coming out on Sub Pop, so that was a big thing for us. That made us turn everything up and get dirtier. Going to see other bands and playing with those bands really meant a lot and really shaped us in those earlier years. From our first show to our first record was a span of about 4 or 5 years. It was just fucking around and fumbling in the dark, you know. There was a lot of that, along with losing members and finally whiddling it down to two pieces. Once it became a two-piece, I think that’s when we really started to get somewhere.
What lessons did you learn early on in year career that might have impacted you as a band?
All of those bands that we loved were all very DIY. Being independent, even when we signed to a major label, was very important. It wasn’t about trusting the whole process. For me, I always had one foot out the door with that kind of thing! Taking their money and helping to build what we had with being on tour and stuff like that was something we knew was finite. We knew it wasn’t going to last. A lot of those bands gave us a mistrust of that thing, which I think was healthy. I don’t think enough people have that.
What do you consider the keys to longevity for a long-lasting career in the music business?
For me, it’s just one part stubbornness and the other part is doing things you actually believe in. I mean, if you’re going to do something and you’re going to fail at it, at least you believe in it. Eventually, someone will come around and see that it wasn’t a failure and what these people were doing meant something. How many bands have you seen come out and sell 2 records but 20 years later they are filling football fields? It’s that kind of thing. They are headlining festivals because they believed in what they were doing and people can see that. Maybe not right away but eventually people will see that.
What goes into keeping a band like Local H moving forward?
You have to find ways to make it interesting. We’re always asking ourselves, “What are we going to do this time? Why would it be different this time? Why would people come out and see this band?” We try to keep it interesting and that goes for the records too. You always have to challenge yourself and challenge the people who like your band.
Where do you find yourself looking for inspirations these days?
Inspiration can come from anywhere. Lately, I’m impressed with bands that have been around for a long time. I went to see Pearl Jam the other night and they were great! I thought that was pretty inspirational, just to watch that show and see how they do it and the fact that people love them. I watched it and thought, “This is great!” It was really something to see.
Local H is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of “Pack Up The Cats.” Take us back to that time period. What was your creative headspace like at that time?
It was pretty good. I had a lot of ideas for that record. We had a big budget and we were in with a great producer, Roy Thomas Baker, so there basically wasn’t anything that we couldn’t do. If you could think of it, those guys would find a way to help us make it. We were doing everything! I mean, there are sounds of tape ripping on that record, which was actual gaff tape. We did every single thing you could think of to try to make sounds. No matter what we came up with, they were up for it and we had the resources to make it happen. I think that was the reason we were on a major label — to make that record. I still really like it.
Even though you had a solid arsenal of tools at your disposal, I’m sure you still encountered your share of challenges.
We had most of the record pretty well mapped out before we walked into the studio. We had made a couple of demos that we had sent to the record company. We had sent them Side One and Side Two. Everything was all sort of put together and all the songs sort of blended into each other. That was all sort of mapped up. Once we were there we just worked on making sure it sounded great. That was the main challenge. I honestly thought that we would sound different. I thought Roy was going to make us sound like Queen or something like that! [laughs] I had no idea! I was like, “Oh my God, we’re going to sound completely different.” I remember being bummed the first couple days thinking, “Oh fuck, we just sound like us!” [laughs] Later, I was like, “That’s it. No one is ever going to make you sound like anybody but yourself.” Queen sounds like Queen because they were Queen. Roy Thomas Baker is not going to sprinkle magic Queen dust on you!
Do any memories from that period jump out at you?
It’s funny because somebody posted this video of us recording at the place (check out the video at this location) and I just watched it yesterday. It actually brought back a lot of memories. Roy has a studio in Lake Havasu, Arizona. I remember driving around in that town and every day going to his studio. It was built into the base of a mountain, so it was like going to work at the Batcave everyday! [laughs] It was cool! There was a bar that we would go to every night called The Desert Martini. A Desert Martini was just a big glass of beer and they would put an olive in it. [laughs[ That was cool too. I had demos of Queens of The Stone Age’s first record and I was listening to that a lot during that period. Every day driving back and forth to work I’d be listening to the demos I had gotten from Josh [Homme]. That was also on this video and I had totally forgotten about that!
What impact did the “Pack Up The Cats” album have on you, both short and long term?
In a lot of ways, it almost broke the band. I think everyone thought this record was going to be huge. Everybody at the label thought it was going to be huge. All of our friends thought the same thing. Everybody thought this. When it didn’t take off, I think it kinda tainted us for quite awhile but it was the record that we wanted to make. It was also the record that the label wanted us to make. Nobody pressured us to make anything different but it just wasn’t the time. Nu-metal, rap rock and all that kind of stuff was on the ascendency and what we were doing, this sort of Pink Floyd-ish/Cheap Trick-ish pop record, just wasn’t what people wanted, I don’t think. It was just the wrong time for it. Plus, all the labels were merging and it was a mess! But, again, this is the record we wanted to make so at least we failed on our own terms.
How do you view the creative dynamic of the band at this point in time?
I think at this point we know what we’re doing and we’re really good at it. We are probably better at it now than ever before. I mean, we did this tour over the summer with Everclear and they were honestly some of the best shows we’ve ever played. We were just killing night after night. It’s a really good feeling to know you can still do it!
Local H just put out some new music in the form of a single titled “Innocents.” What can you tell us about the songwriting process of the band. Has that it changed through the years?
It’s always kind of the same. It usually starts with a riff or I will be walking around and I’ll get a melody in my head. From there, I just scroll through my phone and jot shit down. That’s a big change! I’m now using my phone to jot things down instead of bar napkins! [laughs] I’ll just scroll through the phone and see if there is any interesting lyrics that I’ve put into there over the course of the year. If there is and it fits with the melody, then I will insert that into the song and work from there to fill in the pieces.
“Innocents” is a great song. The video you released features the great Michael Shannon. How did that come about?
We’ve know the director, Felix Piñeiro, for a few years. We were trying to come up with an idea for the video. I had an idea and he had one that was very similar but my idea was basically me in it, just walking around in this bar. His idea was, “No. Fuck you. Get Michael Shannon.” [laughs] We were just hanging around and I texted Michael. I said, “Do you want to shoot a video with us?” He just shot back, “Why not?” That was basically it!
Well, you certainly can’t ask for more than that and it’s pretty awesome!
Yeah! [laughs] That’s about as good as it gets!
You’re about to hit the road for a tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Pack Up The Cats.” What can fans expect and what has you excited about it?
Playing the record again is really exciting! We’ve been working really hard on it and we’re starting to get super comfortable with it. Now, it’s just a matter of getting out there and playing it in front of people. Just trying to recreate as many sounds from the record as possible is what we’ve been working on and making the whole thing flow. It’s like once you start, that’s it! All the songs bleed into each other, so there is very little room to stop and take a breath! It’s really fun to do!
Where do you stand in regard to new music? Where are things headed both short and long term?
Well, we have this tour over the next three months, so once that’s done it will be Thanksgiving, Christmas and all that crap. I think after this tour, it’s time to start thinking about a new record and time to make a new record!
Amen to that! That’s awesome to hear! Looking back on your career, how do you feel you have most evolved as an artist?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s best described as baby steps. [laughs] It’s hard to track your evolution while you’re in it, unless you are David Bowie or are constantly trying to push yourself to be something completely different. We’re not that kind of band but when you look back and see the different things you’ve tried, you do see there have been changes, you’ve tried different things and you’ve evolved at this or that. That is satisfying but while you’re in it… I can’t see any change. We’re just trying not to suck and that’s pretty much all there is! I feel pretty good about where we are and I’m thankful for it. At this point, since our last record, we’ve toured a lot and built up a lot of good will. I think the biggest challenge we face with this next record is not blowing it and delivering something that rewards the interest that people have shown in us.
What’s the best lesson we can take from the story of Local H?
I don’t know if we’re a good model for anything! [laughs] I just think it’s important to believe in what you do, you know. There is a lot of reasons to get into music but the only real reason is that you love the music. That’s the only right reason. You can get into music for money, fame or any number of bullshit reasons but the only thing that matters, honestly, is that you love it. If you don’t I don’t see why anybody would want to be in it.
Thanks for your time today, Scott! I’m looking forward catching you on tour and can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.
Right on. Thanks a lot, Jason.
Catch Local H on the “Pack Up The Cats” tour this Fall:
2 – Mohegan Sun Wolf Den, Uncasville, CT*
5 – The Sinclair Music Hall, Cambridge, MA
6 – Rough Trade NYC, Brooklyn, NY
7 – Asbury Lane, Asbury Park, NJ
8 – Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA
10 – Rock and Roll Hotel, Washington DC
11 – Grog Shop, Cleveland Heights, OH
13 – A and R Music Bar, Columbus, OH
14 – The Hi-Fi Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN
15 – Majestic Theatre, Madison, WI
16 – Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL
4 – Firebird, Saint Louis, MO
5 – Headliners Music Hall, Louisville, KY
6 – Exit/In, Nashville, TN
7 – The Masquerade- Hell Stage, Atlanta, GA
9 – Barracuda, Austin, TX
10 – Club Dada, Dallas, TX
12 – Riot Room, Kansas City, MO
13 – Spicoli’s Grill, Waterloo, IA
14 – Sleeping Village, Chicago, IL
2 – Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
3 – Amsterdam Bar & Hall, Saint Paul, MN
6 – The Crocodile, Seattle, WA
7 – Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, OR
9 – Harlow’s, Sacramento, CA
10 – Starline Social Club, Oakland, CA
12 – Roxy Theatre, West Hollywood, CA
13 – Marty’s On Newport, Tustin, CA
15 – The Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City, UT
16 – Larimer Lounge, Omaha, NE
17 – The Waiting Room, Papillion, NE
18 – Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL
* Does not feature Pack Up The Cats Set