A lot of ink, both real and virtual, has been dedicated to defining the sound that is Low Cut Connie. The much-buzzed-about band is raw and raucous, retro at times, though without the thrift shop self consciousness that so often accompanies throwback acts. They’re raunchy in moments (perhaps the band’s best moments), but the raunch, like the accompanying smirk, is just one shade among a thickly-layered sonic canvas.
The band (Adam Weiner from Philadelphia and Dan Finnermore from Brighton, U.K.) currently handles its own press (listen to their latest album, Call Me Sylvia, and you’ll wonder what super powers or invisibility cloaking device these guys are working to have avoided a label deal thus far) and wrote this to Xpress: “Low Cut Connie, Rolling Stone‘s ‘Band of the Month,’ is hitting Asheville in a few weeks and I wanted to give ya the heads-up. Their new record has been getting rave reviews from: Rolling Stone, NPR/Fresh Air, AllMusic: 4 stars, Robert Christgau, and many other smart and sexy people. Legendary critic Dave Marsh recently called them ‘the most important American band to come along in years.’”
In advance of that performance, Weiner and Finnermore spoke to Xpress about an Asheville-based hero (Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound), how they weathered Hurricane Sandy and how they took Jack White’s Third Man Records by storm.
Mountain Xpress: So, tell me about the media event you were involved with yesterday in Philadelphia.
Adam Weiner: It was a crazy scene. Basically, the Philadelphia Inquirer was doing a feature on us this week. They were going to interview us, and then they said, “We want to tape you guys playing a few songs.” It turned into this thing where we called our favorite bar in Philly, Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, to see if we could come in. We blew the place up at lunchtime on a Monday. The owner of the bar, Lou, used to be a professional sax player years and years ago, so he grabbed his sax and sat in with us. It was pretty cool. [Watch videos here.]
Do you think that the city where a band is based matters any more? Is there still an identity with place?
Dan Finnermore: I think so. You’re never going to shake certain connotations. Especially the South and that musical heritage. And the West Coast. I’m from Birmingham, England. That always brings to mind musical traditions like Black Sabbath. I don’t think it matters as much if you break away from the certain traditions of a musical town, but I guess people, when they think of Philly, it’s soul music.
AW: Philly’s soul. A few of the articles over the last year or so have made reference to the Cameo-Parkway label in Philly in the ‘60s, which you don’t hear people talk too much about. But it’s a lot of music that we really do like.
Reviews of Low Cut Connie seem to be eager to name all of the band’s different influences. Do you like that?
AW: It’s funny because every review has a few people that they reference. Like Jerry Lee Lewis. But it’s all over the map. One review will talk about The Replacements and the next one will reference Captain and Tennille.
DF: I’m going to be honest: Up until very recently, I hadn’t even heard the Replacements. I like their music now that I’ve heard it, but the Replacements are referenced a lot. It doesn’t annoy me. It is what it is.
AW: Whatever people hear, if they like it, that’s great. Reviews fall into two categories — they either reference a lot of stuff from the ‘50s, or they talk about a lot of The Black Keys and rock revival stuff from the last 10 years. It doesn’t matter to me, but I personally identify a lot more with the early rock ‘n’ roll than with the recent stuff.
You all just performed at Jack White’s Third Man Records. How did that go? Any interesting stories?
DF: It was amazing. Everyone at Third Man is wonderful, and they’ve got a really good thing going there. Jack’s obviously got the resources to do something like that and it’s good that he’s doing it. Not only the vinyl thing but bringing a lot of bands to people’s attention that normally wouldn’t get the chance. And he’s doing it in a really stylish way. The show was great — we played on a bill with The Shins as part of the reopening of the live venue at Third Man. It went down really well — the fans loved it and a lot of the Third Man people were talking about how the Nashville people haven’t seen a show like that in a long time. We managed to bring something different to the table.
AW: You have to picture the Shins’ fans, right? They’re not necessarily up our street. But we had the crowd chanting “Low Cut Connie” at our set, which was amazing. It was probably the biggest crowd we’ve played to up to that point.
Where were you during Hurricane Sandy?
AW: I live in East Harlem. My family lives in New Jersey. We evacuated to my parents house and we stayed there all week. Luckily, where we were, everything was okay. We were fine.
I saw on both your Facebook and Twitter accounts that you were planning some shows for people who weathered the storm. Are those benefits? Or is the idea of the shows more about getting people’s spirits back up?
AW: Both. This weekend, on Sunday, we had a thing planned at a really tiny venue in Brooklyn which is actually the first place we played. We were planning a show there to do something really fun and thank some of the people who’ve been in our corner. A lot of those same people have been really affected by the hurricane, so we’re kind of refocusing it as a “F**k Hurricane Sandy” situation. We haven’t announced it yet, but in December we’re doing two benefit shows. One in Manhattan and one in Asbury Park, N.J., at the shore. They’re both being promoted by this DJ, Rich Russo.
NPR recently said, in a story about Low Cut Connie, that as a band you guys are disappointed at not being bigger yet. Do you feel like you should be farther along in the whole music machine at this point?
DF: I’m not surprised. Half of me feels really good about the success we have had so far, mainly the critical acclaim. Especially considering the way the music industry is. There are certain things we’d like to have in place to make the career easier. Just to function, with the way the music industry is, because it’s a constant uphill struggle. But I’ve always been aware that that’s the case, because that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed. Things have been progressing at a nice pace. We just want that to continue.
AW: I actually think that what [NPR’s Ken Tucker] was making reference to was that he’d just come to see us live that week. I think part of it was that last year, with our first album, we had such an unbelievable amount of critical acclaim. But Dan was still in England. So we weren’t really hitting the road. Ken Tucker had done a review of our first album and we were on his top 10 list and everything, but he had never seen us live. So when he came out to see us live this time, with the new album, I think he thought we were famous. We played at this club in Philly that was really grungy. Like, you don’t want to touch anything because you might get, you know, gonorrhea on your fingers. I think he was like, “Oh my god, they’re still in the bars!” There was that, but he brought up something that was really cool, which is that Dan and I both have separately and together been doing music for 10 years. And really working hard at it. I wouldn’t say that it’s frustration or disappointment, I think that there’s just a sense, on this album, that we’re making music because we love it. And there’s some kind of tongue-in-cheek world-weariness in some of the songs about the music business and how you have to play the game.
I get that sense in the album, too. It’s raucous but with an underlying authenticity in the writing. Like you’re playing music from a sense of fun and pairing that with lyrics that come from a place of sentiment.
AW: That’s exactly it.
DF: Adam and I write very differently, obviously. We’ve gotten into a balance. For me, it’s always been very autobiographical. That’s just the way I write. There’s a lot of things in the songs on the album and on the first record that are very cathartic. I’m not hiding behind a lot, which makes for embarrassing situations when you know the people. If people can get something from that, it’s coming from a place that isn’t masked by much.
What do people need to know about your Asheville show?
AW: We’re super-excited. It’s our first time in Asheville. We really wanted to make a stop in Asheville for a couple of reasons — we’ve kind of played phone tag with Asheville in the past, trying to get shows there. Everybody knows its a great place to play; it’s really a music town. So I was excited that it came through. Especially for Dan — he’ll tell you one of his heroes lives there.
DF: I’ve always been a huge fan of Greg Cartwright and Reigning Sound. They very rarely come to England. I finally got a chance to see them live and meet Greg recently. It’s just nice to come by Asheville considering we’ve been touring for a year and a half on and off and we haven’t had a chance to get there before now.