“God. You are pretty,” were Josh Stuyvesant’s first words upon meeting Gage and Jeff of The Lymbs. They were pretty, too pretty, and a little full of themselves. That was my first impression. So I already didn’t like them, and I didn’t necessarily want to. “Easy on the eyes and hard on the ears.” Pretty people have it easy enough, they shouldn’t be good at things. I want some grungy-looking, had-it-rough motherfuckers, I want to love the way they look because I love their music, like Thom Yorke. I’ve never loved the way someone looked aesthetically first, music second. I also hated that they were a two-piece. I mean come on, how fucking trendy can you get: Black Keys, Two Gallants, The White Stripes, Death From Above 1979? Two trendy, self-absorbed, long-haired pretty boys trying to play rock music. Mind you, this all ran through my head before I actually heard them play for the first time. They were at a heavy disadvantage in my eyes, and I’m a biased, grudge-holding New Age traveler.
They mind-molested me with their hair and sound.
I wouldn’t admit to myself that I was wrong at first. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “So what? They make some good noise. Anyone could imitate this. I’ve heard better.” I ran through my head and compared them to other bands, though none of them local. I’d already subconsciously elevated them. They mind-molested me with their hair and sound. I’d never heard that type of instrumental and lyrical complexity from a band, much less a two-piece, in Albuquerque. Denial is a powerful form of appreciation.
Ergo, I went to a second show at Low Spirits where I heard them play Kerosene for the first time. Fuck it baby, just fall into my arms. The instrumental breakdowns in that song alone made me love The Lymbs, that or the two dollar PBRs I’d been guzzling. It was undeniable: That song was the best thing I’d ever heard in Albuquerque, and to this day still is. I understand the plucky nature of that statement, but based on my taste in music and what I’ve seen, it’s the truth. And to an extent this is reaffirmed in the envy I see in musicians’ eyes every time they play.
I foolishly approached frontman Gage after that second show, complimented him, then proceeded to ask: “Have you guys ever thought about getting a vocalist?” This was in no way a critique of his writing or vocals, they were just so musically tight that I wanted to hear Gage wander off a little bit more instrumentally. He certainly didn’t see it as so. He saw it as an insult to him as a lyricist and singer. That was Gage’s first impression of me, another asshole with his two cents on where this band should go.
Since these first instances, two years ago, we’ve become good friends, not out of convenience but out of genuine mutual respect for one another as artists. The more I got to know Gage and Jeff the more respect I had for them and their music. To be frank, in the two years working with them we’ve had our ups and downs, as it goes in any trailer trash romance. Sometimes we’re smoking cigarettes on the front lawn, cursing the sheriff and drinking Busch; other times we’re lying to the sheriff about some domestic disturbance called in by the neighbors. For me the times that everyone thought Gage was just being difficult is when I connected with him the most. Gage has an artistic resolve I rarely see in creatives today. I empathize with and admire that about him. He’s the closest thing to an Ayn Rand Howard Roark I’ve ever been witness to, and just like the musicians who watch him play, I envy that.
It’s the anomalies in life that end up really affecting you. Beauty first, asshole, then musical genius, or beauty and asshole first, then asshole, and genius next; rinse and repeat, then repeat and rinse. Creative individuals become attracted to one another by intellectually jumping in.
So in lieu of intellectually jumping these pretty assholes in, I asked The Lymbs some raw questions about them, their tour, and the new album set to release on March 14. And just to make sure they were as honest as possible, I had them answer the questions separately without consulting one another. (See also my post about making their latest music video.)
You guys are instrumentally very tight; what was it, musically, that attracted you to one another? Were you attracted to how the other person played, or did that come with time?
Jeff: We were on the same page musically from day one, which was refreshing. At the time I met Gage, I had been playing music with many people and bands, but the writing process with them was getting to be forced and unnatural. Gage and I flowed pretty well while playing, so we thought more about the message and meaning behind our music rather than just execution. In time, though, I’ve really grown to like how Gage puts lyrics together. As a percussionist (or maybe it’s just me) lyrics have never been what I pay attention to the most. But as a band member, obviously I care about what our songs say and are about, so I like to know them. But his writing style is good and I think I’d pay attention to them even if I was just a fan.
I think it seems odd to Jeff that I do that, but it has always been my approach.
Gage: I would have to say it was a little bit of both. It was obvious that Jeff was a good drummer, and could make creative, tasteful rhythms around the songs I already had in mind. That was the reason I wanted to work with him in the beginning. The way we work together now came over time. We weren’t always so in tune with each other’s style and that took tweaking, but it didn’t take long. After the first year we really started to click.
What is your songwriting process both instrumentally and lyrically? Did it change from the last album to this one? Give us quirks, superstitions and inspiration as well.
Jeff: Gage and I talk a lot about the direction we want to take our music in; whether it’s the style of the next songs we want to write or how old songs should be changed. With that, Gage will show me a progression on the guitar and I’ll add percussion on top. From there, it will develop into a song. Sometimes we can do this fairly quickly. Some songs of ours take forever. I remember working on “II,” the second song on this album with the working title “House of Love” back in 2012. That’s when the main riff for that song was born.
Gage: I always work on the music and the melodies of the song before I start on lyrics. As far as me and Jeff working together, I will usually come up with something and give it a simple structure, then show it to Jeff. If it seems to be going somewhere with his input we will continue to talk about arrangement and flow, while I work on finishing the chord progressions and melodic functions. As soon as the song seems to be structured in its near final form, I will start on lyrical ideas. Up until that point, I basically just scat over the song in a vocal melody I have settled on, using random syllables that fit into the spaces of the vocal line. I think it seems odd to Jeff that I do that, but it has always been my approach. The way the music makes me feel is most of what inspires me lyrically, and I have to write the music before I can say what the experience of the song should round out to.
I try to write my lyrics in poetic form for the most part. In the first CD, I focused more on outside events and how those connect together and to us, looking for texture in words and how the syllables splash up against each other. In this newest CD, I tried to focus more on internal/personal events, trying to get closer to the listener, while still trying to figure out how those events connect together and if it all means anything. I focus less on the texture of the words and more on the delivery of personal ideas. I guess as a songwriter, I have a complex with trying to answer life’s great questions.
You guys play around Albuquerque pretty frequently and have a good base of followers. What does it take to break into the local music scene? What do you think of it? And what do you imagine it would take to break out?
Jeff: It took a lot of persistence to break into Albuquerque. And by that, I mean we’ve come a long way in refining our sound, developing relationships, and gaining access to opportunities in this town. This last year has been exciting for us because we’ve been able to artistically collaborate with Albuquerque locals, and really feel the sense of community here. I think all we can do is continue to write music we are proud of and play it.
Gage: I think persistence is the key, especially when you’re trying to write music that isn’t necessarily on mainstream radio. Anyone trying to be an artist has to take their licks, but if you truly have something that people can connect to and appreciate, which I believe we do, all you need is time and hard work. I think Albuquerque has a great music scene that isn’t based around a specific genre, and that diversity gives even a small scene life. As Albuquerque grows, so will the music scene, and the talent that exists here will thrive. Also, being part of the musical community and supporting each other is essential. Without it, you can’t create cool shows that are collectives of different social groups, and you will have nowhere to sleep, except your van when you’re on tour.
We’re pretty good at moving past our quarrels at this point.
What do you like and hate most about your new album Moon? Glums and glows of the recording process?
Jeff: I like how everything came together. A lot of time and effort was put into writing these songs, recording, performing them and getting artwork and everything else necessary to create an album; just holding the finished product in my hand reminds me of the entire process. I don’t really hate anything about it, but I dislike being stressed, and I suffered from a lot of it these last few months preparing for its release.
Gage: I think Moon is a good step for us in an artistic direction. Of course, there are some things about the CD that aren’t my favorite, and I wish we could have had more time in the studio with it, but I felt that way about the first CD. It will be a different listen for people who liked Casa de Amor, which could be good or bad depending on the person I guess. That’s how this whole art thing goes. I do worry about how it will be received, but I don’t expect anything less than that from myself. It gets frustrating for me in the studio when concepts or sounds don’t come out exactly the way I want them, but that is just the nature of creating, and the nature of where we are as artists at this point in our career.
You start your tour immediately after the release on March 14. What were some of your favorite and worst moments from last year’s tour?
Jeff: It’s fun to think about this year’s upcoming tour. I know a lot more about what to expect, not only because we’re revisiting a lot of the same cities and bands from last year, but because there are things you just learn about your band from experience. Last year’s tour was awesome though. There was something new each day, and I never knew what to expect. It’s fun to live that way sometimes. I’d say San Francisco and Portland were major highlights from last year and I’m stoked to go back this year. The people, the music, the food were all part of it. I wasn’t as stoked to have a blowout on the freeway somewhere in Wyoming last year. Funny, there’s no reason not to expect another one this time around.
Gage: Even through the stress of financing the tour, being our own roadies, driving all night to the next city, and sleeping in the van when we had to, I don’t think I have been happier as an adult than when we were out there on the road doing what we do in a different city every night. The people we met were probably my favorite part, because we got to spend a night or two with a group of people we had never met. People who took us in because we all are struggling to fulfill our dreams. When our time there was over, we would say our goodbyes and move on to the next place to do it all over again. The worst parts were just small things like blowing a tire, and driving through Wyoming. There is nothing in Wyoming.
At any point did you think The Lymbs were done? What happened and why? How have you made it work thus far?
Jeff: Yep. There have been a few times when Gage and I didn’t get along. It’s difficult as a two-piece too, because it takes more effort to come to an agreement about things without someone in the middle. We started recording for Moon last summer, and I think the last time we really got into it was right before then. It’s funny to think about how we’ve never thought about quitting The Lymbs because of the music. It’s always because of something silly. We’re pretty good at moving past our quarrels at this point. I think we realize how easily this album could’ve never been anything if we hadn’t fixed what ever was going on last summer between us.
Gage: There was a time early on when Jeff was still playing in other bands and it just seemed like we weren’t going to be able to focus on this enough to make it work. However, that turned out not to be true, and it works to this day because we fill our roles in the band. We truly believe in what we’re doing. We also fought about stuff a lot more early on, and sometimes that got pretty bad; those were usually the result of drunken ramblings. I think we have come to a better understanding of each other now, and while we still argue from time to time, we know that we are working towards something that at this point cannot be done without the other.