Love As Laughter Take American Rock Seriously

Northwestern band swaps indie-rock heritage for Stones-y, Stooge-y punch.

Be they practitioners of British retro-pop, European techno, Japanese noise-rock or Canadian bubblegum, guitarist Sam Jayne wants musicians across the

globe to take heed: When it comes to rock 'n' roll, America rules.

"There's always a little focus on some hoodlum from outside the United

States who thinks that they can rock harder," said the singer and guitarist

for Love As Laughter, who recently hit the road in support of their second

album, #1 USA (K Records). "This record is about the USA being #1.

We've got probably the best cigarettes around. It's time now to have the

best rock around, to stop letting everyone else take rock from America --

it just can't happen."

Along with Seattle's Murder City Devils and Olympia, Wash.'s Tight Bros

From Way Back When, L.A.L. are one of several Northwestern bands who are

shifting the musical focus of that region from slow grunge to muscular yet

lithe R&R with a clear debt to the Stooges and the Rolling Stones (honorary Americans if there ever were any).

"Old Gold," for instance, opens up Love As Laughter's record with the straight-shooting energy of a convertible running full-throttle on a desert highway. More poignant still is the title track (RealAudio excerpt), which dares to play kid brother to Sticky Fingers-era riffs and swagger. Later on, "I'm A Bee" (RealAudio excerpt) assumes there's no problem that a little more trip-hammer noise can't solve, while "Puget Sound Sanitation" is the kind of music that anyone who slings trash in Seattle can drink beer to. There's no need to decipher lyrics here -- this album's for swigging and sweating, overanalytical thoughts be damned.

Not that Jayne always possessed such a devil-may-care musical strut.

Before he enlisted Jessica Espeleta on guitar and Dave Schneider (his

bandmate in Olympia slop-rockers Lync) on drums, L.A.L. were a Sam Jayne solo venture, still rooted in indie-rock's intellectual weirdness. His 1996

debut, The Greks Bring Gifts, fused cheap guitar noise with even

cheaper synth noise into a melodic mess.

"After I toured by myself for Love As Laughter and hated it, I figured it

was time to get a band," said Jayne, who also played on Beck's album One Foot In The Grave (K, 1994) with Lync-mate James Bertram. "I'd been

in a band before and it was a more enriching experience in general. You

get so much more out of it than just trying to think up everything by

yourself and only having that point of view to come from creatively."

Although Espeleta says she first envisioned L.A.L. as something of a joke

side-project, she's now taking the group more seriously. "There's

something about playing with Sam -- it's so much fun the way he plays,"

said the guitarist, who counts Mission of Burma as a weightier personal

influence than Keith Richards. "I wouldn't usually play like that if I

wasn't playing with him. I think I learn a lot more collaborating with him."

Since releasing #1 USA earlier this year, Jayne also has recruited

bassist Leslie Hardy (a twentysomething player, like her bandmates) to

round out the L.A.L. lineup. "She's like John Entwistle," Espeleta said.

"She has complete fretboard awareness."

Jayne said that the hope for the band is that the current tour will hip alterna-kids to the notion that grit and groove are just as cool as the indie-rock lineage from

which he hails.

"It seemed like there was becoming an indie-rock formula, or a specific

basket that you could put it all into, and that got boring to me," he said.

"I heard a lot of stuff that started to sound the same, and it seemed that

some of my own stuff was being lumped in with that."

Songs such as "Slow Blues Fever" drive his point home by abandoning indie

rock's arch irony in favor of what Jayne calls "sexy, girl-oriented"

lyrics. "It's hard to be sexy when you're being too intelligent; it's hard

to have fun when you're busy being too smart."