It seems Local H just can't win a break.
Once upon a time, the group had a hard time keeping its members from jumping ship over doubts that the band would ever go anywhere.
Now, after the runaway success of the 1996 single "Bound For the Floor," off Local H's second LP, As Good As Dead, the band is having to answer to charges that it's sold out. But Local H are fighting back in the best way they know how.
On "All the Kids Are Right," the first single off their recently released album, Pack Up the Cats, the hard-rocking pop-band takes on its detractors.
"You used to think we're great, now you know we're lame," singer/guitarist/bassist Scott Lukas sings in his grungy, melodic swirl. "But you won't wear our T-shirts now."
According to Radio and Records magazine, "All the Kids Are Right" is hitting big on three charts -- the single stands at #11 on the industry magazine's active-rock chart, #26 on the rock chart and #21 on the alternative scale.
"We gigged around a lot as a three-piece and, before that, a four-piece. People kept leaving; they were like, 'I don't think this band is going anywhere,' " said Lukas, one of the two remaining members of the group. "But when we broke down into a two-piece, things finally started happening."
Local H's first album, Ham Fisted, failed to generate much attention. But with "Bound For the Floor," bandmates Lukas and drummer Joe Daniels suddenly found themselves propelled into the national spotlight, as the song got stuck on MTV and radio playlists and made the top five of the Billboard modern-rock chart.
Suddenly, the Zion, Ill.-based pair was opening shows for the likes of '70s pop-pioneers Cheap Trick, grunge-rockers Stone Temple Pilots and metal-pop band Silverchair.
Record sales soared. And "Bound For the Floor," with its catchy "You just don't get it/ you keep it copacetic" chorus, played over and over again on the airwaves. After years of paying dues, Local H were an overnight success.
"There are plenty of bands that sell out and do ridiculous things, like Gap ads," Lukas said. "It's so ridiculous; like, 'No way is this the band I used to love.'
"But, on the other hand, you won't see us in a commercial, unless it's Taco Bell. And that depends on how much free food I get."
Burrito bonanzas aside, Lukas and Daniels are hardly looking back.
"Once you're out of high school, you gotta get out, or you're just going to stay there and die there," Lukas said. "But we wanted to get out."
To compensate for missing bodies, Lukas snapped two bass pickups into his guitar, allowing him to play both instruments while handling vocal duties.
"We realized that we just couldn't sit on our asses forever. We had to get out and do something," Lukas reasons.
Their latest record, Pack Up the Cats, finds Local H less short-handed, thanks to a little help from their friends and fellow musicians. On the song "Cool Magnet," for instance, there's a guitar solo from STP's Dean DeLeo.
And then there's Roy Thomas Baker. The noted Cheap Trick knobman produced all of Pack Up the Cats, creating such jangly numbers as "All-Right (Oh, Yeah)" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Laminate Man," on which Lukas sings, "I want to hang you by that resume around your neck."
"You can enjoy all of our songs on whatever level you want," Lukas said. "I really like songs like [Pink Floyd's] 'Another Brick in the Wall [Part II]' or Cheap Trick's 'Hello Kiddies,' where it's just like 'Leave those kids alone' or 'The kids are gonna get you.' I was really into the idea of all the kids communicating on the Internet and punishing bands that just don't give a f--- anymore."
One of their fans, Scott Schuman, 23, watched Local H progress from their early days and has constructed a Local H website in homage.
"It's funny to listen to the songs on As Good As Dead, because they are all about Zion," Schuman wrote in an e-mail. "I especially love how you can listen to Local H albums as one complete song -- and, at the same time, you can listen to the songs singularly and not miss anything."
Certainly, when it came time to record Pack Up the Cats, producing an entire "album" -- a mass collection of like ideas and textures -- was actually one of Lukas' goals.
Lukas said he looked to old Pink Floyd records as an inspiration for this latest album, drawing from music concepts such as bleeding songs together. However, he also wanted to inject a heavy rock-sound into the songs, along the lines of AC/DC and Black Sabbath, as well as a pop element straight out of Cheap Trick.
By combining aspects of punk, pop and metal, it's not surprising that Local H's brand of jangle-grunge has been compared to now-defunct Seattle grunge-pioneers Nirvana. The comparisons don't necessarily bother Lukas, though he said he can't quite understand it.
"Look at Aerosmith," he said. "That band obviously loves the Stones. But anyone who says Aerosmith is a Stones knockoff is obviously not listening to the music. The more people listen to us, the more they'll realize it's not a Nirvana knockoff or anything. And I'm pretty confident with that."
"We know we're not trying to write the next 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' or anything," he added, referring to the breakthrough Nirvana hit. "We're not trying to get onto alternative-rock radio by rewriting their songs. It doesn't really bother me, and we're pretty secure."