"Lusk is probably the first thing I've ever done that I'm truly
pleased with," Paul D'Amour tells me on the phone from his digs in Seattle,
Washington. Coming from the former bassist of one of the hottest bands in
modern metal, that statement is a weighty one to be tossing around. You see,
D'Amour left Tool just as they was beginning work on their most recent album,
Aenima. But he and Lusk co-founder Chris Pitman don't want me to mention
that band at all because they're afraid -- and rightly so -- people will
assume Lusk falls into the same grind 'n' growl category.
contrary. Lusk's debut release, Free Mars, is anything but. Awash in
harmonized vocals, neo-psychedelic guitars and lush string arrangements, Lusk
sounds like what would happen if Pink Floyd, the Beatles and the Beach Boys had
jammed together in 1969. "We both have our definite prog-rock roots," D'Amour
explains. "And a definite love for crafty songwriting via the Beatles and the
Kinks and bands like that."
But please, don't lump them in with Oasis. "We
didn't know about any 'Britpop' stuff," Pitman says. "That's the only bad
thing, because now people say, 'Oh, you must be inspired by Britpop,' and I'm
like, 'No way.' "
Pitman attributes their sound to a plum California studio
where he and D'Amour hooked up a year ago. "We were just going to do an
experimental record," he explains. "But we got this rehearsal space where
Fleetwood Mac and the Beach Boys and all these people used to rehearse. It's
kept the same way it was back then, and it's really nostalgic. I think that
rubbed off into what we were doing."
Even so, Free Mars is not
without its experimental leanings...
Even so, Free Mars is not without its experimental
leanings, owing to the duo's long-standing involvement in a side project called
Zaum which includes musicians from several Los Angeles bands. They also
recorded an album in 1995 under the name the Replicants, covering songs by Paul
McCartney and the Cars. After jamming together for a few years, D'Amour decided
he wanted to work with Pitman on a more permanent basis.
spilled over into the Lusk sessions. Although D'Amour and Pitman take most of
the credit for vocals, guitars, keyboards and arrangements, the album includes
guest appearances from Brad Lannery of Medicine, Greg Edwards from Failure,
Tool's Danny Carey and at least one ghost.
"We had a woman come in and
play harp," D'Amour says. "That's actually Harpo Marx's harp on the record. She
So the spirit of Harpo Marx is on Free Mars?
absolutely. Probably more than you know," he laughs.
Lusk made an
impression on attendees of this year's South by Southwest convention, but their
first set of tour dates didn't go so well. "We got thrown in with this bar-band
stuff, which we hated," Pitman explains. "They put us up with a band called
Orbit; they're kind of a metal grind, and it was bad."
In the future, Lusk
plans to include some unusual musicians in their on-stage line-up to dispel any
preconceived notions. "If you throw up a giant concert harp and cellos, people
will know that the approach is really different," Pitman says.
currently plotting a video for the bouncy first single, "Backworlds." "We're
blowing up a child," he says. "Well, it's sort of implied," he continues,
refusing to explain further.
The duo is equally vague on the source of
their name. "It's the 'linear undulating savvy kangaroos,' " Pitman deadpans.
D'Amour says it comes from a poster in the rehearsal studio depicting two
stoic male busts facing one another with the word "Lusk" underneath. "It just
stopped you in your tracks. You go, 'what the hell is that?'"
elaborates. "It's pretty much like the band, you don't know what the hell's
While the group's record might take some getting used to, the
duo say they intended it that way. "We just tried to make it really versatile
for the listener, not a one-dimensional record where once you hear the first
four songs, you might as well just turn it off," says Pitman.
thing I really wanted to accomplish was making a record that people didn't
'get' instantaneously," adds D'Amour. "You gotta put a little into it before
you can get something out of it."