Punk rock styled Do-It-Yourself roots are a common support system for new bands and such roots are usually augmented as soon as a band is signed to a major label to “nurture” a band to grow into a mainstream success. Louis XIV have defied this convention and became one of the most talked about rock bands as a result.
As soon as lead singer Jason Hill and guitarist Brian Karscig released the very first Louis XIV tracks via a website which a friend constructed for them, people found their glam kissed stylings to be irresistible.
In practically no time, DJs in the know were pulling tracks such as “Find Out True Love Is Blind” literally from Louis XIV’s website to play them on the air. Eventually, the website songs would be released as the band’s first LP, Louis XIV.
Just over two shorts years later, the band released the EP Illegal Tender and their full-length follow-up to Louis XIV—The Best Little Secrets Are Kept and promptly kick-started a career which would thumb its collective nose at society.
Over the course of their career the band has clung to its creative independence, only agreeing to sign with Atlantic Records because the label promised the band it would retain that closely guarded freedom.
Sitting on the runway at a Las Vegas airport less than 72 hours before the band starts the second leg of their 2007/2008 tour, lead singer Jason Hill freely admits; “Yeah, of course we’ve been tempted to take less of a hands-on approach. You have to trust the people you work with, and to be honest, it never works out the same way. I don’t know, it’s like painting a self-portrait. Do you really want somebody else doing your self-portrait?”
Such an admission is borderline shocking when one considers the band’s reputation as being a band which operates by its own rules. Then one has to consider that the band’s independent image has been cultivated in a way other than who’s behind the mixing board in the studio.
“Paper Doll,” the second single from The Best Little Secrets Are Kept was released exclusively on the hipster porn website Suicide Girls. The clip featured a series of suicide girls in various stages of undress.
While it’s true that the mantra of the rock world used to be “Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll,” in the changing cultural climate, this is no longer the case. “In many ways, pop music is pretty bland. There’s a dullness and an unoriginality throughout that I really hate,” Hill elaborates.
Such commitment to trouble making has won the band the affection of rock luminaries and reformed raucous makers as David Bowie. Louis XIV even had the rare opportunity to be invited to play the Keep A Child Alive Foundation’s annual “Black Ball” to raise awareness about the AIDS crisis in Africa.
“Bowie is great,” Hill is quick to gush about Mr. Stardust. “He was sick that night with the flu so we didn’t get to talk to him. But he said some really nice things about us in a bunch of interviews in a bunch of magazines that my mom has clipped out and has on her coffee table,” he adds.
In addition to getting the chance to meet their outspoken famous fan, performing at the charity event also proved to be the opportunity to perform for an audience altogether different than the one to which they had become accustomed.
“I hadn’t taken the chance to walk around and check out the gig until we were on stage. I looked and in the front row were Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The entire audience was famous people who aren’t surprised by anything. It made me think about what I was doing for a minute. I realized that I’d just sung for 30 seconds, and I had no idea what lyrics I’d sung.”
The band’s image and lyrics have always been steeped in sex, a fact which helped the band to be barred from playing anywhere in the state of Alabama. In a different time and place, such an occurrence would be commonplace, but since this was a post-millennial happening and not the early ’50s, it’s certainly a mark of distinction for the band. Hill was ultimately amused and glad to have been banned.
“I thought it was awesome. Really funny. We were all glad that it happened because it meant we didn’t have to fly. The following morning we were scheduled to fly from Miami through [Hurricane] Katrina, and then we were supposed to be driven to Hoover. I mean, at this point Katrina was still just a storm, and nobody knew how horrific it was going to be. But we got paid anyway and stayed in Miami and hung out. It was really hysterical and interesting.”
After having been birthed into the spotlight of the music industry in such a bombastic and unusual manner, many bands would be inclined to recreate the same sound as their first album and follow the original formula which had brought them so much success. Not Louis XIV.
“[Slick Dogs And Ponies] is drastically different from Best Little Secrets Are Kept. Very different. Best Little Secrets was recorded in this tiny room that I was living in. It was full of recording equipment and instruments. But now we’ve toured, and toured the world for the last two years. When we recorded that first album, we thought we’d sell 10,000 copies, if we were lucky. Of course, now it’s sold more than that. The world’s in a different place than it was then. We’re in a different state than we were in then. When we made the first album, we were trying to just make something to make our girlfriends smile. This time we wanted to do something different. We spent two years playing guitars and we were interested in doing a string oriented record. We didn’t want to rip ourselves off.”
The band went above and beyond achieving its goal of not copying itself. The first track and “Guilt By Association,” which has peaked at number one of the Billboard Specialty chart, has been described by Hill: “On that song, we invented a sound. It’s definitely unlike anything you hear in current music.”
“The thing I absolutely love in terms of playing music is that it’s the only thing that lets me escape from life. It happens when I listen to it too. Ask anybody that knows me, and they’ll tell you I can’t have sex, I can’t watch tv, I just have to listen to it. It takes me away.”
Hill and the rest of Louis XIV are hoping to have their fans get carried away with them as they get back on the road. The tour will be coming through the tri-state area on Jan. 17 at Terminal 5. F of the band will be able to purchase Slick Dogs And Ponies on Jan. 29 in all formats. For more, visit louisxiv.net
Photo Credit: Jen Tzar