Joe Lally

The former Fugazi bassist returns to D.C. as the ringleader of a new collaborative effort

For a solo artist, former Fugazi bassist Joe Lally is pretty fond of taking a collaborative approach. After Fugazi went on an “indefinite hiatus,” Lally started laying out songs with minimalist bass lines and bringing in a host of others (including Ian MacKaye, Guy Picciotto, and Eddie Janney) to add texture. Now, with two records under his belt, a few Italian musicians in his pocket, and a more focused idea of the sound he's after, he may be ready for something he wasn’t sure he wanted: a full band. Prior to his performance tonight at The Black Cat, Lally spoke with The A.V. Club about the expense of recording, moving to Italy, and being teased by his 7-year-old daughter.

The A.V. Club: Have you been recording any new music in between all the touring?

Joe Lally: Yeah, all the while. Because I didn’t have a real collaborator, I started to sit down and play guitar myself—I don’t play chords or anything. Then I met a multi-instrumentalist, Elisa Abela. She plays drums, guitar, flute, and piano. She’s supposed to be on this tour, but couldn’t. She’s from Sicily, but she’ll come up a week or two at a time, and we’re trying to work on making her a part of the third record, although a lot of it is laid out already.

AVC: You’ve relied on collaborators for There To Here and Nothing Is Underrated, and now you say that you didn’t have many on the new album. How has the songwriting process evolved for you?

JL: It’s been a great process figuring out how to make songs work—by bringing in people or writing guitar parts on my own. It’s really challenging. At the same time, I think most people just want someone to bounce things off of. The fun thing about playing an instrument is that you’re playing with somebody else. It’s all about setting up something for other people to work with. I think my music is for showcasing that other player, whether it’s keyboards or another bass or violin or whatever. But they put all the color into it. I’m sort of the structure that sets up the song.

AVC: So does this mean your solo project might evolve more into a band?

JL: Once you’re onstage, it’s always a band. I started making music in my head when Fugazi stopped playing together. And the more I got to play it, I really just felt like getting together with people. It took a long time to meet the right person, I suppose. I want to play with the same people, so we can keep changing what we’re doing, instead of changing different players. I really want to work with Elisa and a drummer, change the material for a night or a tour—you can play the same song in a completely different way.

AVC: Do you have a time frame for the new release?

JL: I can’t really figure out how I’m going to record it. I tell myself that I’m going to buy a bunch of studio stuff for my computer, and that’ll give me the ability to record with Elisa right where I want to, and the two of us can do basic tracking. But I don’t know if I have $2,000-plus.

AVC: Has the constant touring had any toll on you?

JL: I do miss my daughter a lot. Sometimes I think I should just chill for a while so I can just be with her. I feel like there’s only so much time when your children are young, you know? And you really don’t get it back.

AVC: What does she think about your music?

JL: You know, I’m not really sure. She makes fun of it, like a kid would do. She’ll sing other words that sound like the words of my songs. I guess she might enjoy it. She sat right on the front of the stage at a show in Italy just last week.

AVC: Do you hope that she’ll play?

JL: She’s been taking piano lessons. I think that keeping her busy is important, and she enjoys it. When we were still living in America, there was someone we knew who had a piano at their house, and there’s a place two blocks away from our apartment in Rome—it’s a place that has martial arts classes and all that stuff. She seems fickle, though. I don’t really think about it too much. I would love her to be say, a jazz drummer, but I’m not really going to force the issue.

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