Of the countless Chicago bands that never quite took off during the alt-rock boom of the '90s, duo Local H has, unlike its peers, endured for over two decades. Despite its seemingly gimmicky lineup (frontman Scott Lucas plays a modified electric guitar with added bass pickups), the group's blend of hard rock, classic rock, and alt-rock coupled with clever, seething lyrics on concept-heavy albums have proven equally loud and engaging. To mark the release of their sixth studio album, the breakup-themed 12 Angry Months, Lucas and drummer Brian St. Clair will play each of their albums in their entirety during a seven-night Beat Kitchen residency (plus one night dedicated to rarities and B-sides)—culminating on May 13 with the release and performance of 12 Angry Months. Before that, Lucas spoke to The A.V. Club about the new album.
A.V. Club: How did you arrive at 12 Angry Months' concept?
Scott Lucas: I wanted to make a really ugly, angry breakup record, like [Bob Dylan's] Blood On The Tracks and Marvin Gaye's [Here, My Dear]. One idea was each song would be a step in a 12-step program. [But] everything's about some higher power. So, that's out. Another idea was the five stages of grief. The problem with that was being unable to skip back and forth between those emotions. The 12 months was just the way to go.
AVC: Is there any material you're not looking forward to revisiting at Beat Kitchen?
SL: Ham Fisted. That's the hardest to listen to because it's so monochromatic. I think that was the point at the time, so mission accomplished. I'm not too psyched about having to hit notes I could barely hit when I was 24. That's gonna be fun. But, the songs are actually fun to play. They're just not too fun to listen to. But I'm not doing it for us.
AVC: When you're writing songs, do you take into account how you'll play it live?
SL: Never. We used to think about that all the time for the first record. But we really don't think about that anymore. I think Pack Up The Cats was a big turning point because that's when I first started thinking, "I don't care if we can play this song live or not. Let's just do it. We'll figure out how to do it later."
AVC: Do you feel a kinship with other duo bands? Obviously you didn't invent the format, but it's popping up more and more.
SL: It feels really good coming from the place where we were, approached by labels at the beginning going, "We'll get you a bass player." "Yeah, we're not gonna have a bass player." That would blow the deal. Now you see bands without bass players and it's no big deal. For us, it was total necessity. Most two-man bands seem blues-based, and we were coming up at a time when there were no two-man bands, and especially no two-man bands that weren't blues-based. I take an automatic interest every time I see a two-man band, whether it's The Black Keys or Flight Of The Conchords.
AVC: Or Tenacious D?
SL: I remember meeting Jack Black when Tenacious D first started, and a friend of mine says, "Hey, he's in a two-man band." [Jack Black] didn't know who I was. He's like, "Yeah, what are you guys called?" "We're called Local H." He goes, "Oh yeah, you guys influenced by the D?" I was like, "Yeah, yeah we are."
AVC: Local H never really hit it big during the alt-rock boom of the late '90s. Does that bother you?
SL: I don't know if it really bothered me, 'cause it felt like we were working so hard around then, touring non-stop. As soon as we got done touring we were making another record. So it was disappointing that when we made Pack Up The Cats it didn't get its fair due. But on the other hand, it's a great record, I love it, and I think it's a lot of people's favorite record [of ours]. It was perfectly realized. When I look back on it, it's like, "Yeah, that's exactly what I meant to do." At the time I was disappointed, 'cause I thought we were going to sound really different. I listened back to it and was like, "Yeah, this doesn't sound any different."
I didn't realize it, but it doesn't matter who you work with: You're going to sound like you. And that's good. I think the fact we never got really big keeps us thinking about the things that are really important. We're not surrounded by people kissing our ass. If we got to a certain level of success it would've been hard to gauge what's good. We're never insulated. So, for the record's sake I don't mind that. On top of anything else, I don't mind. I've got a pretty good life, so what do I want?