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A single high-pitched modulation of feedback and wavering guitar lingered in the air of Emo's Lounge in Austin as the face of 24-year-old Jesse Laz, lead singer of the British invasion-style pop rock quartet Locksley, dripped with sweat and hung limply in profile, his mouth open and panting, his hands waiting idly next to the blood red Epiphone Riviera guitar slung around his neck. The seconds stretched as the electric moan wore out, fading into the breathless silence filling the venue, and the singer's eyes discreetly made their way up to the gaze of bassist and younger brother 18-year-old Jordan Laz, whose face, glistening in the white hot spotlights, looked up at Jesse. The girls clutching the edge of the stage held their breath and gaped, getting ready to swoon. "Wooaaahh!!" screamed Jordan, rushing up to the microphone at stage left, howling with a throaty gurgle reminiscent of Pelle Almqvist, vocalist for the Swedish garage punk group The Hives - one of Locksley's biggest influences and ex-tour partners - as the rest of the band came back in with a decisive, chord-filled clang.

And the crowd went wild.

The four zealously musical men that make up the young quartet of Brooklyn-based Locksley finished their first headlining tour, the MTV Choose or Lose Tour, on Nov. 3 at a show in Washington, D.C. On Nov. 28 in Tampa, they will begin another tour, this time playing with Ray Davies of iconic British rock band The Kinks, which ends Dec. 13 in Ashbury Park.

Hours before their first Texas show of the MTV tour, in the calm and class of the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin, Jesse and Jordan Laz, lead guitarist Kai Kennedy, and drummer Sam Bair, discussed the history and progress of Locksley, a group most of them have played in since its beginnings as a humble Madison, Wisconsin garage band. After relocating to New York City in 2004, Locksley, beginning with their name, became much more than just "The Somethings," which is what Jesse hoped to avoid when suggesting they name their band after the town Robin Hood hails from. "The book is actually a lot different than the movie," said Jesse. "It's not as much about stealing from the rich and giving to the poor…it's more about a group of guys just having fun."And the overall atmosphere of playfulness and high spirits surrounds the band even in concert, where their infectious enthusiasm is reflected by the screaming, jumping masses hitched to the stage.

After a rocky start in New York, including an eviction from their first apartment due to noise disruption and the unfortunate experience of having all of their equipment stolen out of their van, Locksley climbed the music industry ladder at a surprising pace for a band still unsigned. Though the quartet began headlining the first ever MTV Choose or Lose Tour in October, they had worked with the station long before, first as writers and performers of the theme song for the program titled "Why Can't I Be You?" in 2006, and then, most recently, as the network's featured Artist of the Week during the week of Sept. 8. Locksley songs can also be heard on Payless shoe commercials, AT&T/Cinglular commercials, the 2008 horror movie Cloverfield, and the video game Rock Band - though, for the record, the Locksley men found out after their Oct. 13 show in Des Moines, Iowa, in a quiet bar they happened upon after the concert, that their fans beat them hands down at the video game versions of their songs. The band has also performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

But Locksley's success has not come without lots of hard work and sacrifices from the members. "Everyone thinks that, oh, it's just a great life, so much fun, but it takes a pretty good commitment," said Jesse, sipping a gin martini thoughtfully. "You're sort of committing to the fact that you care more about what you do than how much you make."

And it is evident in the physical appearance of the band that tours can be rough. Jesse's left eye, usually dark brown like his short, mop top-reminiscent hair, is now clouded with vivid crimson from the blood vessel burst earlier on the tour due to his severe sinus infection. Though they may look tired or, in Jesse's case, a little beat up, in repose, the members of Locksley remain dedicated to their band -- a band that none of them expected to come so far.

Originally, when the four high school friends graduated, Locksley was put to rest. Jesse went to NYU to pursue a degree in a political science type area - he never formally declared a major - but dropped out after two years. "I don't think I ever thought I'd actually be a musician when we started," said Jesse. "Until maybe a ways into when we started playing."

But for all of the bandmates, music was ever present in their upbringing, something that shows in their obvious love for (almost) any kind of instrument and melody. "(If I could learn to play another instrument) I would play the accordion in Paris," said Kennedy with his gentle, quiet voice and thoughtful expression, much different from the intense screaming and strong, deep vocalizations he brings to the stage.

"What?! No. If you learned to play the accordion I would punch you in the face," said Jordan, incredulously staring down his bandmate with the playful teasing that keeps the group always bursting into synchronized laughter.

And then they got into the "guilty pleasure" music.

"I have a song by uh…Miley Cyrus," said Jesse, inhaling in a slightly embarrassed way and looking down with a half smile, self-consciously toying with his napkin.

"He loves that song," said Jordan, happy to call his brother out.

"I don't love it…"

But Locksley as a whole is a conglomeration of open-minded creativity, willing to try whatever. "We kind of have a rule in Locksley when we're putting tunes together," said Bair. "If someone comes up with an idea, you at least have to try it once - you can't say no."

"And all four of us have pretty good ideas sometimes," added Jordan. "And they're all different."

The foot-tapping, fist-pumping powerpop-garage rock explosion that currently defines Locksley's sound comes from a unique melting pot of the influences of Richard Hell, The Kinks, The Stooges and, of course, The Beatles. "We had every Beatles song memorized from the time we were three years old," said Jordan, discussing the influence of his parents, who played Beatles, Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters-style blues, and Big Band swing constantly in the house where the Laz brothers grew up. The styles of their musical idols are imitated well, something music reviewers in such prominent publications as the New York Daily News and Billboard Magazine noted after the 2005 release of their self-titled EP. From there the band went on to release another EP, Garage Sale,in 2008, and an LP, Don't Make Me Wait, originally released in 2007 but re-released in 2008 with two extra tracks.
They have opened for such modern day rock and roll icons as The Hives, The Rapture, Hanson, Rooney, and OK Go!, to name a few.

"Yes, I would say I'm kinda livin' the dream," Jordan said, slouching back in his armchair with rumpled hair and a sideways grin. As the youngest member of the group, Jordan is also the most recent addition, and joined only in January of 2008 after former bassist Aaron Collins left to finish college and pursue another career path. "The day that Jesse called me and asked me if I wanted to join the band I had gotten my deferral letter from the one school I applied to," said Jordan, smiling at the happy outcome of the situation. Though he still had one semester of high school left, Jordan flew to New York every time he had the chance, on long weekends and breaks, to practice with the band.

-Amelia Kreminski

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