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
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
"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
"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.
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