LOW CUT CONNIE > INTERVIEW
Formed in 2010 by Adam Weiner (New York, USA) and Daniel Finnemore (Birmingham, UK) Low Cut Connie have been carrying the torch for good old party rock & roll and sleaze with their legendary live shows that will make you wanna’ dance, drink, scream and make out with the guy/girl next to you all at the same time.
Their third album ‘Hi Honey’ is out this week and was produced by the renowned Thomas Brenneck (Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, Alabama Shakes) and features guest stars Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards), Dean Ween, Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound), and members of The Dap Kings and The Budos Band.
We caught up with Adam and Dan after there storming appearance at this year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas where they conquered the crowd with their righteous i!
Fused: How did it all start for Low Cut Connie as a band?
Dan: I was with Stevie Copter (Black Mekon) in New York and on our last night we went to the Lakeside Lounge where Adam was performing [as Ladyfingers] just by chance. I loved the show and we exchanged details and that’s how we became friends and the rest has just gone on from there.
Adam: I remember meeting Steve very well, because he’s very striking. We just clicked, but I don’t remember meeting Dan; other than he had really long hair. They said: “If you ever want to come to Birmingham, England to do a show let us know”. I said: “I’m gonna take you up on that, I hope you’re telling the truth” and I did.
Before I came over I talked to Steve and he said: “You’re going to do a show with Swampmeat, you remember Dan?” and I was picturing this shaggy, Joe Cocker kind of guy. Then I show up and Buddy Holly’s at the door with T-Bird [of Swampmeat]. That was 2006 or 2007 and over the next few years we just kept doing little things together; a little duo tour or I would play piano for him, he would play drums for me.
With both of us on a level of a lack of success that ran very parallel I asked Dan if he would like to pool our lack of success into something that was pure; just fun. Stop trying to do anything with a career in the music business and just have fun.
Was it more successful just doing that? Having fun and not worrying about it?
Dan: Yeah, I think that we made the first record just for fun and we got a lot of critical plaudits which in turn made this more of a thing. I wouldn’t say that we’re very successful; I would say that we are appreciated by a really enthusiastic fanbase. But it’s been hard in the industry and I’ll make no bones about it, I have absolutely no love whatsoever for the music industry. It’s on its head, but I’m always going to make music, that’s never going to stop regardless of how the industry treats us. We keep touring and plugging away and still hold down jobs as we have to, but hopefully with this new record things might move on to another level.
What’s the difference between life in America and life in England?
Dan: I think that both countries have their pros and cons. With England I think it’s sometimes easier for foreign bands and we haven’t been there yet with this band so hopefully that’s the case for us. The difference for me is the little things. In England and Europe we put on parties so it’s like a whole night but in America there’s a venue, the show and then it’s done and that I find that really strange. In America there are a lot more venues that are geared up for live music, even in smaller towns, so there’s pros and cons with both.
How does it work with writing songs for Low Cut Connie when you’re either side of the Atlantic?
Adam: I write a bunch of songs, Dan writes a bunch of songs and then we get together very briefly and I put a little salt and pepper on his, he’ll put a little salt and pepper on mine and that’s it.
Dan: If I’ve learnt one thing, you can over-think it you know? You can over-practise. For me, I would rather see someone play badly from the heart. There are so many musicians out there that are really talented but I’d rather have someone that can’t play as good but is true to themselves and that process has helped this band because we don’t spend too much time over-thinking it.
Adam: We get together, we rehearse a day, maybe two and then we’re ready.
Dan: And the thing that helps is touring, because at the end of the tour any new song we started on that tour sounds great.
Adam: We have a very small but passionate fanbase. We show up at a town and there’ll be a little crew that know every word of every song. They’ll wait to see us and everybody marvels; “I don’t understand why you guys aren’t huge”. Other bands say, “You’re better than us”, we’re like a band’s band. But that’s in the US. We got blessed and cursed right out of the box with so much critical praise that it was the kiss of death in certain places. We were in Rolling Stone magazine and featured in a very big way before we’d even played 20 shows. We kind of skipped steps and then the little guys didn’t know what to do with that. How are you going to get JoSchmo.com blog to be very passionate about you when Rolling Stone already scooped you?
Dan: There’s a misconception that we’re bigger than we are in some territories but you can’t control that shit. It is what it is, just be thankful for what you’ve got.
So SXSW is the wind-up of the big tour from Coast-to-Coast. Were there any stand-out dates for you?
Dan: El Centro, California was good. We pulled up there and it looked like it was from that John Carpenter film, Assault on Precinct 13. It was grim concrete with bright neon strip lights and the audience had to walk through the band to get to the bathroom, but the crowd were brilliant that night.
Adam: The one we just did was great (SXSW). San Fran was good, that’s where all the freaks of the West Coast go.
Adam: Well, Seattle was the lowlight. That was the one really bad one. It was our first time there. The place was almost like a burlesque or porn theatre; a small black box theatre and really old. But you know, the West Coast is different. There’s positive vibes but with a hollow centre.
Dan: They played Lord of the Rings style flute music between bands. It was just kind of weird. If I ended up in hell that’s what would be playing.
Adam: To go back to the difference between England and the US; as Dan and the guys just discovered, this is a very huge country and it’s really like 10 countries schmushed together and the cultural differences regionally are almost bigger than between England and the North Coast US. England is such a small place, it’s much more centralised, the media is centralised and we end up in the US playing some really weird places and meeting some weird fucking people. You pull up and you never know what you’re gonna get.
Adam, what’s it like living in New York now? Is there still a trend of gentrification going on?
Adam: It’s different. It’s changed. I’ve lived there since 1998 and it’s not the same now. I live in Spanish Harlem, so far away from anything that is hip. Brooklyn is the centre of the cool school universe, probably in all America and I live in totally the opposite part of New York City and a little bit cut off. That gentrification is very much a thing, but with the size and scope and culture there are amazing things still always happening.
Dan: It’s changed a lot even since I started going there. I first went two months before the towers came down and it’s changed crazily since then. I’ll never get tired of New York, but I love Brum too much to move there.
Adam: In England you guys have a pub culture. Men, women, young and old meet in the pub; you have the ladies after work clubs, the men’s football club. We don’t have that as much and so music venues are more entertainment, showbiz; selling a show. In Europe there’s the pub first and the music is an attraction – it’s a little bit different.
Over in England you’d have a support act. Do they put a support act on for you over here?
Adam: They’re always terrible. They’re always insane. Here’s the thing. The quality of bands in the UK is more consistent. Here, it’s all over the shop. You’ll go to a town, see something that blows you away, that nobody’s ever heard of and they’ll never leave their weird little town. You go to the next place and it’s like watching bad auditions for X-Factor. Terrible!
Tell us about the new album ‘Hi Honey’
Dan: We made the record a while ago. We had the good fortune to work with Mr. Tommy Brenneck, who discovered, produced and writes for Charles Bradley, played guitar for Amy Winehouse and turned down Bruno Mars produce us. We had a chance to work in his Dunham Studios in Brooklyn and made an album that has a little bit more to it than our previous work in some respects. It’s still us but we had elements of that Daptone Records sound with more soulful stuff going on. We’re really proud of it. I think people who are already our fans will see what we are and get what they got from the other two records but hopefully we’ll get a few more fans from the different things we’ve done with the sounds.
Adam: Everyone who’s heard it really likes it. I was afraid we were going to lose some of our fans that like the boogie and sleaze that we got labelled with from the first record but I think we’ve kept one foot in the gutter as Dan would say. I do think musically we’ve upped our game a little bit.
Dan: With this record certain aspects of our musicality and the song-writing process felt very new because we had Brenneck’s hand guiding us and the songs were like an open book. I wouldn’t do the next album the same way, not because I didn’t like it but because we’re always looking to try something different. Our live set recently has become musically more punky and ferocious and that’s what I’d like to take into the next record.
Adam: I think we showed ourselves we could do it and I am proud of every song on this album. From a song-writing perspective I think we trimmed the fat off it.
There’s a song on the album called “Danny’s Outta Money”. Is that all written from personal experience?
Dan: Definitely. I used to live with Adam in New York sleeping on his couch.
Adam: My wife and I lived in a one bedroom apartment and Dan was on our couch for a year on-and-off. It was a tough year for us personally and the band. With the first record we were riding a wave but I was running the whole band out of my bedroom, doing the website and shipping everything and so on. Then with the second record, ‘Call Me Sylvia’ which people really loved it was very sobering because we plateaued. It didn’t mushroom cloud the way we wanted it too.
Dan: It was really hard to get a deal even though we’d been in Rolling Stone and we’d had all this press and all this love.
Adam: We got the string-along from seven labels. We came very close to signing with Warner and the legendary Seymour Stein, who signed the Ramones, the Talking Heads and Madonna. An unbelievable guy; a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, one of those fucking guys. He saw us live and absolutely flipped out over the show but he signed a band that were all 19 or 20 years old and very handsome kids. It took us months to find out but we were told:P “You guys are just a little bit too old for us”. It was bruising, but then out of that we had already finished this record and we said, “Fuck it, we’re just going to do this ourselves”. And I’m glad that we did.
You must have a really strong relationship to get you through those points.
Dan: I’m not going to say it’s been easy because it hasn’t, but my life is in a much better place now than two years ago.
Adam: With every good relationship, artistic or personal, but especially artistic, you’ve gotta go through some shit together to really come out the other end. Also, the dynamic in our band that I treasure is how different we are. We’re not twins, we come from very different backgrounds, different countries. I like all this sort of music and Dan likes all that sort of music and here is where we intersect. I think that makes for a really good partnership, sometimes you need a different set of eyes on things. I don’t want to sound cheesy about this but although the songs that each of us write are different I think we both try to write songs for the little guy. Songs from the heart and for some of the people we meet through the band and for each other. No matter what happens with the band that’s something I’m very proud of. My hope is that with this record we can get to a place where we have a nice little thing going; just a sustaining thing where we play shows for our fans, write songs and put records out at whatever level and keep doing it.
And is SXSW a conduit towards that do you think?
Dan: I think this year has helped with the press here from all over the place that are going to write about this new album. If the UK thing comes off then it will have been worth it, but for a lot of bands it’s a waste of time really.
Adam: Last night was our official showcase. I went in with the lowest expectations possible and it was one of the best gigs we’ve ever done. And it’s funny, it wasn’t even coming from us, I felt it from the crowd. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with this week so far (except for getting my wallet stolen).