In an industry with no end to the queue of ingénues lining up to show that musical prowess doesn’t always come with age, it takes something a little extra to set a young band apart. That is, especially when that band hails from the musically rich landscape that is Northampton, Mass. With bands like Dinosaur Jr. and members of both Sonic Youth and the Pixies contributing to the area’s history, how does a young, upstart band like Lux Deluxe stand a chance?
Despite being in their early 20s (like early 20s), the five-piece band has the technical prowess, writing chops and instrumental flare to add to the ongoing Northampton conversation. They blend some truly fun, bubbly pop tracks with darker tracks replete with frayed rock guitar riffs, mixing it all together to bring a powerful energy to the stage. Lead singer Ned King's voice is an instrument unto itself with a rock maturity far beyond his years.
Members of Lux Deluxe include King, Caleb Rosazza (guitar), Jacob Rosazza (bass), Gabe Bernini (keys), and Jake Edwards (drummer). A mix of brothers, cousins, and friends, they’ve been playing together since they were kids. What started out as covers eventually developed into their own sound in high school, and took off as the band toured more, refining their respective talents. With one album under their belt, new album It’s a Girl on the way in May, two SXSW showcases and a growing roster of shows opening for some seriously credible bands, these young talents are poised to be something more than a one-trick pony. Bernini took some time while the band was in Austin for SXSW this year to chat with me about the life of a young musician.
Smile Politely: Three of the band members are cousins and two are friends; you seem to have all known each other for a long time. How did this project come together?
Gabe Bernini: Yeah, so I’m one of the cousins, and my two cousins [Caleb and Jacob] are brothers, so we’ve been playing together for, like, since we were really young, since we were 8. Just, you know, playing in little bands and having fun and stuff. And then my two cousins went to this performing arts school and they met our drummer and our singer, and then we sort of all got together and started playing.
SP: Did you have a sense of what sound was going to come out from all of that?
Bernini: It’s actually funny. We had more of an Americana sound before, and recently we’ve moved into more indie rock. It’s changed a lot over the years, but basically our singer has a lot of different voices he can use, and we sort of decide from him where it’s going. He writes a lot of the songs, so we’re inspired by different things, but now we’re just really into recording and trying to make something that’s really our own.
SP: Along that line of thinking, what kinds of songs is the band interested in writing and sharing with an audience?
Bernini: In terms of the audience, we love doing songs that go over well at a live show. That’s our main objective. We just like to have songs that people can watch and it’s just…we see so many bands, and a lot of the time you get in this thing where everyone is just sort of playing for the crowds they can get and stuff. Coming into a club, they play a show and the people are watching, but it’s not necessarily the most engaged thing. It seems really formal. We really want to entertain people, so we try and do a lot of stuff where it’s, like, try and get the audience involved and try and make people interested in the songs. At this point that’s our main objective: make every crowd enjoy the show.
SP: It seems to be happening already, because from the feedback that other bands have given you and what audiences are saying, it seems that people are genuinely excited by what they’re seeing onstage.
Bernini: Yeah, thanks. [Laughs] We’ve practiced a lot. We do a lot of practices that make the songs sound fun, and once we play them live it’s a whole different sort of thing. Once we play live it’s sort of wild, and something for the crowd to decide what’s going to happen.
We’re always going back to the recordings and trying to figure out how to make the songs sound like the album. That’s definitely the backbone of the whole live show. It’s a mix, though, because then we have new songs, where the new songs are developing their backbone. And also the old songs do that as well. It’s just about playing them a billion times and figuring out what works.
SP: And then when you play it a billion and one, and it all clicks.
Bernini: Yeah, exactly.
SP: How do you guys make the musical history of Northhampton work for the band? Thinking about what comes out of that area, it seems like it could either be really intimidating or it could influence your sound too heavily so you’re not doing your own thing. How do you find a balance there?
Bernini: It’s a very nurturing environment. There’s a lot of music going on, and there’s a lot of music that has gone on, so, if anything, it’s just exciting. But people really appreciate most things, and you can find an audience for most things. There are so many different genres that have their own scene in Northampton.
As kids, we used to play shows. People were already sort of aware of us, and we were already part of it a little bit, and then we came out with an actual band and played our own music. It sort of went from there. It started as a trend and since then has grown into actual fans. And now we’re able to tour, so that’s a whole new thing. It’s a very nice place to come up.
SP: It seems like a really refreshing environment to be fostered in. How’s the response been as you take the songs on the road?
Bernini: It’s been totally different. The shows that we do in Northampton…I don’t know how to explain it. When we play a show in our home town, what it’s usually more like is we’re able to do what we want with the audience, we sort of control the show a little more. Once we get out of Northampton to people who haven’t seen us before, we start to do things that are more with the audience, because we want to involve them as much as possible and make them enjoy themselves. It gets goofy. We have this song called, “I’ve Been Waiting on You,” and it’s just this silly rock song with a sing-a-long part that’s very danceable, so we always end up doing something fun like have the audience come onstage. It’s stuff like that that’s going to make people who don’t know us remember the show. You know, it’s not just forgettable.
SP: Well, yeah, on any given night, in any given town, there’s a ton of music happening, so you need to make yourself stand out, especially when you’re on the road in front of unfamiliar crowds.
Bernini: Yeah, standing out and, like I was saying before, we’ve seen so many shows where it’s the same format. You know, “This sounds pretty cool, but they sort of seem like they’re just trying to get through their songs so they’re done with the show.” We don’t want to have that feeling. We want to have it be that the people there are really interested, because it’s hard to be interested in a band you don’t know. We find that very difficult. You’d have to be the most interesting thing ever to really love a band you’ve never seen before, and I’m not sure we’re the most interesting thing but we try and keep it exciting.
SP: How was it opening for Deer Tick and getting the response you did?
Bernini: That was very interesting. Those guys are really awesome guys and they wanted to talk to us. We’re both big fans of the band NRBQ, so what happened is they sound checked with an NRBQ song, and we thought that was so cool because NRBQ is sort of a niche fan and we’re big fans of them, so when you find this other NRBQ fan it’s very exciting. And we also soundchecked with an NRBQ song, and that encouraged them to see our show. They really dug it.
And then when [Deer Tick’s 10th Anniversary Show at] the Brooklyn Bowl thing came around, they were doing an NRBQ album. It was destiny. They were really cool to let us do that. It was just a fun day. I got to play “Me and the Boys,” which is one of my favorite [NRBQ] songs. The main thing is I play this keyboard called a clavinet, which is specific to NRBQ. It’s what their keyboard player plays, so I got to bring that. That was the main feature of the show.
SP: How fantastic! Last but not least, what’s coming up for the band in 2015?
Bernini: We have to finish our tour that we’re on right now. We have a lot of shows coming up that are going to be fun. When we get home, we’re going to start recording again just for fun. We don’t have any pressure on us right now to put anything out, so that’s sort of the best time to get started on things. We’ve already done a single that we’ve recorded. It’s one of our new songs, called “I’ve Been Waiting on You,” and an NRBQ cover called “You Can’t Hide.” We want to put out a vinyl single with an A and B side. We’re looking to book a summer tour. We also have a new music video coming out for our song, “So Far Away.” It basically features our lead singer dancing for the entire thing. We did it at our community television station, so it’s very lo-fi.
Check out Lux Deluxe as they take the Mike N Molly's stage with We the Animals, The Tomblands, and Julian Lynch on April 2nd.