Interview with The Lolligags

Hi Leslie and Ryan!  I’ve spun your latest EP, Out of Perversity Join Hands, and I love the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle of your ultra-catchy and darkly glossy electro-dance pop sound (I can’t get “Merry Go Round” out of my head and it’s been weeks!).  Leslie, your lively vocals resemble a playful and teasing Siouxsie Sioux with crisply layered, exclamatory vocals and cuttingly macabre lyrics popping out of Ryan’s jaunty, spinning carousel of deeply buzzing and squelchy synths and snappy beats. 

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Delusions of Adequacy:  What’s the story behind how you two met and decided to form this band?

Leslie:  Ryan and I met in 1992 at a college radio station in Panama City, Florida.  We were both volunteer dj’s there and liked a lot of the same groups.  We became best friends shortly after that and spent most of our time together and talking on the phone until Ryan’s mom would make him hang up on me!   We formed a band called ‘Bumbletree’ which was kinda riot grrrl, but of course it never saw the light of day.  Over the years we continued to work on different musical projects with other people and finally found our way back to each other and making music we both love.

Ryan:  I lent Leslie a Morrissey fanzine when I first met her, and she returned it to me the next week having read it from cover to cover.  So I knew immediately she would be a loyal friend who also loved Morrissey!!  We were destined to make music together; it just took a long time for it to happen.

DOA:  Did you hit upon your sound right away, knowing what you wanted to create from the get-go, or did it take some time to become The Lolligags? 

Leslie:  I think of Ryan as my other self.  He knows my mind better than anyone and there is a certain kind of chemistry that we have which makes it a perfect setting to write and make music together.  It didn’t take any time to come to this sound, it was very natural.  We want the same things and enjoy bouncing ideas off of each other and are inspired, intrigued and moved by the same things.

Ryan:  Leslie is very impulsive by nature, and the most brilliant things come out of her mouth without much forethought.  I, on the other hand, have to labor over every chord structure and each line of lyrics and make sure the melodies we have are absolutely the most catchy that they can be.  It’s the tug of war between craft and being off-the-cuff that I think formed our sound from the beginning.

DOA:  Cool band name by the way!  I love the play on words (well, the play on the one word), which reflects the enticing, carnivalesque tone of your music – and your love of sweets.  Is it just you, Leslie, who is a connoisseur of all things sugary, or are you, Ryan, a sugar addict as well?

Leslie:  I run a business that is based on miniature desserts that look and smell like the real thing, so I am obviously into those things.  Ryan and I love baking and eating real sweets though.  Ryan is quite the baker!  

Ryan:  Leslie inspired my obsession with bread pudding.  For a while I was scared to make a cheesecake, but I’ve baked a few now.  I’m ready to tackle a chocolate souffle soon. 

Leslie:  Sadly the name just fell out of my head.  There was no real thought.  A friend asked what we were called and it rolled off my tongue.  I wish I had said “spring form pan”.

Ryan:  It’s a perfect example of the sickly sweet contrast that we love the songs to have.  Both the ‘lolli’ and the ‘gag.’  And a perfect example of Leslie’s impulsiveness saving the day once again.

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DOA:  You have two EPs out, the aforementioned and most recent Out of Perversity Join Hands, and also Wired.  What is next for you in terms of The Lolligags?  Are you working on your debut album?

Leslie:  We are currently working on a full length!

Ryan:  A very big feat for us since Leslie lives in Athens and I live in Nashville.  We’ve adjusted our recording procedure a bit, so hopefully it will work out very nicely.  EPs worked really nice for us at first because four or five songs take a long time when you don’t live in the same city.  But we have some plans up our sleeves.

DOA:  The Out of Perversity Join Hands EP is out in limited quantities and of the seven songs, two are older tunes remixed by Andy Gonzales (the thumping beat and distorted guitar line of “Kitten, Come Over”) and Dan Gellar of Ruby Isle (the blippy electronica beat of “My Mascara”).  How did you hook up with those two guys?

Leslie:  I had been listening to a demo of Andy’s album and fell in love with it, so we asked if he’d be interested in remixing “Kitten, Come Over.” We love what he did.  We’ll be working with him more in the future.  Wait and see!

Ryan:  And I have loved Dan Geller’s group I Am The World Trade Center for a while.  We played a magical show at GO Bar in Athens one winter, and Dan was the DJ between the different acts.  Our friend Pierre said that we should ask him to remix a song, so I went up to him and asked if he would screw with one of our songs, and he said he’d love to.  I guess we’ve learned it never hurts to ask!

DOA:  I hear the dark delight of Siouxsie Sioux in your vocal delivery, Leslie, that recall the Siouxsie and The Banshees songs like “Candyman” and “Peek-A-Boo”.  Am I totally off-base here or is Siouxsie one of your influences?  What other singers do you admire?

Leslie:  Siouxsie is clearly an influence.  I grew up singing her songs, but I think she and I just happen to sound a bit alike.  I get that a lot, and it’s always flattering.  But I don’t aspire to be the next Siouxsie Sioux or to sound like her.  

I am really picky when it comes to music groups.  I rarely get into anything new.  I love Brian Eno and Depeche Mode and Goldfrapp!  I love Alison! We like crazy things we stumble across.  Cheezy 80s stuff…. Den Harrow is hot!

DOA:  Ryan, some reviewers have mentioned that your sound reaches back to the New Wave style of the 1980s, with the synth-driven base, and while I can hear that as an influence, your songs don’t sound stale or dated at all, but instead come off as punchy and refreshing.  Is that what you’re going for or do you want to dig deeper into the music of the MTV generation on future songs?

Ryan:  That is so nice of you to say!  We like the vintage 1980 synth sounds mixed with our own twisted song structures.  There are loads of songs from the 1980’s that I cannot bear to listen to.  

DOA:  Ryan, what instruments do you utilize on most of the songs?

Ryan:  On Out Of Perversity Join Hands we used a couple of synths, and I played bass guitar for the first time on a recording, and a tiny bit of electric guitar.  

DOA:  One song masterfully deviates from the electro-pop template on your Out of Perversity Join Hands EP, “All the Deer Daughters” with its slower, drawn out violins, tolling bell, and more pensive singing from Leslie.  Who did you get to do the violin part and did you craft the song in this mold because of the more melancholy lyrics, or did you consciously want to try a different style and then come up with lyrics to fit the song structure?

Ryan:  We thought that song would be a nice centerpiece for the record since it’s so different from the other upbeat songs.  Leslie gave me that bass melody and the chorus melody, and it just turned into a lovely sad song.  I thought it would be a bit twisted to write the song from the point of view of a deer in love with a hunter who by nature must shoot her.  Do animals frown on their own kind falling in love with humans?  

Cole Causey from the Athens Symphony was gracious enough to play the violin part.  I adore orchestration and how a few tiny violins can make a song sound so big.  Well, that and reverb.  We hope to have a bit of strings on the full length record as well.

DOA:  The vivacious snap, crackle, and pop of your music belies the fact that your lyrics can be quite bleak and twisted.  Who writes the song lyrics and why did you choose a story-telling vibe for your songs – or maybe it’s not all stories, maybe it’s personal too?

Leslie:  We both write the lyrics.  I usually start them off by recording myself singing out my frustrations and venting about things that bother me or scare me or just affect me in a negative way.  I sing whatever comes out

Ryan:  And she sends those ideas to me, and I listen to them again and again.  I take my favorite parts and add some lyrics and some music and try to picture the whole song.

Leslie:  We like to write about things that scare us a bit.  We have a song that we are working on now that is really violent.  Neither of us are violent and dislike scary movies and things of that nature, so it was really hard thinking of singing these things.  I wouldn’t want anyone thinking we are closet sociopaths, but I really don’t want to go about singing songs of candy canes and marshmallow fluff!  

Ryan:  The songs on the full length will be more about personal conflicts.  People we can’t stand.  I’ve always had fun coming up with lyrics that I think would sound great coming out of Leslie’s mouth.  Don’t let her act of innocence fool you.

Leslie:  Oh please.  I’m quite wimpy and live in la la land most of the time.  It’s good to have Dallion Lollihag as an alter ego!  Her balls are so much bigger than mine!

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DOA:  What are your live shows like?  I’ve heard that candy peanuts have been known to be thrown to the audience and that you have various props onstage.  Do you feel like you take on a different persona while you’re playing live?  Leslie, do you feel that you do this on record too, as opposed to everyday life? 

Ryan:  We haven’t played too many shows since we have to time the travel plans just right.

Leslie:  We have some light boxes which are nice and I like to throw candy to the kids, but it has to be something soft that wont hurt anyone!  I did throw gingerbread men once which was fun!  I’d like to fill things out more and make things more festive, but in time.  

Ryan:  Everyone loves catching a candy peanut because no one can really figure out what they are.  And why do they taste like bananas?

Leslie:  I am definitely a different person when I am on stage.  I think most performers are.  I am kind of shy and anti social in real life.  I rarely leave my house.  I like my comfort zone and solitude.  It’s always hard for me to get on stage because I tend to be hard on myself, and I always worry about not being able to hear myself very well.  But after two drinks It shuts those thoughts up enough for me to enjoy myself and then the next morning I look at myself in the mirror as ask myself what the hell I just did!  

DOA:  Leslie, I couldn’t help noticing online that you are quite the “crafty” person!  Not only are you one-half of The Lolligags, you also have your own web site that features items that you’ve hand-crafted, and you do illustrations on commission as well.  Can you tell us more about your site and what the link is?

Leslie:  I have been making scented dessert jewelry for around 5 years now.  I am a fan of Strawberry Shortcake and when I was a kid would collect the miniatures!  They smelled so delightful and always thought that was really cool.  When I started making my little treats I thought it would be fun to scent them and figured out a way to do it.  So the waffles smell like waffles and the cupcakes smell like cupcakes and so on.   I started illustrating a few years ago and really never consider myself artistic at all, so it’s funny that people actually pay me to do illustration work for them!  I am really proud of my work, but so strange how it all happened!  I mainly started drawing and designing things for myself.  Packaging for my jewelry and business cards and such.  Then I started being asked to design things here and there and it just went from there! Most of my drawings have a cute and creepy vintage feel to them.  I love vintage children’s books and am inspired by Eastern European folklore.  I have some vintage books from Russia that are just amazing!  Very inspiring!

My website is www.pancakemeow.com

DOA:  As a fellow sweets-lover, I have to point out that those mini dessert and breakfast foods jewelry you create does look positively scrumptious!  Where does your fascination with desserts and the like come from? 

Leslie:  I think it stems from just loving to bake in general.  When we first moved to Athens we had such a small kitchen space and I was unable to bake, so I think it was an outlet.  I’d just make tiny versions of my favorite things and go to IHOP for the pancakes!

DOA:  I’m showing my age now, but looking at your arts ‘n’ crafts web site takes me back to those good old days of the 1980s when collecting scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers, jelly bracelets, Strawberry Shortcake, and Swatch watches (there was a scratch ‘n’ sniff model!)  was all the rage.  The jewelry charms you make are scented and you have a long, yummy scent menu at your site.  How do you create these food fragrances?

Leslie:  I order base scents and blend them myself.  I have bottles and bottles of scents.  My house smells really strange and fruity.  I don’t really create them.  I was never good with chemistry!

DOA:  Ryan, you’re a more mysterious guy, mainly because I can’t find that much about you online, LOL, so I have to ask, are you working on anything else besides The Lolligags, or is the band your main gig?  Have you been into playing musical instruments since you were a kid?  What is your most fave instrument to play?

Ryan:  I have been playing the piano since I was very little, and thus a large grand piano would be my favorite instrument to play.  I can’t imagine working on any other songs besides Lolligags songs.  Because we both contribute to the songwriting in little bits at a time, our songs take a while to birth and grow.  I simply wouldn’t have the energy or time for any other musical endeavors.  Luckily I am completely proud of the music we come up with, so it’s really all I need.

DOA:  Please list your official web site where we can find out more about the band and can order your tunes.  Thanks so much!

Ryan: Our website is www.thelolligags.com.  The EPs can be ordered from our record label, Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records,www.hhbtm.com, or from Leslie’s Pancake Meow website.