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CMJ 2014 - Locksley Moves Forward

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Playing their first new material since 2010, Locksley is ready to move forward.

CMJ 2014 - Locksley Moves Forward

The members of the band Locksley, brothers Jesse and Jordan Laz, Kai Kennedy and Sam Blair, couldn't have picked a more appropriate place for our interview to take place. Looking for a quiet place, they recommended a park next to what used to be the Domino Sugar factory. Intermittent construction served as a backdrop, when all of a sudden Jordan quipped, "This is an incredibly appropriate backdrop, by the way," while pointing to the remains of the factory. "Deconstructing to build anew. That’s exactly what’s been going on the last two years."

The rest of the band agreed, and based on our conversation, it's an astute comparison. Locksley hasn't been around as long as Domino Sugar, but they both produced something really sweet: music and sugar, respectively. Then, they both stopped. Locksley hasn't released new music since 2010, when the group decided to step away. But after some deconstruction and reconstruction, they are back with a new single ("Let It Ride") and are pressing forward as a group.

All in all, it took around six years for "Let It Ride", their infectious song, to finally get made. They compared it to Lord of the Rings, this heavy burden that they only recently threw in the crack of Mount Doom. When I asked what happened or got in the way, the answer was pretty simple.

"Life. Life happened," Jesse said. "This is the first thing that’s brand new that we’ve put out in four years. We recorded it two years ago, and it was the last thing we recorded as a group before we all kind of went our separate ways. We did this short little session, where we recorded it and a few other songs. To make it easier for us, we invited all of our closest friends who do music to the studio with us. We had a small batch of songs, and we were trying to figure out a way to refocus ourselves. So we invited everyone and did a couple songs. It went well, but there was still this block, so that’s when we went our separate ways for an extended period of time.

"Then we recently decided to come back together, and we realized that we still had more to say. We didn’t want to wait any more to say it. We had a lot of things that we could put down, but we wanted to put things down that represented what we wanted to say, so we decided to put it out, and that’s what happened. So now we’re caught up, and now we’re trying to build up, and build on that. We’re trying to discover what more we have to say."

The 2014 CMJ Music Marathon was going to serve as a show that would signal the band's return. But it might not be the same iteration that's back. If you listened to Locksley in the past, their sound had an incredibly rambunctious quality. Jordan said that their music was at times written with that kind up upbeat, exciting aesthetic in mind, especially as a touring band that was going to be playing this music live a lot. "Certainly in the past [we wrote with live performances in mind]," Kennedy said. "We have released two albums and played over half a thousand shows, so it’s what we know."

"We’ve always built everything around the live performance," Jordan said, "and part of that reasoning is we’ve never been super good at following through on recording. So the place we always knew we were going to be able to get something out was going to be live. We would always spend time trying to heighten the live show and take the stuff that we did and change it into a new show." But with their new material, there's a difference, but not one that will take away from the live feeling of their music. "I think this new stuff can still do that, just in a different way, with a different focus that’s still on the show."

At their sole CMJ show they played a majority of the new material that they've been working on, and there was certainly a slight change in the aesthetic of their sound. The songs weren't as decidedly upbeat or something you would stomp your boot to once you heard the first note, but they all contained a thoughtfulness and a level of craftsmanship that deserved and warranted attention. And the capacity crowd at Rockwood Music Hall certainly did that.

With an altered sound, there were bound to be differences in the process of creating this new music. "I would say it’s much more tied to us as individuals," Jesse said. "I don’t know if previously it was more of a job. We all worked out of the same place. The times were shifted, but it was basically a 9-to-5. We’d come in for a set amount of time, mess around, do whatever. But in this case, this process of putting together the album, which is not yet recorded, it has been much more informed by each of us coming from our own individual place. We really had to move things around to be able to make time to come together."

"The last record," Jordan said, "the last entirely new record that we put out, came in 2010. It was made up of music that had been written from the years 2007-2010. And it’s 2014. So everything that’s happened since 2010, which is everything, is what’s making up this record. More than anything, we’re older. Wiser. Shit happened. The previous two records were made up of music that was written and constructed by guys ages 17-21. And now it’s guys aged 24-30."

The rest of the band was quick to point out the second age range should be guys aged 21-25. "Either way, we’re catching up," Jordan said. And the new material definitely seems to have a heightened focus that comes with age. There's an added complexity to the songs, almost an introspective quality, and when they debuted them at CMJ, they sounded really nice as a collection. When speaking with Jordan about certain live acts they molded they enjoyed, the evolution makes sense.

"Early on, and one of the things that absolutely shaped the way we play music live, we did a tour with The Hives. We were all fans, and we got a real crash course in performance and professionalism from them. So that was special, that was years and years ago.

"Also years ago, speaking for myself, a great performance we attended together that when I’m asked what one of my favorite performances of all-time is, we did an MTV tour a few years ago," Jordan continued. "Because of it, we did a lot of stuff for MTV, we were invited to the VMA performances they did one year. So there was this performance. And when we got to the thing, everyone was buzzing about Kanye West doing some brand new track that he had finished the day before or something. Everyone was talking about it, and I was never that involved in that world of music at the time. At this event, Kanye West closed the night, and he played one song: he played 'Love Lockdown' off of 808s and Heartbreaks. It was the first time he had played it, and it was just him. It was this incredible performance.

I would go so far as to say that performance, in a way The Hives shaped us for a certain amount of time, I think more recently reflected or had an impression on us, or at least me."

Either way, Locksley is back, and they sounded absolutely fantastic. Their intention was to try and get to the studio after the show to get the new songs recorded and get the new "theoretical" album going. They revealed that they were playing around with the idea of calling the album "Forward". Jordan revealed it's almost become a slogan for the band, plus it's the slogan of the state of Wisconsin (where the band is originally from). It's the only direction they want to head in. I casually suggested, along the same line of thinking, calling it "Excelsior", which almost means the same thing (it means "ever upward") and would serve to localize the album more since it's New York's state motto.

"Is it trademarked?" Jordan asked. "Because I like that."

Whatever the album is called, Locksley will be back with a new sound, influenced by a number of things, and are sure to put on an engaging live show when they start touring it again. Check out some more shots of the band and the new single "Let It Ride" below.

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