Feature Article by Ben
What does one do when there is no "rock star image" to
latch on to? No steamy female frontpunk? No showboat guitarist or
six-fingered keyboard player? No sequins, no hairspray, no scarves
on the mic stand? Maybe you just have to talk about what matters:
the music. Louis Schefano falls neatly into a group of artists that,
these days, are rare: simple, lyrical, talented. No gimmicks, no
overachieving studio histrionics. Just the songs, man... just the
"My Own Good." The drums are
the first thing that hit you. As they should. Our hero is, after
all, a drummer at heart. The rubbery bass comes next, a McCartney-ish
Motown line that lays out the minor key tonality, then several acoustic
guitar parts, strumming out a rhythmic structure that accentuates
the offbeat. And the voice... a blend of echoes that dance just
outside of being recognizable. Elliot Smith, J Mascis, Lou Barlow,
Michael Holland, Steve Malkmus... hard to tell. "Lock me up
/ throw away the key forever," he says. And within a minute
the song has slipped into a subtle, catchy, lyrically universal
chorus: "it might be for my own good / if I don't do as I should
/ It might be for your own good / If you don't do as you should."
Sometimes nothing paints a better initial impression of an artist
than the setup for the interview. I met Slow Learner in the back of
Laila Lounge and spent the evening downing beers with the band. For
Dynasty Electric, we sat in their recording studio fooling around
with the Theremin and listening to Sun Ra. When I meet Louis in a
West Village Cafe, he suggests that we get our ice coffee to go and
wander into Washington Square Park. A quiet, shady corner would be
preferable. We spend a while searching, finally finding an ideal spot
at the opposite corner from where we entered. Halfway through the
interview, we will pick up and follow the shade. The conversation
drifts over topics such as the meaning of success in the music world,
the disappointments of CD remasters, the mind-boggling power of *The
White Album* and, most importantly, perpetual motion.
It's a term that Louis holds dear. Raised in Birmingham, Alabama,
he has never stayed in the same place for too long. Sometimes he just
feels like hitting the road, sometimes he's told to hit the road,
and sometimes he returns from recording at Daniel Lanois' studio to
find that the house has burned down (there isn't much more to that
story, but it's a keeper, no?). "Everything in my life seems
to change every two years," says Louis. Following a stint in
Bushwick, he's currently homeless (but not shelterless), recording
Jaymay's full length record and preparing to record his own LP; all
in all, Louis seems quite at home with the free spirit life.
His most recent EP, *Freakshow Revenge*, is a stunner. The back stories
are personal, but not in that "look at me world, I'm Dashboard
Confessional" sort of way. The songs come first, and Louis has
sculpted four friendly rooms that a listener can feel comfortable
wandering through. The backbone is the rhythm section (also Louis),
and if I was forced to slap a label on, I'd try "drum folk."
The songs were recorded on a recently acquired ProTools rig that has
allowed him to flesh out his production skills (Martin, Eno and Lanois
are three favorites).
Lyrically, the scars of his 9/11 experience can be felt, and Louis acknowledges
that the songs on *Freakshow* reflect on the tragedy to a degree.
Like many NYC songwriters, Louis has his own version of a post-9/11
'big apple' moniker; "town of the falling towers" is a harrowing
image. He moved to the city in the Spring of 2001. "I was in
utter awe. Gushing with pride... and [the night before the attacks]
I was actually down around those buildings! At 4am that night."
But Louis adds that, "I'm ready to move on from that." Regardless
of where he moves to (literally and/or figuratively) Louis' next full-length
CD promises to speak volumes.
Click the CD to purchase!
So have I done justice to this simple, yet talented drummer-turned songwriter? A devote Brian Wilson fan who claims, with the utmost sincerity, that any truth he discovers in life will be done through music? The southern boy who loves New York but may, someday soon, find himself pursuing the call of perpetual motion?
Perhaps, but not nearly as effectively has the tunes themselves. Alright
kids, you know what to do: http://www.lou-is.com