High On Life With The LoLos

 

 I wasn’t sure what to think when I first saw The LoLos. They’re so good looking, and their style and enthusiasm were so over the top, part of me thought it must be a joke. But after spending some quality time with them and their music since then, my opinion has evolved. The LoLos are doing what they love to do, and it shows. Their music—at turns soft, heavy, and groovy—shines with the refreshing optimism of people who are finding real expression through their art. 

With a new full-length album on the eve of release, I met with Ben Colbeck, Matthew Heyden, and Kenzie Warner (who play guitar, vocals, and drums, respectively) to find a deeper perspective on their effortless charm. 

What can we expect to hear on the new album, XOXO

Matt: This one’s a lot more cohesive [than our debut, The Maiden EP]. It’s meant to be a concept album; all of the songs are about love and dreams, and the dark side of both. Most of these songs were written a long time ago… Even before the music that’s on the EP.

Ben: We had an incubation period of about six months when we first met, to help us get to know each other, and that’s when we wrote a lot of these songs. We wrote a lot of songs… we’ve been playing catch-up in the studio since then.

How’d you meet each other? 

Matt: I was in a group called The Devilles before this group, and it was a lot of funk and soul music. I met Ben when I came to a friend’s band practice… Ben and I both had been bugged endlessly by this guy to come jam with him. He ended up wanting to make more of a cover band, and Ben and I parted ways with him to make some original music. I don’t ever, ever wanna be in a cover band. I made sure we waited ‘til we had a full set of original songs before we started playing shows.

Kenzie: As for how they met me, I just kinda dropped out of the sky [laughs]

Ben: [laughs] Yeah. Well, Mat and I heard about her through a friend, so I called her and asked her to come audition. My accent was so thick, she thought it was some kind of joke at first.

Matt: Then she bailed on us, like two or three times!

Kenzie: Yeah, I missed a couple try-outs.

Matt: Then when she showed up she didn’t even bring a kit, she just sat down and asked us to start playing for her. We were trying out for her apparently.

Kenzie: When I first heard them, I absolutely loved it. This was an opportunity I’d been waiting for, it was a chance to play drums the way I wanted to for a change.

 And drums played the way she wants sound very, very good. Their recorded material doesn’t quite convey the effortless mastery of this cutie when she gets behind a drumkit—the energy of their live shows is elevated greatly by her virtually perfect rhythm. 

 

Matt: Every drum track we used on XOXO were her first takes on each song. During “ChüChü (The Beaver’s Lament),” her headphones fell off—She couldn’t even hear the music, but she kept playing through the whole song, and she nailed it.

What’s your story, girl? 

Kenzie: I started playing when I was 9—piano wasn’t crazy enough for me, I guess. I was in marching band, and the concert band, and the jazz band, in school—I got used to reading music for one piece, and for a full kit. That was 90% of my time in junior high and high school.

Matt: She’s a very melodic drummer, I’d say. She’ll take cues from anything—the vocals, a guitar line, whatever. She never does canned beats, ever.

Ben, I can’t help but notice you don’t sound very American. 

Ben: I was born in Britain, raised in Spain, then I moved back to Britain when I was 19… and I’ve been in Chico about 3 years now.

What is it like when you listen to music? 

Ben: I’m a bit of a musical schizophrenic—I’ll go on these tangents. At the moment, I’m going through all of The Beatles again. Listening to stuff without guitar is best, ‘cause I can be more objective. If it has guitar, I could get caught up on something like an interesting chord progression, and go off on a mental tangent of my own and totally miss it. With our stuff… I’ll listen to it for a few weeks before offering opinions on it.

Through all the different movements of XOXO, Ben’s guitar-playing serves to give unique flavor to every song. Somehow, he manages to evoke myriad styles and cultures with his different riffs, but it all sounds unmistakably like Ben having fun. 

 

Matt: He was taught by a gypsy—literally. Some old lady in a carriage.

Ben: My first tour was playing bass for her band when I was 15 or so.

What was younger life like? 

Kenzie: I grew up in a super-religious household… it taught me to avoid hypocrisy. You should accept and love, without judgment, without conditions. Getting religion shoved down my throat showed me what I really want for my life.

I want to make my own choices, and live for myself. I’m the type to just wear my heart on my sleeve. Hopefully it’ll inspire others to do the same.

Matt: Big parallels there between her and I. I was raised by my mom and aunt, who together ran a firebrand Pentecostal church. The rest of life’s sorta been a knee-jerk reaction to that… that and growing up in the suburbs. I loved that [my mom and aunt] went all the way with what they believed. They never worried about what other people thought.

How’s it feel being a band in Chico? 

Kenzie: This started in Chico. When I came here I was kinda stuck with music. I’d always, always had music to play, in very structured environments, and I didn’t have anything here. I was starting to feel a bit anxious; I missed it. And in the midst of that, these guys came in. It felt more like fate than anything else in my life so far. Every day is a risk… but we all take the risks together. Chico’s been so great and welcoming, it’s helped me grow on so many levels.

Matt: Chico supports music. It’s really accepting. The big cities are really cutthroat, so this town is a great place to start and grow a band. And it’s got Sierra Nevada.

What are band practices like? 

Kenzie: Well, it starts with Pale Ale.

Matt: We’re basically a non-profit group helping support a local craft brewery [laughs]

Kenzie: We call it LoLo-water.

Matt: We practice pretty religiously, about 3 hours twice a week. We usually spend it preparing for sets, trying to script everything, right down to where I talk and when to tune.

Kenzie: I feel a bit nervous before a show, but then it feels so right when I’m up there. I want people to love it as much as I do. The energy that happens up there is beautiful.

 

I’ve listened to XOXO five or six times now, and it’s solid. Every song is really well-crafted and well-thought-out… the high moments of the album find me bobbing my head something fierce (“ChüChü (The Beaver’s Lament)” is a case in point).There’s a lot of material on this CD, but it manages to stay pretty fresh throughout, because they spice up their more standard sound with styles from all over the radio dial. “Nothing Changes” and “Maria José” are two more golden moments, full of a spacious contentment that seems to capture the calm beauty of Chico. 

 

What do you think is the most important song on this record? 

Matt: “Women, Fire, & Dangerous Things.” It’s a culmination of what the band’s about: We struggled with genres for awhile, trying to decide what we were, and we came up with this “gypsy-rock” thing. The idea of gypsy, not like Gogol Bordello or something… We walk through all these different styles of music like gypsies walk through different countries, and we pick out pieces of each to add to our sound. “Women” is like that, and the result is really dynamic.

 

“Women, Fire, & Dangerous Things” starts out spacey and slow, before resolving into a fun, funky groove, with Kenzie rocking the toms something fierce. The beat evolves steadily over the course of this seven-minute song, finally building to a climax that unceremoniously cuts itself off, Strokes-style. 

 

Matt: “Women” is about giving in to love entirely. Getting rid of yourself, getting rid of your ego, letting go of anything that’s in the way of love.

Kenzie: That song is the finale. It’s our way of signing off on the record, the way you’d sign off a love letter— ‘XOXO!’

Sooo why’d you bring a beaver’s head on a plaque to the interview… 

Matt: ChüChü’s our mascot. I found this taxidermied beaver head at a thrift store… My girlfriend at the time was next to me, and she said, “You will not buy that thing.” So it didn’t really work out. Between her and I, I mean. ChüChü is our business manager, our spiritual advisor… he’s a shaman beaver from the 100 Acre Wood.

Kenzie: He’s our good luck charm. When we don’t bring him to shows, bad things happen. We’re starting to get pretty protective of him.

Matt: Oh, and we just started a publishing company called ChüChü Records.

Ben: Yeah, so that we own all our own music. Usually half of profits go to the musician, and half goes to the publisher…we figured we should be both of those. I’m a bit of a geek about music law. We found our first legal pursuit recently! Some website started selling our new LP for a dollar.

I realized how important music law and copyrights were when I was 19: I helped record a song that ended up getting really popular, but I took an immediate paycheck instead of signing up to receive royalties over time. Got screwed out of a lot of money. If you want to be serious about music, treat it like a job.

What makes good music? 

Ben: Music should be a journey, something you can explore… anything that’s authentic, really.

Matt: Right, it could be anything. Even some poor-quality punk song could be amazing if it’s authentic.

You guys have played about 18 shows so far, mostly around here. Are you planning to tour? 

Matt: We’re hungry for it. This summer hopefully. We’re hoping to find a bassist that’s tour-ready.

Ben: We’re planning to head north. It gets fucking hot here. [laughs]

Kenzie: This band is our number one priority, more than our jobs, more than anything. So yeah, we want to tour as much as we can. We plan on doing this for awhile, it’s definitely a future goal to play… till we die.

Any last words for us? 

Kenzie: This new album XOXO is where we’re at right now. It’s about reckless dreaming, and pushing to make those dreams real.

Matt: The themes for this CD are love, and dreams, and the dark side of both.

“Women, Fire, & Dangerous Things” represents that lighter side, “Jacob’s Ladder” is that darker side. The message with this album is, “Surrender to love. Follow your dreams. Kiss, hug, kiss, hug.”

 

 

Come see The LoLos perform live February 21st, to celebrate their new album XOXO. 

Also featuring French Reform and Bandmaster Ruckus 

1078 Gallery 

 $5, Show at 8pm.

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Howl was born in the wastes north of Hithlum, where only beasts and witches dare roam. He was raised by two old hags, Tabby and Wiles, who had an unhealthy fascination towards the literary arts. Howl now resides in a well-furnished cave off South Rim Trail, complete with an old iBook and Wi-Fi.