BACKSTAGE: The Living Statues
Get ready for a sound that will knock you on your ass and have you up and screaming for more. The Rock and Roll band, The Living Statues, has a style all of its own that will make you want to dance, jump, and head bang all at the same time. Mixing old school rock, British Invasion, and Pop influences, The Living Statues have created an exciting new genre that is bursting at the seams. But it’s not just all about the music. Vocalist and lead guitarist Tommy Shears, bassist Alex Thornburg, and drummer Chris Morales, each have their own distinct fashion sense that resonates into their music and on stage. We were able to sit down for a quick interview with the band during their most recent trip to Los Angeles and even got a front row seat at one of their shows.
Labeling Men: So we always like to start by asking, what are you guys wearing today?
Alex Thornburg: Oh Jeez, we didn’t know that – fuck! We usually try to dress as nice as possible, as you saw on our Bordeaux show – we usually want to stay sharp, just classy, but have a little bit of grit to us. A lot of bands are good nowadays but they don’t really worry about what they’re wearing. It looks like you literally picked them up from the street. We want to look like we actually care about the performance; a lot of people just stand there, in a comatose state. So this is about us, not about them, I’ll get to that - but they usually don’t care where they are. We actually put on a performance for people, so we want to dress better than a job interview in a way, but at the same time, teeter on the line of Rock and Roll and being too sharp for what we’re at kind of thing. So we want to confuse the audience in a way.
Chris Morales: I think what he’s trying to say is, you know we’re a Rock and Roll band, we kind of play you know, just gritty, upfront, kind of in-your-face music, and alongside that grit, kind of like to juxtapose that kind of clean-cut, retro look. You know with the suits, ties, slicked back hair, polished shoes, a big contrast.
Tommy Shears: To answer the actual question you asked - I’m wearing an H&M shirt today. We’re all big fans of H&M.
L.M: Awesome (laughs).
T.S: Skinny jeans, H&M look is what our street clothes look like.
C.M.: And some band shirts. Yeah, we like various bands.
L.M: Nice, nice! Oh, The Strokes! [looks at Alex's shirt] So we got to see you guys at Bardot. Tell us a little about how you guys got started playing together.
T.S: Sure, we were all musicians before this, we’d all played in different bands, and Chris and I were in a group when were very young. After that kind of disassembled we still kept playing together in various forms, initially doing some acoustic stuff, and then trying to do a White Stripes/Black Keys, you know guitar and drums duo. It got to a point around 2012 where we were doing these bigger shows, we really needed something to fill the sound, so we brought Alex on and now we’re a three piece.
L.M: Awesome, very cool. So you guys just released your new EP, which is really exciting - congrats! So what were some of the influences behind the songs?
T.S: Well, we all have a lot of different influences that affect us personally, and we all have a big stake in writing songs. So for myself, I really love the Beatles and the Strokes, and it’s kind of one of my goals to put a garage-rock spin on that British Invasion sound. So you know, when writing that, those two groups were very much in the forefront of my mind, but also you know, stuff that we were listening to at the time.
A.T.: I'm still stuck into older music. Anything by White Stripes. LIke I said we come from very different genres. I'm more of Punk Rock, he (Tommy) is more into the Beatles, Chris is more Michael Jackson.
C.M: I like more pop music, so I think at the time when we recorded the EP, these guys brought the Rock and Roll grit and I tried to focus more on the pop hooks and choruses.
A.T.: And the fact that we all come from various genres of music – and we trust each other in our genres – that each of us will write a certain part of a song, and we can step away from it, and let the other two manipulate it. And that’s how we get music that we would actually like to listen to, and that makes it fun to play.
L.M: Well it’s working! So, kind of touched on your musical inspirations – a little bit of the old school, a little bit of pop, and a little bit of Rock and Roll, huh?
A.T.: Yeah, that’s a good description of it.
L.M: Awesome! So you have a very distinct style on stage. How does your personal style influence what you guys wear on stage? Or does it?
T.S: I think when we were out here last year we all wore matching suits, we wanted to do that very uniform. We all had the same hairstyle, which was cool, but as we kept doing that, we began drifting away from that very classic, white shirt, black skinny tie, you know so, we all have a different variation on that, that kind of a little bit more informed to who we’re like outside of the band.
A.T: I think a lot of our styles comes from watching older bands, all of our influences - pop, grittier rock, more Beatlesy rock - it really comes down to watching our influences play in front of millions of women, just screaming and watching their different, how they flaunt to them, and how they get them to interact, has kind of formed our characteristics on stage, while playing with the music that we made, so it’s -
L.M: Playing to the audience a little bit…
A.T: Yeah, coming back to the performance aspect, there are a lot of super groups that play for the sake of playing, but we also know that we are performing for an audience, so if they’re having fun, then we’re having fun, and they’ll see it.
A.T: We don’t like to stand around!
L.M: Yeah we noticed (laughs)! So our website is called Labeling Men - How would you guys label your personal style?
T.S: Each of us individually or just as a collective?
L.M: Yeah, individually…
T.S: That's a really good question, and I don't want to go first. Let me think about it...
A.T: My style I like to stay sharp, with a hint of leather and caramel, and like whiskey and scotch. I want somebody to look at me and say, he probably smells of bourbon…
L.M: Haha got it!
C.M: I would say kind of street chic – you know, Chucks, leather jacket, skinny black jeans with like a V-neck underneath.
A.T: Street chic’s a good word.
L.M: We like it!
T.S: Yeah I think, on stage and off, you know, going for something a little more retro, but not thrift store retro. I’d say classic cool.
L.M: Classic cool, awesome. Bourbon, Classic Cool, Street Chic. Got it! So one of our favorite questions we always ask our musicians that we interview – have you ever seen a girl in the audience, and went up and hit on her and gotten a date out of her?
T.S: Every Show. Haha, no I’m just kidding! No, you know music is a powerful thing you know –
A.T: That’s why we’re doing it, right –
T.S: Well not in so many words – but yeah it’s something that, sometimes it’s tough when that’s somebody’s first impression of you, don’t want them to get the wrong impression of you, but yeah it happens.
L.M: Okay, so in that situation, what attracted you to her?
T.S: When we play, you know, we play these songs a million times. We’re in the moment but you’re not thinking about the music, you’re very aware of your surroundings and you’re very aware of who’s picking up the feel of the room.
A.T: We feed off of whatever’s happening around us.
T.S: When you can see somebody who’s legitimately into it, and is not too cool to show that they’re being moved,
A.T: That’s actually in their own little world with us -
T.S: It’s very attractive.
L.M: Awesome, great answers! So, what’s next for you guys?
C.M: We just shot a music video while here in LA. So we’ll be putting that out sometime in the fall.
T.S: The video is for one of songs off our EP, it’s for “Extra Day.” We also recorded a single the very next day, brand new single, which we’re also going to release in the fall, probably a little later in the fall. And yeah, you know, this week we’re in LA, we’re doing a bunch of shows, just getting all the industry stuff in that we can and then it’s back to Milwaukee for another run of shows.
A.T: Hopefully we’ll move out here full time.
L.M: Looking to move to LA?
A.T: Absolutely, that’d be the dream, there’s no winter here. That’s the goal for sure!
L.M: Haha, so our final question. So do you guys have any funny dating stories or advice that you can share with us?
C.M:: Oh man, geez. This goes beyond!
A.T: Always buy a woman a drink, stay sharp, stay classy, stay witty, and keep the charm.
L.M: Those are good ones!
C.M: I think just a general tip for both sides is just, you know, be confident, be comfortable with who you are. You know, if you are confident with yourself and with the individual you’re with, that chemistry will come along naturally, you don’t have to force it.
A.T: Don’t fake it!
T.S: Yeah, don’t fake it. Don’t pretend to like shit you don’t like or you’ll find yourself like at an Animal Collective concert in Chicago and it’s like, what am I doing here?
L.M: I feel like there’s a story connected to that...
T.S: Just many, you know, it’s like “oh we have so much in common, I love all those bands.” And it’s like, either I have to listen, have to become, have intimate knowledge of these 8 albums in the next two days or fake a smile – “Oh don’t you love this song?!”
A.T: Just like a job, fake a smile.
Find out more about The Living Statues at www.longlivethestatues.com
Interview and photos by Mischa Teichgraeber