Pact with Satan?
"I have faulty equipment! My equipment doesn't work!" I recently bellowed (echoing sentiments generally reserved for the bedroom) when I went to play back my interview with OC band Lefty and heard something that sounded very little like Lefty and very much like Satan. I'm not kidding —I'm not talking about a little hiss, static and buzz here; I'm talking about the garbled sounds of the Dark Lord. The Fallen Angel. Beelzebub.
Music editor Rich Kane heard it, too. "Oh, my God!" he cried, reeling back in horror. "You should have yourself checked out, Alison!"
The really weird thing, though, is that interspersed throughout the wheezing, crackling, soul-sucking vomitous sounds of Satan emanating from the tape, you can still, for some reason, hear my end of the interview, so it sounds as if I'm interviewing Mephistopheles himself. It sounds like this:
OC Weekly: So, you're in St. Louis and you're opening for Lit and No Doubt tonight? Satan/Lefty: BLEEEEEAAAARRRGGGGGGHHHHHPPPPJHHHHHH How does that feel?
And then, magically, about three-quarters of the way through the tape's second side, the inscrutable satanic din lifts right in time for me to say, "Well, um, I guess I'm out of questions." If that's not the work of Lucifer, then I don't know what is.
But you, dear reader, you deserve a story about Lefty, who seemingly came out of nowhere but actually have been around for a number of years, and I'm not about to let a small hurdle like my brush with the Monarch of Hell stand in your way. And so, like that kid at summer camp who brings home a birdcage made out of Popsicle sticks, old shoes and spit, I will cobble together a story for you based on junk, whatnot and stuff.
Which, apparently, is the same material from which Lefty made 4-3-2-1, their major-label debut. Interscope signed the band and planned to rerelease the self-titled album Lefty had already put out themselves. The label gave them some money to record only a few new songs, but Lefty were shifty and decided they'd rather take the money and re-record a new album.
"We did everything ourselves," says drummer Kenny Livingston. "We turned it in to Interscope, and they were like, 'Holy shit! How'd you guys pull this off?'"
So Lefty are tricky. They're also skittish. At least they become so when asked the not-very-probing question of where they got their name.
"What does Lefty mean?" bassist Scottie Somers asks, repeating the question. "I'll let Kenny answer that one," he says, handing the phone to Livingston.
"What was the question?" Livingston asks, though he already knows. The answer has something to do with a certain Lefty member's member curving to the left, but before that answer hangs in the air too long, Livingston talks about how the name refers to being left-brained or how it refers to the singer's mom's left-handedness. Lies, lies, lies!
"I hate that question," says Somers, getting back on the phone. "Next question please. I hate that question," he says again.
Now, why they're so weird about "that question" never becomes clear. And even if it did, even if the answer is sitting there, somewhere on my tape, it's now been translated into a cloven-hoofed demon gurgle, which is, well, frustrating.
On a track called "Useless Superstar," singer Dennis Hill sings about the voracious culture/media machine that quickly builds celebrities up and then tears them down.
"See him falling/Down through the charts/He's falling faster/Falling farther/Can't find his way through the plagiarizing assholes/They stole his art/Then repossessed his car/ Nothing left now/Useless."
And so you have to wonder whether this is something that Lefty worry about. The amazing thing, though, is what Hill says next. "That would be the best thing that could happen," he says, in between the howls of Satan. "That's what you hope for."
And how sad, really, that getting reamed by the Man is a measure of success; and how sad, really, that everyone covets the chance to get screwed; and how sad, really, that the worst-case scenario is the best-case scenario.
Of course, there's another way of looking at it, too. Hill and Somers, childhood friends since kindergarten, grew up in Ontario and moved to Newport Beach seven years ago. All of the band's members (Hill, Somers, Livingston and guitarist Lorenzo Giovanni) have been toiling away in various bands for years, and came together to form Lefty about two years ago. They've gone from being an unknown local band who played most of their shows at the Tiki Bar to one that does interviews every day, plays on the Warped Tour, hangs out with rock stars, releases a major-label album packed with potential alterna-rock hits, and opens for Lit and No Doubt. Their upcoming schedule includes shows with Goldfinger, Foo Fighters (in Hawaii, no less) and Unwritten Law. Lefty are finally making headway, and that must feel so gratifying that it makes whatever happens afterward—including ending up a "Useless Superstar"—worth it.
Right? Imean that must be why musicians sing songs about the horrors of the stardom machine and talk candidly about how demonic and destructive it is—and yet still fling themselves before it. Either they're just saying the words but secretly believe they can somehow magically stay atop the bucking mechanical bull that is fame, or they know they're going to get flung onto their asses but find themselves powerless to stay away. Denial or addiction. Those are the options. It must be one hell of a ride, that's for sure. And maybe that's the point.
"Whatever comes of it," says Livingston, "none of us will walk away saying we didn't try."
Of course, he probably said some other good stuff, too, but until an exorcism is performed on my tape recorder, that's all you get.
lefty play with unwritten law at the glass house, 200 w. second st., pomona, (949) 629-0377. Aug. 13, 8 p.m. $15. All ages.
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