The boys of lespecial along with a motley crew of weirdos crash landed at Brooklyn’s Paper Box last weekend (Friday, October 23rd), bringing spooky seasonal tidings and word of a new album, Omnisquid, being released on November 20th. Stage design and projection by Drew Suto was well suited to the already bizarre backdrop of Bushwick, with creepy retro imagery and warped faces playing off the cracked brick walls.
Intermingling local producers with heavy hitting psychedelic rock, the audience was treated to a number of unique collaborations, including a spectacular rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” by Ross Jenssen with members of Supersillyus Life Band sitting in (Youtube: Ross Jensen “Closer-NIN”). Esseks provided out of this world set break tunes on either side of the soul melting lespecial set, during which the boys announced the title and premiered several tracks off their upcoming album. Horizon Wireless led into the Supersillyus Life Band, a live project under the direction of Rob Uslan aka Supersillyus, a producer known for his intricate 10-minute-and-counting tracks. Rory Dolan and Luke Bemand of lespecial once again proved their musical prowess as they organically navigated the complex digitally composed rhythms.
The announcement of lespecial’s new album comes at a great time for the group, having established themselves up and down the east coast with their incendiary brand of mad rock and roll. Festival attendees cried, “Where can I find more from those ‘the special’ guys?!” as the Summer rapidly turned to Fall and new fans had to hunt down their discoveries from the past season. Lost in Sound got an exclusive listen to Omnisquid, and can authoritatively say that the newest incarnation of the lespecial! sound does not disappoint. The album twists and turns through music that is both psychedelically novel and timeless, incorporating a variety of influence from rock, funk, electronica, metal, tribal, classical, reggae, and much more. It’s clear from the variety of sounds within the progressive amalgamation that these gentlemen have studied music from the inside out, and respect a variety of projects beyond those of their own creation. With a raw and intense vibe, lespecial has set themselves apart from other “psychedelic” projects with whom they often share a stage, providing a much needed grittiness to the sparkly world of live music today.
Lost in Sound was able to get an exclusive interview with Luke Bemand, bassist of lespecial, to discuss the concepts behind their new album and how they manage to make weird look and sound so damn good.
[LIS] For those who aren’t familiar, tell us the legend of how lespecial came to be.
[Luke Bemand] The three of us have grown up playing music together. I bought a guitar after seeing Rory’s band play at our grade school when we were 12, and we’ve been playing together ever since. Jon and I played in a band called “The Noyes Boys” in High School, and when we brought Rory into the fold, we started making more experimental music, and lespecial was born, a unique and special child.
lespecial has a very unique sound. If you had to choose a genre for this upcoming album, what would it be?
It’s always been a challenge and sort of an inside joke picking a genre for lespecial, because we draw on a lot of influences, but our newest record is definitely our most heavy. People have used terms like “death funk” and “dark future groove”, and I think those are both applicable to the new album.
This album draws on a variety of musical styles. What would you say have been the biggest influences to your sound recently?
This album is more of a return to our roots musically, with a lot of odd time signatures, polyrhythms between instruments, and the heavy vibe throughout. It’s influenced by a lot of the bands that have been the biggest inspirations musically to us over the years, King Crimson, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, Primus, Battles, etc. But the electronic synth/sampler elements are there as well and there is definitely an influence from the electronic artists that we have played with or collaborated with recently like Space Jesus and Yheti.
Tell us the concept for Omnisquid and how it all played out.
Without giving too much away, because we want people to experience the storyline for themselves as they listen to it, we had this concept of extra terrestrials telepathically controlling giant squids that are rising from the depths of the oceans to bring mass destruction. It’s a play on the basic human fear of what we cannot see and what lies beneath the surface. With aliens and squids.
Is there an interesting backstory to any of the tracks you’d like to share? Some of those titles and lyrics are quite curious.
While there is a concept and narrative that plays throughout the record, some tracks are more focused on this narrative and others deviate from it a bit, but still fit the themes musically. Tracks like “Squid Rising” begin to tell a story, and “Absolutely Stunning”, the final track, picks it up and tells the story of a fisherman who witnesses something he’s not sure he believes, which gives way to something catastrophic with much bigger implications. We wanted it to be ambiguous, but also cohesive and cinematic. A lot of the lyrical themes include identity, giant squids, and the absurdity of it all.
Lespectacle creates such an immersive experience by which to experience your music. Do you think about the visual and experiential presentation when creating your music?
Absolutely. With this album we wanted to create a storyline thematically and musically the listener can feel like they are part of. The same concept goes for lespectacle. We wanted it to feel like an immersive experience that you are walking into, a new place that you are a part of, rather than just a stage with a big lighting rig. Our deco team with Drew Suto did a great job of creating a kind of “movie set” on stage, where the lighting accents the projections and vibe rather than assaulting the audience with strobes and movers and things. We are excited to debut some new visual flare on our album release tour, that is in keeping with that concept.
lespecial seems to be the go-to group for live-band adaptation of electronic projects, with Rory and yourself being featured in Schlang Worldwide Secret Band, Space Jesus Live Band, and the Supersillyus Life Band, along with several others. What’s the most difficult part to adapting electronic sound to live performance?
While some of the same musicians and producers are involved with each of those projects, we try to compliment what makes each project unique live. How do you play bass over a Space Jesus track where there is already such a strong low end presence? We try to accent what gives each track its character, without necessarily replacing things. Adding live percussion and bass introduces a physicality and tangibility, but it’s always a unique and rewarding challenge to see it unfold. Also, Rob’s songs are really long. Playing at an exact tempo with precision and executing it consistently can be the biggest challenge. I’ve learned a lot from playing with those guys, they’re always creating new and interesting ideas, and they are very nice boys. I just wish Rob would throw me a bone and shorten some of the songs. (winky face emoji)
You guys have made quite a name for yourself lately, performing in new venues, and acquiring a ton of new fans. Evan Keller Williams gave you a shout out after your performance at F.A.R.M. fest this year! Where can your new fans go to hear more from “the special guys”?
We had a great time hanging with Keller! He really dug the more “live trap” style of playing, what he called “half time grind”, who knows there could be a collaboration at some point in the future…We are really looking forward to our album release run which comes out 11/20, and will have five dates with The Mike Dillon Band. Mike’s best known for his work as percussionist for Les Claypool and Primus, and his band is awesome. We’ll be playing 11/27-12/2 in Bridgeport, Kent, Brooklyn, D.C. and Baltimore. Our record release party 11/28 will feature music and art from Billy Martin (of Medeski Martin and Wood) and special guest Ed Mann (Frank Zappa alum) will be joining us on vibraphone and percussion for a special evening at The Morrison Gallery in me and Rory’s hometown of Kent CT.
What’s up next for lespecial?
Omnisquid comes out everywhere November 20th, we will have physical copies, flash drives and a new line of merch with custom artwork from Billy Martin. Also lespecial beanies, which is a very personal thing for me.
Catch lespecial and fresh tunes from Omnisquid on their upcoming tour!