May 10, 2005

Interview: Love As Laughter

Sam Jayne=reluctant rock star? Nah, not really. He's an unassuming fellow; he's just a guy who likes to strap on his guitar, call up a bunch of his buddies and play live. There's nothing much more rewarding than that, is there? No, there's not. But don't let that simplicity of purpose fool you, my friends. Since the late 1990s, Sam Jayne's released a handful of records, one of which, #1 USA, became one of my all-time favorite albums. It's driving rock that's simple and to the point; mainly, it's just...dare I say it...FUN.

Their previous album, 2001's
Sea to Shining Sea, was a maturation towards more Stones-like rock, a sound which, for better or worse, would soon become popular in the mainstream. But then Love as Laughter...disappeared. You'd have thought that they'd have been ripe for the picking, especially considering that then-labelmates Vue and The Go would also reach for that Major Label Brass Ring, but it didn't happen. Instead, they quietly disappeared for a few years, returning this Spring with Laughter's Fifth. It's a bit of a departure from previous records; it's mellower, but it's also more mature. It's no surprise, then, that "Dirty Lives" was chosen to appear on the soundtrack of the hip TV drama The OC.

Could this be a new direction for Sam Jayne? Who knows. More importantly, who cares? He's having a good time now, and it's all about living--and rocking--in the moment. For the moment, though, things are looking great for Sam Jayne. I had the pleasure of speaking with him earlier this week, and I put these questions to him directly.

It's been a couple of years since the last Love as Laughter record. Was there any particular reason for the silence.

No. (Laughs) Well, we kinda got burned out on touring when we moved out East, just because it took us a long time to get settled.I guess that's the real reason, it wasn't like a big deal. We also had a bunch of songs that were kicking around for a long time. I dunno, I think it just took us a while to get it going together. I had been doing some of my own stuff and playing my own shows, too.

Had you really given any thought to retiring the Love as Laughter name and doing the solo thing?

Yeah, I guess, but I don't think it would be the same thing. Love as Laughter is a way for me to have fun playing live shows with a band, and the solo stuff has become more--it's separate, it is just me, so I'm not trying to do a bunch of instrumentals or making any certain type of music. It's just me acoustic.

Back in 2001, when you released Sea to Shining Sea, that whole "new rock" trend with the Strokes and White Stripes was just starting to form, but during that time, Love as Laughter was silent. Were you sitting it out intentionally, did you have any offers, or did you ever think about throwing your hat into that ring?

I don't think we have anything to do with that scene. Essentially, Love as Laughter is more like a punk band than a hipster band. It's not really like that. I think that with #1 USA I intentionally tried to make a rock record, but then after that I don't think there was any intention other than to make songs that we like and to play loud shows. The background we come from is a lot different, way more punk and has nothing to do with major label rock bands who wear Converse or whatever.

I did notice, though, that you were conspicuously absent during that time. Even though that's not really your scene, I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen you around during that time, out playing live, doing shows.

We just couldn't, really. Love as Laughter has just had really bad luck with tours and getting it together in the past, and a lot of it has to do with that. It's kind of been an unorganized entity at times. In the past, there just wasn't the hugest drive to do things right all the time or try to make it a big organized thing, because who really gives a shit about that? I guess you can be twenty-five and really give a shit about where your “career” is going, but if you’re like that, you’re fucking insane and there’s something wrong with you. I don’t think that we ever gave it any kind of thought. I don’t have a regular nine-to-five or anything just because I try to concentrate on playing music and right now I’ve been kind of lucky enough to hang on by a thread that way. So it’s probably beneficial for us now to go out and play more and go and do more TV shit, like getting on The OC,, because we’ll have more shows. I think we’ve been around long enough and kept it laid back that it’s not going to be much more effort for us to go and do more shit. Plus, some people in bands push too hard, they make one thing, and they’re like “Wow, this is really the greatest thing we’re ever gonna do.” Wow, big deal. That doesn’t really constitute anybody's who’s being an artist or who is trying to change art or do interesting stuff with music. Big deal.

It seems like you are better off letting the world come to you than going out to the world. I’m sure you were quite surprised as many people were about the success last year of Modest Mouse.

I don't think it's that surprising, really. They've toured for, what, ten years straight? How many bands do that? I don't think they even needed the fans that they got from MTV or anything like that. The thing is, they could have done it while still on an indie label and have been as successful, which is pretty awesome.

Have you been sitting in with them much? I know you were on Saturday Night Live with them.

I just subbed on a couple of things. I subbed on that show and then on another show, they were kind of big shows. I kind of lucked out because it was a lot of fun, but you know, being on TV with your friends is not too bad, it would be a lot more nerve-wracking without 'em.

They've worked their asses off over the last decade.

Yeah, they play constantly. If there are any whiners out there who wanna figure out why their band's not popular or something, maybe they should go as much as that fucking band and see how they like it! (Laughs)

One thing I've noticed about Laughter's Fifth is that it's a lot more mellow.

I dunno. I don't think so. I think it's just the time period of these songs aren't as aggressive as some of the other ones. But I don't know, I think the next one will probably be switched around completely the other way. I don't think I'm the kind of person who will let things get mellow, because I kind of have a lot of cynicism for life in general. I don't think it's anything sort of bad, but I think this record has some positive shit in it too, but maybe the next record will be more aggressive in a way.

Well, another thing I've noticed is that every Love as Laughter is always a bit different than the one before it, where you develop one style on a record, and then the next album, you change everything up for the next record. I guess, in that way, I'm really not that surprised about the less aggressive nature of this album to Sea to Shining Sea, yet at the same time, there are moments on #1 USA that are reminiscent of the new record, so I guess it's a natural progression...

Yeah, I dunno, it all kind of fits together in my head, but I don't think it's anything all that different. And you know what? I don't even think this record in particular, it's not even doing anything that drastic, and maybe that's why I think that's why people like it. We've gotten a lot of really nice responses from people who have been cool about it and stuff. I dunno. I dunno why that is, except for maybe I think that it is because it is a mellow record. It was really laid back to make and we weren't trying too hard to do anything in particular except to just play the songs.

And plus, after a few years, the spotlight moves on, and you don't have people clamoring for the next Sea to Shining Sea..

I don't think we have people clamoring for anything! (Laughter)

Right! (Laughter) Well, after two or three years and nobody's really paying attention, you can do your own thing.

Yeah, I don't ever think there's been any attention paid to Love as Laughter, though. We're always going to be sort of an underground/underdog band, no matter how you look at it. There's not ever gonna be a set formula for us. I don't really care about how it fits in with anything else. I just want to make stuff that is relevant to myself and maybe to most of my friends and fans, and I just wanna keep playing. And I think that probably changes how things go most of the time. Just how many times you play certain things and how much you enjoy the way certain things are played and getting more into live stuff. I guess I used to get way more caught up in the whole recording process and would want to have my fingers on every fucking piece of it, just to have some sort of control or make it some sort of weird thing, or just over-experiment with sounds and shit. I didn't do shit on this record and it sounds better than all the other ones, though! (Laughs) So I'm pretty psyched with that.

Excited to be on The OC? (Laughs)

Uh, sure! I dunno, really. It's uh, I'm excited to be on television I guess, I think that's pretty cool, but I don't really follow the show, mainly I'm probably too old (laughs nervously), it's probably beyond my age group. (Laughs). I dunno, I guess in some sort of age group, it's for some like, uh, other people. But I don't even watch TV. I can't even get any channels. I think it's cool, you know. I know the show though, because it's a popular show and I'll watch it
every now and then and I'll get into it, but it's, uh, when I'm at a friends house or something. (laughs)

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