We love lespecial. They’re one of those bands who you’ll see and hear for the first time at a concert or festival and immediately taste the ethos and just understand why people rave about them all over the East Coast. I grew up in Boston and go to Berklee, so it gives me so much personal pleasure to find bands who went through Berklee, hold certain roots in Boston, and simply kill it in the real world.
Wild Woods is just a day away, and we’re so excited. I cannot wait to see the late night sets tomorrow night at Page Farm. We have one more interview coming out tomorrow morning with Sam Eckstein, aka Esseks, which will top off our pre-festival event coverage. With this particular “special,” however, we had a great conversation with Luke Bemand, lead bassist of lespecial, who is performing the headlining late night set tomorrow, right after Esseks fires us up with some experimental bass music. To top things off, Luke will be coming down to my apartment in Brooklyn, New York, to throw down a Drunken Doja Monkey set before the ELEMENTS Music and Arts Festival on August 13th from 12 – 1 PM. If you enjoy this interview, dig lespecial, and would like to attend, send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyways, online ticketing has closed for Wild Woods but passes will be available at the gates, and don’t forget to like lespecial on Facebook right here. Enjoy the view from inside Luke’s mind, and see everyone tomorrow in those wild woods!
Sound Fix: Hey Luke, thanks for taking some time to answer some questions here for your listeners and our readers. We appreciate your time.
Luke Bemand: Yeah man! It’s my pleasure. Happy we could connect here.
SF: To start things out, what are you up to this week? You mentioned you have a gig tonight with a side project. What’s going on with you and lespecial before Wild Woods?
LB: We have this weekend off, and we all have different side projects. I’m playing in Cambridge tonight with a band called Thunder Squad, and it’s a jazz-fusion trio. We do covers like Hendricks, Erykah Badu, and some hip-hop & R&B spin offs with our own original music. So yeah, I’d call it power-trio fusion music. It’s really fun, we play long sets with extended sections of improv. So I’ve been playing with these guys lately, especially since lespecial’s had some time off.
SF: Cool man. So when I interview individual musician’s from a band, I like to start off by digging into that musician’s individual background, then build a storyline that leads to where you are today, which is in part the lead bassist of lespecial. So in that vein, where did it all start for you? When did you first pick up the bass guitar?
LB: I got into the bass guitar when I saw my drummer Rory’s band play at a school assembly when I was in 6th grade. I thought they were awesome, and I bought a guitar the next day. Me and my friends all got together and immediately decided to start a band. So then I was able to join Rory’s band, and I started out playing guitar, it was much more heavy-inspired music. We were into Nirvana, Slipknot, bands like that. So then our band winded down from 5 people down to 3, and at that time there were two lead guitarists, so naturally one of us had to go to bass, and I loved the bass, so I moved over to that. Then I started really getting into bands like Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the bass become my thing. I kept playing with Rory throughout the years, then in High School, I met up with Jon. Jon and I played in a different band called the Noise Boys, which was more of like a jam band kind of project. Eventually we crossed over with Rory and brought both of those worlds together. We played a lot of experimental type of music. A lot of the Mars Volta, Medeski Martin and Wood, and Primus. We started building our own instruments and weird shit like that, and we’ve stuck together ever since. I can’t believe it but it’s been over 10 years. We all play in different projects, we all do music full time, but lespecial is home base for us. We’re all best friends, and have been playing music since we were kids.
SF: Where did you all originally meet? You mentioned you’ve been together for over 10 years.
LB: So Rory and I grew up in the same town together, in Kent, CT, which is this little town in the woods. We met at summer camp, actually, and we were both into music. He was this crazy kid with bleached blonde spiky hair, playing double kick drums, Slipknot stuff, and so we got into heavy music together. Then I met Jon in high school, and we all went to the same place. It was a small school in the woods, but it yielded a lot of really talented musicians. A lot of kids in my class and Rory’s class went to Berklee in Boston, I myself graduated in 2012, and it was just a random nest of musicians.
SF: So is that why you’re currently in Boston, because of where you went to school?
LB: Yeah I stuck around here in Boston. At school I really embedded myself in the music scene here, I play in a few different bands, I DJ here as well, as Drunken Doja Monkey with Rory on drums. I have a residency here at Wonder Bar called Drunken Doja Money & Friends, which we do at the end of every month. And those guys, they live back kind of near where we grew up in Connecticut. Jon, our guitarist, runs a music school called the Music Cellar, and they teach kids and adults of all ages how to play music. Our rehearsal spot is down in Connecticut, so I travel down there a lot. I’m really the only guy living in Boston from lespecial but I make it work.
LB: Yeah man, Rory showed me Primus when I was 13 or 14 and at that time I was starting to get into bass. When I heard that album Suck On This, I thought “O fuck, I had no idea a bass could sound like that,” and it was the heavy music I was into, but it had the elements of funk I loved. Les Claypool has always been my favorite bassist and probably my biggest influence, so Rory, Jon, and I started playing together in high school, one of the first songs we started playing together was a Primus tune called “Greet the Sacred Cow,” and it was more of an obscure track, but ever since then, Primus has been such a part of our growing up and learning music. Me and Rory know pretty much every single Primus song, and so we just kept learning them and Jon really has a knack for learning all those weird guitar parts and guitar solos, and so we just started playing Primus covers at shows and people really go nuts for that shit.
SF: Yeah man, my friends and I lost it when you guys covered “Too Many Puppies” at Disc Jam this summer.
LB: Exactly man! When we were kids we kept thinking, “Damn, do people really like Primus this much?” And the answer now is, “I guess so!” because most of my friends fuckin’ love Primus. We did our first all-Primus set last summer at BRYAC in Bridgeport, CT. It was a Gathering of the Vibes pre-party, and we did the all-Primus set. It went really well and after that we’ve had festivals hitting us up regularly and people really want the all-Primus set all the time, but we try to keep it more sparing. You know we’re not a cover band, we prefer to do the original stuff and do the Primus covers during sets, but when we do the Primus music it’s really fun. It’s a crazy challenge. We had a residency recently in New Haven at the Pacific Standard Tavern for three weeks at the end of June and early July. One night we did an all Primus set and we learned a bunch of new songs and covered their entire catalogue. We’ve got a lot of their shit under our belt, and we’re really excited about Catskill. We’re definitely gonna break into the vault for that one. That performance is going to be a special one for sure.
SF: I will 100% be there.
LB: Awesome, and you know it’s funny, Catskill keeps adding these additions to the line up, and the event keeps getting bigger and bigger and crazier and crazier.
SF: Yeah man, they added Lettuce on Monday!
LB: Exactly! And now Jay Lane is going to be there. He was the original Primus drummer and we’ve seen him play a million times. He’s one of our favorite drummers and he’s been a monumental influence on us, so we’re really excited about that. If we get a chance to see him we’ll tell him to check out the Primus set and hopefully we’ll do alright by him.
SF: That would be unbelievable if he sat in with you guys for your tribute set.
LB: Yeah! **laughs** Totally man. He played on the newest Primus studio album, Green Naugahyde, and we covered a tack off that, “Jilly’s On Smack,” for the first time at the last show, so if he’s down, we’ll have him up there as a crazy drum part. That would be cool to play. **Laughs**
SF: That would be epic. **laughs** So shifting gears here, how did you think of the “lespecial?”
LB: So people do ask us that a lot, and people will ask us certain things like “did it come from this, did it come from that?” And honestly, there isn’t a straight clear origin for it; it just kind of came about organically. We’ve always had a fascination for phonetics and the English language, and bending words. We kind of just say things because we like the way they sound. The English language is a funny thing, man. We get a lot of entertainment out of it. “lespecial” is a word that kind of just rolled off the tongue. We thought it sounded funny and sounded cool, and we like the way the way that people say it. Like when a girl says “lespecial” (girl voice) it’s a lot different then when a guys says “lespecial” (deep creepy pedophile voice). **laughs** And you know, we just got a kick out of it, and it came about organically and if just kind of stuck. It’s so fuckin hard to come up with a good band name, man. I hate making names.
SF: We were just talking to Gater a few days ago and we had the same conversation about band names.
LB: It’s hard man! It’s not easy to come up with a band name. And there are so many bad ones! But there some good ones ,too. I feel like the 90s yielded some classic band names. I love the band name, Primus. Then there’s System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, shit like that, Tool, I love all those band names.
SF: I would agree with that. So you guys put out your first debut album “Omnisquid” last November. Tell me about the creation process that you guys go through, perhaps in relation to that album.
LB: So for Omnisquid, we had released a couple EPs prior to that, we had Playonbrother Sessions, which was an 8 track EP, but it wasn’t quite as cohesive as an album. We had recorded it over a few couple session with Alan Evans from Soulive. Then Ceremony EP was a 5 track EP, and it had some concepts behind it, but it wasn’t quite an album. So we were thinking if we were gonna record an album, we wanted it to have a concept, theme, and story. We all love concept albums, and I love being able to dig into a record and get into the meat of it and listen to it over and over and find new things about it. So that was really important for us, to make it linear and have a narrative, and that’s not to say that it’s a strict concept album but it just loosely has these ideas. We started writing a lot of music about Giant Squids, we’re all kind of into underwater aquatic horror movies, and so this concept of these giant squids and the unknown, and our fear of the unknown and what we can’t see, and the vastness of the ocean, it just kind of came up as a theme. We wrote that song “Squid Rising,” and then a lot of other song ideas kind of stemmed from that. We’re also all into aliens and that kind of thing, and Jon and I would talk about these stories we would hear as kids from people about UFOs coming out of the water, and all these concepts started to organically just stream together. Then we thought, “well shit, this is seeming like we can kind of just create a sci-fi concept album.” In the end, it all came together and we’re really happy with the results, and we’ve gotten some great feedback on it, so we couldn’t be happier with Omnisquid.
SF: Yeah man, I loved it, and love it. So what new music do you have in store for us? Do you have any plans for a new album?
LB: Yeah you know, we have enough new music where we could go into the studio and record a new album tomorrow. Ever since we put out Omnisquid we’ve been traveling around and performing on that album, but we’ve just been writing. And I think the music we’ve written now is some of the best music we’ve created. We’re not taking our time, we’re all eager to get into the studio, but our focus right now is touring and putting together a real solid live show, and bringing our show into new markets. We signed with a new agency in the Spring, so we’re focusing on a big fall tour right now and we’re prepared to debut new music. We’re also touring with a new visual show, but hopefully we’ll be working on the new album come fall or winter. All the new music we’ve been writing has been music you can see live. So we’ll see, it’s gonna be a different direction that Omnisquid. It will have that heavy odd time kind of element that permeates our current music. But a lot of the new music that we’ve been writing has been very song centered, more vocals, more grooves. I don’t want to say more accessible, but maybe not as alienating, **laughs** no pun intended, as the Omnisquid stuff, but we’ll see, we’re constantly writing and constantly thinking of new ideas. We’re currently working to release a new music video and single ahead of the fall tour. So new music: it will be on its way.
SF: So we’re connecting here in part because of this awesome festival we’re both about to head to, that being Wild Woods in Croydon, New Hampshire. Is this your first time performing at Page Farm?
LB: O man, I think this is our sixth or seventh time playing at Page Farm. Yeah we’re Page Farm veterans man! The first time we played I think was at this festival called the Big Dig, in like in 2012, 2011, 2013, or something like that. It was with Ott, Space Jesus, and a bunch of our friends from Boston. We’ve played all three Wild Woods, and we just played their a few weeks ago for a smaller festival with Particle called Camp and Jam. I feel like that place has really become a mainstay for Northeast festivals. The infrastructure is great: it’s contained, it’s not too big, it’s not too opened where it’s just a field, you’ve got wooden shaded areas, and you have beautiful stages. We love all the people they work with. Everyone that is on the Wild Woods production team are people that we work with. It’s really become this little family down there at Page Farm. We really like Wild Woods, and we really want to see that event grow. We always save some special ideas and new music to debut for that festival because we love it so much. We’re excited for that Friday late night set.
SF: Awesome man, anything you can share about this particular performance you mentioned on Friday night at Wild WoodS?
LB: Yeah, man. I’m working on the setlist right now. I can say, I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re going to have at least one special guest or two. And we’ll be doing a couple covers that we’ve never done before. We’ll be breaking in some new music, but we’ll also be playing some old material that we haven’t played live in years. It’s gonna be a good show for people that have been listening to us for a while, and for new fans as well. So yeah man, we’re excited for that.
SF: My girlfriend and I actually saw you for the first time at Disc Jam and we loved the set so much. You guys really stole the weekend for me and Val. You closed out with “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, which was such a kick.
LB: That was great man **laughs** That was just a two hour marathon set. The power cut out one time, it wasn’t really anyone’s fault because a drink had spilled on an outlet behind the drum set or something. So we had to deal with that. But when you get those two hour crazy let night sets, everyone’s kind of just in it together. Events like that can bring us together with the crowd, and everyone feels like they were a part of at least something different and unique. We love doing these late night sets, like the one coming up for Wild Woods, especially for these Northeast festivals, which is our home base. Our friends love getting weird late night with us, so being able to close out Friday night at Wild Woods is exciting. Especially after Esseks, who’s a buddy of ours, he’s been making some really awesome original music lately, so we definitely want people to check him out before us.
SF: Yeah man, I was just listening to Esseks’ new track, Dragnet, before this interview. So much fire coming from his fingertips this year. In fact, he’s the third and final artist in our interview series. His Q&A will be coming out right after this one.
LB: Nice, hell yeah. He’s a good friend. We host our own event called lespectacle ever October which has been in Brooklyn the past couple years, and Sam (Esseks) has been there the past couple of years. He’s definitely a good friend and frequent collaborator with us, so we definitely like his music.
SF: We’re definitely going to hit lespectacle this year. You mentioned it’s this October in Brooklyn?
LB: Absolutely man, it’s in Brooklyn in October. We’re going to accounce the date and the details and all that very soon. But it will be in Brooklyn in October.
SF: Ok, just a couple more questions here, Luke, I know you have a gig coming up. I love this one, tell us one crazy, singular story from a concert or performance that’s front of mind this year.
LB: Let’s think. Hmm…something crazy that happened this year. Alright, well, we played a sold-out Brooklyn Bowl show with Turkuaz, who’s playing Wild Woods this weekend, and that was awesome. After the show we went to this party down the street at this bar, and it was popping. Every member of Turkuaz was there, we were all there, band members from Lettuce came through because they had a gig at the Cap that night. It was just this epic musician hang at this bar, but then this crazy fight broke out and I remember me and our manager Vinny were hanging out at the bathroom, drinking a beer, then this guy just starts fighting the bouncer, and the next thing we know, people are getting shoved out, and I guess that’s how you cap off a proper rager in Brooklyn!
SF: Brooklyn does it right man! The next festival we’re covering after Wild Woods is ELEMENTS in South Brooklyn at Red Hook. It’s crazy man, one of the coolest festival grounds I’ve ever seen. This year, they’re having this professional wakeboarder come through to do flips and tricks off a stationary wave near the Water Stage. Last year they had a BMX ramp where these professional bikers were doing backflips over people spitting fire, right adjacent to the Fire Stage. It’s an amazing time, so if you’re around August 13th, you should definitely come down and rage it with us for ELEMENTS. Bleep Bloop, Opiuo, Gramatik, Oshi, and so many dope DJs are throwing down for it.
LB: Shit, man, that sounds awesome. I’ll definitely check my calendar and see if I can make it down for that.
SF: It’s great, man, one of my favorite festivals.
LB: Definitely, if I’m free we’ll have to meet up and do it proper!
SF: Absolutely! So to close out my interviews I like to leave it with an open forum. If there’s anything we didn’t cover in this interview that you’d like to include, feel free to let it spill here!
LB: Yeah sure, we’re looking forward to the end of the summer for festivals like Wild Woods, we added a couple dates on August 19th and 20th at the Maine Pub at Electric Haze, and we’re just really excited for the Fall. In September we’re playing at Great North, Catskill, Mid Summer Melt Down, and then we’re going to be embarking on this tour in the late Fall. We’ll be hitting the midwest states, and regions we’ve never been to before. We’re really looking forward to breaking ground we’ve never traveled to before with new visuals and music. It’s the biggest tour we’ve ever done yet so we’re just ready to hit the road and do some new things with it.
SF: Awesome man, we’re really looking forward to it. Appreciate the time and I’m looking forward to meeting up this weekend at Wild Woods!