Alt-pop quartet from Austin, Texas bridges the gap between Weezer and Ben Folds Five. Sound impossible' These guys make it sound easy - and inevitable. It's dirty and pretty and one of the best records you'll hear this year. Buy early, or hear about them from your friends later. "Little apologies for things I should have done better," Adam says, describing the songs he writes. "Little celebrations of the fact that nobody's perfect and everybody's fucking up in some small way, so in the long run it doesn't matter. To me, that's comforting." Songwriting has always been about release and realization for Friends of Lizzy. "Personal relationships and self-doubt - pretty much the only two things I write about," Clay laughs. "My songs are non-fiction: based on true stories and my personal experiences." "We have naturally developed a sort of quality control system for each other," he continues. "When your band mates are writing strong material, it pushes you to grow in your own writing - there's no room for complacency when you have three songwriters offering up all of their output to a band that is devoted to "songs". We don't have a front man, we don't have a 'look', we just play the best songs we have. So, as a result, I spend most of my days plotting to surpass Adam and Brooks in songwriting skill. It's a very healthy competition between us." And pegging their influences can be a difficult task. "I think that in a lot of ways, we take our cues from guys like Elliott Smith and bands like Wilco and Superdrag," Adam says. "Or the Flaming Lips, who obviously take a lot of time to write these really compact songs with every melody in its' right place, but then take that and run with it in a different direction, without much respect for what the "rules of pop" say they should do. The songs that Clay and I collaborate on, especially, have a sort of sweet/bittersweet nature to them, they're rarely straightforward - you'll have these pretty verses interrupted by bursts of guitar, or a juggernaut of a verse might dissolve into layers of beach boy falsettos." When you talk with the members of Friends of Lizzy, there are a few consistent themes: a lifelong entanglement with things musical and a real sense of inevitability. In different ways, each member of the band says, "This is what I do. Write music, play music. It's what gets me through the day. I can't imagine doing anything else." By 2002, and the release of the Friends of Lizzy EP, the band had already found their voice. A tight six-song record that reflected back their wide ranging influences, and showcased three songwriters that somehow manage to produce unified recordings while blatantly thumbing their noses at normal genre restrictions. It's the kind of record that makes critics dig a little deeper into their adjective bag. In early 2004 they released The Answer, which included the original six-song EP and a variety of newer tracks. "Originally we wanted to release a second EP," Clay says. "But we also needed to reprint the first EP, and frankly, we didn't have the money to do both. So "The Answer" was our solution: a re-issue of our original recordings, plus the new songs, plus a few demos." With an eye towards producing the full-length record that they could all hear ringing in their heads, the band pooled their money (and borrowed a sizable amount from sympathetic friends and relatives) and approached Austin-based producer Lars Goransson (Blondie, The Cardigans, Endochine). "We wanted a record that would last," Adam says of working with Lars, "and everything we had heard from him had that sort of depth. We wanted someone who would actually "produce" - not just record the band, but offer his own ideas and add something of himself to the process." "Before we recorded our first EP, we worried that we needed to have this really consistent sound, and only play one or two types of songs so that people could easily identify us", he continues. "And for this record especially, we kind of said "fuck that - let's just pick one kind of song: the good kind". So stylistically, the record is all over the place. Hopefully people will get it and like it," he says with a grin. The result of their work with Lars is their debut album perfect little pieces, which will be released on March 1, 2005, a gigantic step forward for the band. "I look forward to the listeners of our album all having different favorite songs," says Drew Chandler, the band's drummer. "Our record has such variety, there is something for everyone. Its fun knowing that, in our live show, there is seldom a song that someone doesn't like; every song is someone's favorite." "I want people to feel like this record speaks to them," says Brooks. "Since I didn't write these songs, I find myself identifying with a lot of them, and I still find new insights into moments of my life when I hear them. That's something that is very exciting for me, and I would love for others to feel it." "Recording and writing, that whole process is very important to us," he continues. "But it all begins and ends with the live show. I want people to walk away from our shows thinking that maybe we hurt ourselves by thrashing around too much - I want the live show to be an exaggeration of the record, where the songs that rock do so harder and the songs that are soft make people hold their breath to hear them. Does that make sense'" At this point, perhaps a little history would be in order... "I had heard that Clay played," Brooks says of their early years. "Although at the time he was just learning. We just started jamming and writing songs and we eventually convinced a friend of ours to play bass, and we would spend the weekends jamming away in our buddy's attic, exploring music. Drew was recruited because Clay and I finally realized that neither of us could actually play drums, and we wanted to add more instrumentation to the arrangements." Clay then met Adam Luikart auditioning for the Ransom Notes at the University of Texas. Like all the members of Friends of Lizzy, Adam had grown up with music, and had toured as a soprano with the Ohio Boy's Choir, soloing with the Cleveland Orchestra, was invited to perform at the Lincoln Center in New York City, and even had a role in Carmina Burana at the Sydney Opera House. "I got an early taste of the touring lifestyle and loved it," he says. "Clay told me he had a band called Friends of Lizzy, and I told him I was looking to start a band. We got together and played a couple of times, and had a lot of fun making noise together. Then something interesting happened - he and I started semi-competitively swapping demos. All of a sudden he was writing great songs that were successfully blending a lot of the influences we shared. I asked him to play in the band I was putting together, and the two projects got a practice space together. Then they lost their bass player, and since I was having no luck finding musicians I liked, I offered to fill in." And that, as they say, was that. "Like most breakups, it wasn't pretty," Brooks says of asking their first bass player to leave to make room for Adam. "But we got some great music out of it, and a renewed sense of purpose. We suddenly felt that we had to make the music worth the sacrifice of a friendship," a pivotal moment for the band that you can hear resonating through their music. And for the record, Lizzy was "the quintessential "girl next door", living right down the street from where we played music and spent the bulk of our high school days," Brooks says. "[She was] probably one of our original muses, but more than anything, simply a friend that reminds us of the relative simplicity of those days." Shared influences. A common commitment to making intense, diverse songs that reach people and exciting live shows that move them. This is Friends of Lizzy. Friends of Lizzy are Adam Luikart (vocals, bass), Clay Fain (vocal, guitar, keyboards), Brooks Rice (lead guitar, vocals) and Drew Chander (drums).
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