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The Livers


The Livers
By JAIME LEES
Published on December 30, 2008 at 4:18pm
The Livers, with the Pedaljets and Honeywagen.
Friday, January 2, at the Record Bar.

The Livers have managed to invent something brand-new: a four-person rock band with just two members. Multi-instrumentalists Scott Freeman and Luke Roulston augment their live sound by playing electric guitars in front of a prerecorded video of Freeman on drums and Roulston on bass. Through the magic of painstaking video editing and green-screen wizardry, all four band members have the ability to interact with one another. This setup is both spectacularly effective and logistically bewildering, but without competent songwriting and playing prowess, the Livers would be little more than an interesting live art project. Amazingly, the music is even better than the presentation. The Livers’ sound lands somewhere between the Pixies and the Melvins, with a combination of crunchy riffs, catchy lyrics and intimidatingly heavy drum hits.

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2008: My Favorites

TV Blinded Me With Science

My favorite major release of 2008 was TV on the Radio’s Dear Science. Holy crap, was I unprepared to deal with the magnetic, schizophrenic brilliance of that album. I tried to listen casually — you know, in the car, while doing the dishes, etc. — but I soon found myself up late at night, incapacitated by the weight of big-ass headphones, wide-eyed in wonderment and smiling in the dark.

After bumping hip-hop newcomer Kid Sister’s tune “Beeper” on the daily, I spent an unprecedented amount of time — and a sickening level of ass-kissing — trying to scam an advance copy of her debut LP, Dream Date, from better-connected industry friends. Though it won’t be released until March 2009, Kid Sister’s playful, fly girl charisma permeates every song on the debut, and this hip-hop cutie has the skills to back up her Next Big Thing hype.

There were some hot reissues this year, including R.E.M.’s Murmur, Verbena’s Souls for Sale, A.A. Bondy’s American Hearts and the remastered Replacements discography. All were greatly appreciated — and rocked accordingly.

The best concert I saw in town was Sharon Jones at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room in January. I knew she would be good, but I had no idea how good. The sold-out, sticky, sweaty, shoes-off, swinging hair, soul-filled basement show had me jumpin’ and forced my booty to do things heretofore unthinkable. Hallelujah.

Locally, I still crush on Bunnygrunt, the Humanoids, Sex Robots, Rum Drum Ramblers and Pokey LaFarge. I’ve seen each about 27,856 times this year and I’m still amazed at the spirit and passion their performances ignite. In addition, I can’t say enough good things about the Livers. This extraordinary rock duo is relatively new, but it consistently churns out one of the most exceptional live acts in the city.
— Jaime Lees

[“the RFT’s music writers weighed in on what they liked this year” – HERE]

RFT Music Awards Nominees

RFT Music Awards Nominees: St. Louis’ Best and Brightest
Published on May 28, 2008

Please follow this link to read about the nominees listed below.

Best Americana/Folk – Rum Drum Ramblers
Best Untraditional Americana/Folk – Rats & People
Best Funk/Soul/R&B – Kim Massie
Best Hard Rock/Metal – Head On Collision
Best Local Release (self-released) –
Rats & People’s The City of Passersby
Best New Artist – The Livers + Wooden Kites
Best Pop Band – Sex Robots
Best Punk/Hardcore – The Humanoids

Interview with The Livers

Using Their Illusion: Ferocious — and funny — locals the Livers hope video builds the radio star
By Jaime Lees
Published: April 23, 2008
9 p.m. Friday, April 25. The Bluebird, 2706 Olive Street. $7 21-plus, $10 under 21. No phone.www.myspace.com/bluebirdstl.

BFFs Scot Freeman and Luke Roulston hit a rough patch last year. Mired in typical twentysomething malaise, they found themselves working too hard, drinking too much and continually complaining about their lack of a creative outlet. Both were seasoned musicians who admired each other’s skills and former bands (Freeman’s Chiaroscuro and Roulston’s Poe’s Music for Weirdos), and so as an extension of their bromance, these multi-instrumentalists decided to quit their bitching and put together a new band.

There was just one problem: They only wanted to play with each other.

Freeman and Roulston began trying to find a way to multiply their sound without adding any extra people. They jokingly wished they could form a band with clones of themselves to fill out the empty instrument positions. As the story goes, one day Roulston said, “What if we just did that?” And so after considerable preparation and months of trial and error, they managed to invent something brand new: a four-person rock band with just two band members.

This is accomplished by both Livers playing guitar in front of a prerecorded video of themselves as the rhythm section (with Roulston on bass and Freeman on drums). But the virtual band members don’t just play, they also have names (Karl and Merl), distinctive personalities and sassy attitudes. Through the magic of painstaking video editing and green-screen wizardry, all four band members have the ability to interact with each other. (In fact, the video Livers frequently talk back to the live Livers.)

This elaborate presentation is helped along by Zak Thenhaus, the unofficial third (fifth?) Liver. Similar to the Wizard of Oz, Thenhaus fills the role of the unseen magical man behind the curtain (or video screen) who assists the real-life Livers in their video interactions, largely by handing them props. Between songs every last Liver gets to catch a break as hilarious commercial-like clips — such as a Laverne & Shirley spoof, or one for Evan Williams brand whiskey — appear on the video screen. (These riotous, between-song bits are also known as the “interstitiary videos” in Freeman’s professional-speak.)

The result is both spectacularly effective and logistically bewildering. Roulston dryly explains, “Yeah, it’s kind of our motto: ‘To do everything the hardest way possible.'”

Entering the Livers’ headquarters — a.k.a. Roulston’s spacious Benton Park bedroom — one immediately begins to get an idea of just how detailed the band’s production process must be to pull off this kind of act. The vast space is part living area and part artist workshop, with enough cameras, lights and cables to outfit a television studio. In addition to the clothes, electronics, books and numerous art pieces strewn around, tiny strips of green tape on the wood floors mark frequently used instrument and filming positions. It is here that all of the “rhythm section” and comedic segments are taped.

Though these ingenious videos and fun live additions make the band instantly unique, without competent songwriting and playing prowess, the Livers would be little more than an interesting live art project. But the band’s tunes stand alone and can be enjoyed, even separate from its shtick.

The admitted “control freaks” extended their hands-on attitude to their debut album, Vino in Uriam Mutando, which they self-mixed. Recorded locally at Firebrand Recording studios, Vino sounds strikingly professional (with solid lyrics, wicked riffs and intimidatingly heavy drum hits) and contains recordings of a few songs that are quickly becoming audience favorites. Freeman’s “Autistic Girlfriend” was written as a “rock juggernaut” about a cold lady with insincere feelings and “a hole where her heart should go.” In contrast, Roulston’s “She-Wolf” is a wistful, gently sung pop-punk musing on missed opportunities and misdirected emotions. Other standout tracks include the sweetly seductive “Humble Plight” (a salute to the pleasures of love and makin’ love) and “2 Legs to Dance,” a jolting bass-and-beat-filled swoop into the world of dance rock that implores listeners to get up, get drunk and start dancing.

Between the Livers’ unprecedented musical presentation and strong tunes, it’s rumored that the young band has already been fielding label and distribution interest. When questioned on this development, both guys just smile and coyly decline to discuss this topic on the record, claiming superstition. It wouldn’t be surprising; the band contains the kind of natural charisma and overflowing raw talent that label scouts are always looking to unearth. Plus, Freeman and Roulston seem to have a very brotherly relationship — where both compliments and playful ribbing are common — and both are good-natured, smart and funny as hell.

On meshing their musical styles:
Scot Freeman:
Luke’s music is really complicated and the time signatures are all weird and stuff and I can only play, like, uh…
Luke Roulston:
3/4 and 4/4 or a combination thereof. [Laughs]
Freeman:
Yeah! Really, just like, Top 40. I just wanna play riffs and sing soaring choruses and that kind of stuff. So when I write a song it’s usually really simple but his stuff is all over the place and I’m like, “I’m gonna go ahead and dumb this shit down.”
Roulston:
Well, that’s called “rocking it up.”

On their perfectionism in the videos:
Freeman:
I think I’ve worked harder on this than on anything I’ve worked on, ever. There have been times that my actual job has bummed me out, but there have been times with this shit where I wanna cry.
Roulston:
It’s toil.
Freeman:
There’s been times when we worked on this 50 or 60 hours a week, while still working our regular jobs 40 hours a week. I mean, [we were] working to the point where it’s almost ruined friendships and relationships.
Roulston:
But the best thing about it is, the other members of the band? They don’t seem to argue! [Laughs]
Freeman:
On the videos, I’m of the opinion that Luke could pretty much fake it, that he could hit some wrong notes. But he refuses. He refuses to hit one wrong note, even though it wouldn’t matter.
Roulston:
If there was a bass player [in the audience] that actually had perfect pitch and knew his shit, he would know.
Freeman:
And that’s why he obsesses. We’ll get done taping and he’s like “I missed a note,” and I’m like “I played it fucking perfectly! I’m bleeding!” and he’s like “Let’s do it again.” And I’m like “Fuck!” and I fucking duct-tape my hand back together, [and] do it again.

On the band’s sound and influences:
Roulston:
Thus far, we’ve been compared to ’90s music. But I love ’90s music. Our big influences are the Jesus Lizard and the Pixies and Nirvana and the Foo Fighters and, you know, just hard-hitting drums. And he [Freeman] plays better than most drummers I’ve ever seen.
Freeman:
Yeah, all my favorite bands are fucking gone. Jesus Lizard and fuckin’ Seaweed, Failure, whatever. Bands that nobody remembers.
Roulston:
At least the Pixies came back, I guess. You know what I liked? When Frank Black came to the Duck Room. That was a really fucking awesome show. I have nothing but respect for him. Actually, I have nothing but respect for anybody in the Pixies. They’re just… God! What a great fucking band! I would say, like, that’s the band that I would aspire to lick their…
Freeman:
Junk!

The Livers

The Livers
9 p.m. Tuesday, December 25. Way Out Club, 2525 South Jefferson Avenue.
By Jaime Lees
Published: December 19, 2007

Up-and-coming locals the Livers put on one of the most interesting live shows in St. Louis. Though the band consists of just two members — Scot Freeman and Luke Roulston — it multiplies its live sound by playing electric guitars in front of a pre-recorded video of Freeman on drums and Roulston on bass. (The pair has even worked out witty banter-and-joke exchanges between the band members and their video-selves.) The resulting sound is that of a full four-member band, but without the two extra dudes to drink up the beer allowance. The Livers aren’t all gimmick, though: The band impresses with sharp lyrics, searing riffs and grunge-heavy drums, meaning its songs sound like solid ’90s rock. (But in a great, Dave Grohl-y kind of way, we swear.) Plus, the Livers’ live show is fun, diverse and full of unlikely covers (like Elastica’s “Stutter”) and cheeky crowd interaction.