Features

L.M.I.: Pennsylvania Stoner Punks Offer Dizzying Riffing on “Ghost Teeth” (PREMIERE)

L.M.I. (Photo: Sam Pinola)

Welcome back to Gritty’s Kids: the interview series that hits you like a Floiers puck to the forehead, but helps you up and passes you the Peanut Chew Kush. It’s been a year since GK#3, so I’m just about on a Rumpshaker Fanzine schedule.

Gritty has spent the quarantine doing fire cider enemas and working on a Covid cure in his lair. So far, he’s tried mixing polyester fur with Dalessandro’s dumpster ooze. His work is currently being peer-reviewed by the Phillie Phanatic’s snout. 

GK was started as a way for me to contribute to Philly’s DIY punk/hardcore/art scene, which I really only started invested in (as anything beyond a spectator) in my 30s when I moved here from north Jersey. I went to a ton of Cabbage Collective, Stalag 13/early r5 gigs, and Philly house shows in the '90s, though, which were formative experiences for hundreds of my local peers and I.

Philadelphia’s L.M.I. brought that spirit and those ethics back for me when their singer reached out to my old band, Toska, while setting up a show a handful of years back. I was struck by how organized and earnest he was at 19 or 20, and it reminded me of the way I would communicate w/bands via pay phones and dialers decades ago. This initial impression proved accurate as hell, so I was happy to interview them as part of this project.

Their new full-length album, Excess Subconscious, will be out next month on Handstand Records in the US and Maniyax in Europe. Their new single, "Ghost Teeth," will be premiered exclusively on No Echo after the interview.

Will, you relayed to me that L.M.I. is an acronym for Lazy Middle Class Intellectuals, which I correctly assumed was a Bad Religion reference, and one you came up at around the same age Bad Religion came up with their name. Were you the type of kid to be drawn to their sorta academic lyrical style/content? What were you three like when you met in middle school, in terms of your sensibilities and what attracted you to punk and metal?

(My Bad Religion shirt got stolen from a blanket at Lollapalooza while I was distracted by a shirtless Evan from Biohazard, who was just walking around like a puffed-up pigeon looking to be recognized, so keep that image in mind while answering.)

I’d say around that time for me (high school) I was attracted to that style of lyrical content but it wasn’t too exclusive to that. Personally what attracted me to punk/metal was aggression, straightforwardness in the music, and the passion people had for both genres. When Kevin, Brando, and I first started jamming we were into a lot of '80s and '90s punk along with some more current hardcore and metal bands at that time.

On the punk side of things, bands like Bad Religion, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, NOFX, Leftover Crack/Choking Victim, Rancid, The Bronx, Alkaline Trio, and Catch 22. On the hardcore/metal side of things bands like System of a Down, Mastodon, Cancer Bats, Gallows, and Red Fang. We would all later on get into heavier and stylistically different bands.

L.M.I. (Photo: Sam Pinola)

You’re all from Lansdale, PA (a suburb of Philadelphia). Eastern PA is beautiful in spots, but is also lousy with malls and Mennonite history- neither of which would be a teenage punker’s go-to for a bad ass time. What was it like being a kid who was influenced and driven by forces that are far from relatable to your average Lansdale suburbanite?

We are lucky enough to have a punk/hardcore scene in Lansdale that has been continuously going on since the mid-'90s. That being said I didn’t really start delving heavily into the local scene or start going to shows in the area till I was 17. Before that living in Lansdale was pretty much like how you described it. I had my close-knit group of friends and we would all play in bands together. We were definitely outcasts from the rest of the kids in school and the town as a whole. Even the other kids who played in bands didn’t like us [laughs].

I think that’s what really drew me towards punk and metal. I didn't relate to many people outside of my friend group so to me it was almost like an “us against the world” kind of mentality. When we weren’t practicing we spent a lot of time just walking aimlessly around town.

None of us had any money and on top of that there wasn’t much going on in Lansdale at the time. I also grew up in a generally strict family so I really wasn’t allowed out that much besides band practice. 

L.M.I. (Photo: Chad Wright)

Will, you studied abroad in Japan, and the last time I saw you,  you mentioned you’ve been there several times since then. We revere a lot of the same bands, record stores, and influential, dedicated hardcore folks there. What can you share with American punks about what you’ve taken from your experiences with DIY hardcore/punk in Japan?

Yeah, I’ve spent a good amount of time in Tokyo. I think for me what I’ve really taken from the DIY hardcore/punk scene in Tokyo is the absolute dedication people have to the scene. I think in the states people have that sort of dedication for a period of time but eventually they either lose touch, become too jaded, or move on to something else. They may come back to the scene but there is always a point where they weren’t active. Many of the people who have played in some of my favorite Japanese punk/hardcore bands have been doing it for 20/30+ years without taking a break at any point. They have stayed true to their music and never looked back. I really admire that.

There is also so much more history to the Japanese punk/hardcore scene that isn’t written about or made into a documentary like in the states. Especially anything in English. You really have to search for info about some of these bands and once you’re able to find some new band or any info about some bands/musicians/shows it means that much more. Plus I think the style and way things are run in Japan regarding the DIY punk/hardcore scene is very unique compared to the states. Definitely way more organized and I think that’s something everyone can learn from [laughs].

L.M.I. (Photo: Sam Pinola)

How does L.M.I. approach organizing shows and enlisting bands and people you dig to come together? How did these values evolve for you, and how much of a collective process has it been with Brando and Kevin? 

I do all the booking for the band. Usually, I like to try and have a general idea of when we are planning to tour a year in advance so that way I can try and plan shows more local to us around that. Beyond that I’ll try and have local area shows planned at least a few months in advance if possible. Obviously it doesn’t always work out perfectly but at least it gives us somewhat of a framework to work around.

When it comes to finding locals for shows and such I usually try to look for other shows happening in that area through Facebook groups that aren’t too far off from what we are doing. Or I’ll look to see if any friends of ours have played in a particular area first. From there I’ll see what I can find and hit up locals from that point.

I think that overtime I’ve learned just how crucial good communication between bands on a show and the venue is. It’s definitely the worst when there is a last minute problem that could have been avoided if you just checked in with someone earlier. I’ve also learned that if you’re setting up a show yourself you really can’t expect anyone to help you out with everything. Best not to rely on too many people because it just leaves more room for error. You should pretty much expect to have to do almost everything yourself unless a venue or promoter let you know otherwise.  

Since I cover the booking aspect of the band, Kevin and Brando usually help out in other ways to make sure things run smoothly. But I think over time we have all learned what really goes into setting up your own show and the proper edicate to not come off like a total asshole [laughs].

The first time we played together was at No Face with Atomic Cretins. I asked a few dudes from AC if they were into '80s East Bay bands like Chrimshrine, Isocracy, etc… and Civil Disobedience from Michigan because they sounded heavily-influenced by them all in a killer way. They weren’t familiar w/those bands, which was wild to me. It struck me then that punk has carved and ridden so many waves at this point, we may have no idea who inspired those who inspired us.

Your new full-length is varied as hell, and it’s layered with seemingly contrasting tones and moods. I wouldn’t compare you directly with anyone, but I discerned a very '90s hardcore sensibility throughout it, from Drive Like Jehu, to Econochrist, to Born Dead Icons, to '90s German bands like Enfold and Dawnbreed. This could definitely be an unintentional case of the above, but either way I wanted to ask a  “who are your influences?” question in a halfway-interesting, but convoluted way and pretty much nailed it, so who were your influences in developing your songwriting/guitar/vocal styles?

[Laughs] You definitely nailed it. Our influences are pretty scattered. I’d say when I was writing this album I was listening to a lot of bands like Rolo Tomassi, Mammoth Grinder, Unsane, Hot Snakes, High on Fire, Mastodon, Disclose, Forward, Kylesa, Converge, Melt-Banana and stuff along those lines. When I write lyrics though I usually end up listening to melodic stuff like Beach House, Chelsea Wolfe, True Widow, Ruby The Hatchet, and Rata Negra, to name a few. 

L.M.I. (Photo: Sam Pinola)

Excess Subconscious’ production is solid and clean while big and open. Gradwell House's Dave Downham (who’s known for his work with Fight Amp and Low Dose) recorded and mixed it like a champ. How was the recording process? I know you put a ton of care into all things L.M.I., so what was important to you about the experience and sounds?

The recording process for this album went pretty smoothly. We were able to have everything finished after about four eight hour sessions. They really have a great set up at Gradwell House. My main focus with this record production wise was that I wanted to have a raw sound without losing any clarity in the process. Two albums I believe achieved this pretty well were Wheel of War by Napalm Raid and Just Go Forward to Death by Forward. I feel that Napalm Raid’s album did a great job of sounding raw but at the same time really broadening the band's sound without overdoing it. While Forward’s album had a really great raw feel especially with the guitar tone. To me, it showcased the band's grittier live sound without losing any clarity. 

I think Excess Subconscious does a great job showcasing how we sound live. Nothing really crazy with overdubbing or making this sound too expansive where it couldn’t be recreated live. Nothing over the top. But at the same time it doesn’t sound like someone put a four track in the corner of their practice space and just pressed record haha.

Tell us about the lyrical content and imagery in your new LP, and how they compare to the themes of previous records? 

To me, when using the term “Excess Subconscious” what I’m trying to portray is the idea that anxiety and paranoia have been so ingrained in your thoughts and way of life that it becomes part of your subconscious. An “Excess Subconscious," With this album the lyrics are a lot more personal to my life than they have been on previous releases.

In the past, I may have sort of talked about some issues I was going through at the time but I really tried to keep the underlying meanings hidden. I think this album really encompasses just years of living your life a certain way and the toll that it begins to or has been taking on your life and outlook as a whole.

Each album for me represents a certain theme or emotion. But I believe this album kind of takes all those feelings from past releases and puts them together to create something new.

L.M.I. (Photo: Sam Pinola)

You’ve done a good deal of touring, so to close this one out, hit No Echo with a couple tour stories and introduce "Ghost Teeth." Thanks, Will! 

Hmm okay I can name a few.

On one of our early US tours, we were booked to play at what we thought was an art space. But when we arrived we found out it was actually a squat house where a few run away teenagers lived. The show itself ended up being pretty solid. We were told we could crash at the space beforehand. After the show we slept in the show space with no AC and bugs flying around everywhere since the place was pretty dirty.

I slept on basically half a couch that was ripped to shreds while Brando and Kevin slept on the concrete floor. The whole time we were trying to sleep one of the kids was blasting the show “Louie” pretty much the entire night. So trying to sleep in a damp, sweaty, fly infested space in the south in the middle of July while hearing the theme song for Louie every 20 minutes didn’t make for the ideal sleeping situation [laughs].

Another time, we played at a serious dive in Florida. The venue had double booked the date. So to solve this problem our show was set to happen earlier in the evening and afterwards the venue would have the second show which was an entirely acoustic country bill. The band we were booked to play with canceled and the promoter super late to the show. We ended up having to jump on the bill with the 3 country bands. We luckily played first since we were the only band with a drum set. After we played we ended up talking to a couple of the guys from one of the other bands and they were old punks and were cool.

The guy who headlined that night was so drunk and fucked up on I don’t even know what that he couldn’t finish a song. He would get halfway through and say he was having technical difficulties and either go to the bathroom or order another drink at the bar. He also kept getting mad at the guy playing lead guitar with him when really it didn’t look like either of them knew what was going on. The whole time this was happening one of the guys in the other band was high on blow and just kept telling us how he was hoping the guy on stage would say something to piss him off so he could go up there and beat the shit out of him. It was definitely an odd night [laughs].

One last one was our first time playing in LA. We were booked to play at a club with a few other bands. The show had changed hands between a few different promoters by the time everything was finalized. When we got to the venue we found out they were having an open mic night and we were going to have to wait to load in. We ended up having to wait over 2 and a half hours. Most of that time was spent sitting in an alleyway next to the venue watching people fail at parallel parking until we ended up watching some of the open mic people.

Finally, when we were able to load into the venue, a car across the street popped the curb and drove directly into a tree. We were fine though and kept loading gear. I guess some organization had planned on giving out soup to homeless people on that same street around this time because about 20 minutes later a long line of homeless people showed up and someone was serving food right next to a busted car that’s hood was pretty much wrapped around a tree.

Very odd way to start the show.

After sitting for maybe another 45 minutes the other bands started to trail in. The promoter was still nowhere to be found though. No one knew when anyone was supposed to play so we ended up just playing first cause our gear was already inside. Someone from one of the bands offered to run the door till things were situated as well. Finally, the promoter showed up and he was clearly pretty hammered. He introduced himself and spent the rest of his time at the venue on the back patio drinking and messing around the woman that he had brought with him to the show. I don’t know what their relationship was.

After a few more bands played he came up to me, gave me 3 Coors Lights and left. We ended up barely getting any money from the door because one of the locals pocketed the majority of the door money and left before the show was over. It was an interesting night to say the least haha.

On that note, check out our new song “Ghost Teeth”! We are excited to finally be releasing this album through Handstand Records and Maniyax Records on June 26th. Been a long road but we are glad to finally share the finished product. I think this song is a great example of showing the versatility of the new album. Hope you enjoy what you hear. 

Pre-order your copy of Excessive Subconcious on vinyl from Handstand Records. European listeners should hit this link to get the album from Maniyax Records. If you're on Spotify, hit this link to pre-save the album.

L.M.I. on social media: Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

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Tagged: grittys kids, l.m.i.

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