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Columbus Bands

Friday Spotlight – Lizard McGee Dishes on His Band, Earwig

Earwig (Image courtesy of Lizard McGee)

In February 1992, Earwig recorded a five song EP in Lizard McGee’s garage. Released on LFM Records (Lizard Family Music), Dead Slow Hoot saw a limited run of 300 cassettes.

Twenty-five years and six full-length albums later, the band is still a driving force in the independent music scene. With Lizard McGee’s signature sound on guitar/vocals, James McGee-Moore’s electrifying vocals and the driving bottom end that Constantine Hondroulis provides on bass, Earwig continue to impress.

With the band on the verge of releasing their second single from the instant-classic Pause For The Jets, I sat down with Lizard, not knowing where the conversation would lead us as we crawled through the underground…

Earwig live at the Big Room Bar (Image courtesy of Lizard McGee)

Earwig live at the Big Room Bar (Image courtesy of Lizard McGee)

Music in Motion – February 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Earwig. To what do you credit the longevity of the band?

LM – Earwig has always been about adapting to the times. The current line-up with Constantine Hondroulis and James McGee-Moore is the strongest ever. The fact that Earwig still exists is a testament to our dedication to exploring new musical concepts.

We are influenced by many varieties of modern music but have always instructed our output towards developing a new sound. With Pause For The Jets, we were looking to break the mold a little bit, to stretch what might be expected from our band and our brand musically.

MiM – How/where do you rate Pause for the Jets in the Earwig discography? Is it the next logical progression for the band?

LM – With our previous album Gibson Under Mountain, I felt that Earwig achieved the pinnacle of that form, which was basically short-form 3-minute pop-rock songs. I desperately wanted to reach out into new production techniques and new sounds with the new record.

With Pause For The Jets, we worked on alternate interpretations of the songs that fit into a certain aesthetic. I feel that these songs are exceptional. The albums is based around a Sci-Fi concept about Earwig existing in alternate dimensions. With our last record (Gibson Under Mountain) it was a very straight-forward “rock” record. Pause For The Jets allowed us to branch out and get a feel for where we can go artistically.

This is evident on my upcoming solo album (the album Spooky Jets will be released under the name “Lizard McGee” in April of 2017 on LFM/Anyway Records) where I cover the full album with just guitar and vocals (this album will be released in May 2017 and is titled Spooky Jets At A Distance) and the songs still stand up to the test of minimal interpretation.

I think that with the next record, we’ll go more in the “big rock” vein that we have gone before. This album allowed us to experiment with our form. I’m very proud of Pause For The Jets and the songs are good. The first single “Wasted On You” was the biggest hit we have had so far. With the next record, we will settle on a culmination of the form and fall back on a more “rock” style.

(Image courtesy of Lizard McGee)

(Image courtesy of Lizard McGee)

MiM – How did the collaboration with Lydia Loveless for “Wasted On You” come about?

LM – I was a fan of Lydia’s records, I had been listening to her albums as a fan for all of 2014-15.  When I first wrote the song, Lydia’s albums were on my stereo and hers was the first voice I heard in the duet (in my mind). I reached out to her to see if she would want to sing a song with me.

So, I sent her an email, she responded positively and we worked out the details from there for the recording of the single and the video (which I envisioned from the start). I really didn’t know her before that, though we had played a show with her band Carson Drew at Bernie’s.

MiM – You’re about to release a new video for “Bring Yrself 2 Me” featuring Nina West. How did that collaboration come about?

LM – I have been a fan of Nina West for some time. I sent a Tweet to Nina in 2014 that said that I would love to work together on a project in the future. (Nina West is an internationally recognized Drag Queen and LGBTQ advocate)

Nina responded positively and that set my mind to work. When we were ready to release a second single and our ideas started to forment for the video for “Bring Yrself 2 Me”, Nina was in the forefront of our minds. We had this strange idea that featured the whole “science fiction rock opera” aspect/storyline of the new album and I asked Nina about it.

She agreed to work on it and the rest is her story. With the current political climate, we all feel that LGBTQ issues and human rights issues are very important to us. This video came out perfectly, with the direction of Stephen Webster we incorporated Nina and the whole dream-world scenario. Both Nina West (and her drag queens) and Stephen Webster (the video’s director) were awesome to work with and helped to realize our Sci-Fi concept.

MiM – Do you have a particular “sound” you go after for each album, or is it just about playing music that you enjoy?

LM – Usually we just play from the heart, but with Pause For The Jets we had a more defined overview in mind. I am writing a novella entitled “Our Own Secret Service“, and our album follows that story line and all of the songs fit into that detail. This is our first attempt at a “concept album”.

We have new songs ready to record for the next album and they adhere to the more usual “indie rock” construct. We will be rocking out more with the next record.

MiM – At this point of your career, have you totally eschewed larger labels in favor of continuing to keep total creative control of your music?

LM – Earwig was approached a few times about signing to major labels (we were approached to sign contracts by Warner Brothers, AO/Disney records and by 4AD records in the 90’s. We had executives fly out to see our band play at Bernie’s Bagels on High Street and afterwards agreed to “hand-shake” deals with Almo Sounds (they signed Garbage) to sign our band, but the deal fell through. The negotiations never worked out.

We’ve been through that. Our basic concept is to keep making music and art that we ourselves enjoy and to let the music business side of it all play out as it will. Of course, we want people to enjoy the music and buy the album.

MiM – In addition to Earwig, are there any other bands currently on the LFM Records roster? Do you have plans to expand LFM Records?

LM – In the 1990’s LFM Records released several records from a stable of bands that grew from our local scene. Currently, Earwig is the “flagship band on LFM Records”, (Lizard Family Music). For Pause For The Jets, we joined forces with Anyway Records, a longtime stalwart and an incredible force in Columbus, Ohio indie music. Anyway Records has been around for a long time (as has LFM Records).

We though that joining forces would be a good idea, because Anyway is a great local label that features talented bands from Columbus like St. Lenox, The Connections, Mary Lynn and more. We hope that this relationship will help us to promote the new Earwig album to broader outlets.


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