Seeing Red 

Despite personal tensions and lineup changes, labelmates Lost Sounds and the Reigning Sound push ahead.

Last spring, the Lost Sounds label-hopped from Empty Records to the Los Angeles-based In the Red label to record their fourth album. The 12-song album, dubbed simply Lost Sounds, was released on October 11th. This Saturday night, the band will mark the occasion with a free performance at Goner Records. But, due to friction between co-founders Alicja Trout and Jay Lindsey, some fans are predicting combustion.

"I was happy with the shows, but playing with Jay turned into a mental disaster," Trout says, explaining why she and Lindsey cut their last tour short. "We had to come home a few days early."

"Everything between us got really intense, and, basically, it collapsed into violence," Lindsey says. "It was a complete bummer. We lost more than a thousand dollars, but everyone needed a break. We had a lot of things to think about. Alicja and I depend on the Lost Sounds financially. We also have a record label that's invested a lot of money in us. It was a lot to put on the table: Is it worth it? But at the end of the day, breaking up seems too typical. That's what people expect."

Unfortunately, personal tensions have erupted at just the time when the band seems primed for its biggest success, due to a strong push from acclaimed indie label In the Red.

"It's been really cool to have a label that can buy us equipment, get us tour support, and help us find a good publicist," Trout says.

"We got $5,000 from the label to record Lost Sounds, and people keep complaining that it sounds too clean," Lindsey says. "What were we supposed to do? Make it sound like a four-track? It sounds more straightforward than our other albums. Now that post-punk has been appropriated by the MTV culture, we've made a conscious decision to stick to pop melodies and vocals with harmonies. There's not a lot of screaming on this record."

Both Trout and Lindsey say the inspiration behind the new album came from "individual situations," but Lost Sounds is hardly the punk-rock equivalent of Marvin Gaye's Here, My Dear -- or is it? "Clones Don't Love" and "Ophelia" are directly related to the way humans handle conflict, Trout explains. "Not necessarily political commentary," she says, "just the way people deal with their problems."

After the record-release party, the Lost Sounds will hit the road for a three-week U.S. tour. "Then," Trout says, "I think we'll be finished creating music together."

You can hear more of their collective output, however, via projects like Destruction Unit and Nervous Patterns, both of which have releases slated for late 2004. Separately, Trout's formed a trio, the River City Tan Lines, while Lindsey, the longtime drummer for the Final Solutions, is currently pulling double-duty with the Lids. He also expects a solo project, Terror Visions, to have a record out soon.

The Reigning Sound, the Lost Sounds' In the Red labelmates, will debut their new lineup for local audiences at the Buccaneer this Friday night. Six months after frontman Greg Cartwright relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, he's recruited Lance Wille as the band's new drummer -- which means that bassist Jeremy Scott is the only Memphian left in the group.

"It feels like something outta The Martian Chronicles," Scott jokes. "I'm the last man here," he says. "I don't have any plans to move, but we've been able to make it work so far."

"Greg [Roberson, the band's original drummer] had a lot of stuff going on in his life. His leaving was amicable," says Cartwright, "and, with Lance, it's been a pretty smooth transition. He's a really good fit."

Wille had three days of practice before the Reigning Sound departed on a European tour earlier this year. After just a few days off, they embarked on a 15-date U.S. tour with the Hives. "It was a lot of fun," Scott recalls. "We're used to grinding it out in a van, but we got to share a bus with the Sahara Hotnights. Four Swedish girls -- my girlfriend loved that," he chuckles, "but we kept it professional."

"We covered the whole length and breadth of the United States. It was probably the most traveling I've squeezed into two weeks," Cartwright says. "Traveling by bus made a world of difference. I felt fresh and ready to play rather than exhausted from driving eight hours and showing up right before the gig."

Playing in front of large audiences -- a few thousand people a night -- "was a challenge," Scott says. "We worked hard to win people over."

Cartwright agrees. "I'm used to playing in small bars where there's a warm feel," he says. "In these theaters, we had to rely on the monitors, which was like playing in a canyon."

Do the Reigning Sound expect the Hives' good luck to rub off on them? "I don't really care about that," Cartwright demurs. "I really enjoy making records. For me, it's religion and art all rolled into one. Whatever monetary gain gets attached to it is just a bonus. The Hives are incredible, but I don't ever see us getting to that level. The prerequisites aren't there. We're not young or attractive enough!"

The Reigning Sound have a Christmas single coming out on Norton Records this month; after that, fans will have to cross their fingers and hope for the best. "We've got a pretty disparate audience right now," Scott says. "Some people love the last record, while others go 'What the fuck was Greg thinking?' Between now and the end of the year, Greg could get off on Klezmer music and have us buy clarinets. We might end up with a horn section or a hammered dulcimer," he says, only half-kidding.

Cartwright remains typically tight-lipped about the band's future. "We're in a transitional period now," he says. "I couldn't really say what's gonna happen over the next six or seven months. I wish I knew. It would make everybody's lives easier. But I just don't think that far ahead."

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