Part Brit-pop and part indie rock, with a campy persona and dreamy lyrics to match, Scissors for Lefty are a great addition to the post-punk revival of the new millennium.
Scissors For Lefty’s story involves Malaysian pop songs and intense Beatles fixations, influential British indie labels and late night hot tub parties, ’80s dance nights and KISS solo records. But mostly it’s a story about friendship. “You find friends you like to hang out with, you need some glue, you need a reason to hang out and spend time together, and music is our easy excuse,” says singer/guitarist Bryan Garza, 27.
Of course, most friends who decide to jam for fun never get past the garage. Scissors For Lefty have opened for the Arctic Monkeys in front of 10,000 screaming Berliners. “The stadium was so packed that people’s fingers were at the pedals and their chins were on stage. If you sported a bone, everyone would see,” laughs Bryan.
The quintet — featuring Bryan, his brother Stevie Garza, 25, and uncle (don’t ask) Robby Garza, 29, plus brothers Peter, 29, and James Krimmel, 27 — recently scored glowing reviews in NME, Billboard, Spin.com, SF Weekly, and the LA Times, nabbing gigs with the Arctic Monkeys, Blonde Redhead, Metric, Paul Weller, the Fratelli’s, the Fiery Furnaces, the Cribs, the Coup, Shiny Toy Guns, Panic! at the Disco, and Dirty Pretty Things, along with numerous European festivals and underground Jacuzzi bashes.
Bryan, James, and Peter started Scissors in 2000, while the former duo was attending college in the Central Valley town of San Luis Obispo, Calif. Even at the trio’s beginnings, they synthesized a wide range of influences. Both Peter and James studied classical piano for years and shared their mother’s gift for singing (she was a Malaysian pop star in the mid-’60s and is still played on the radio in Borneo to this day), while James also nurtured a serious Beatles obsession. “I remember taping the Beatles A to Z show [off a radio station],” he says. “I had this box of 14 tapes, and I would sit around in my room, listening to them all day.” Bryan, meanwhile, mixed his childhood hair-metal days with a love for alt-rock titans like Radiohead and BjÃƒï¿½Ã‚Â¶rk and a growing appreciation for ’80s pop. “Everyone in San Luis Obispo would just stand around at shows,” he says. “I came across this whole new scene of people that would go out dancing, and I thought, ‘This is so rebellious.’”
Following a move to San Francisco in 2002, the musicians added Robby — who had been inspired to pick up the guitar after hearing Ace Frehley’s solo album. He gave the band’s herky-jerky rhythms and sexed up vocal harmonies the brawn they needed. One-time triathlete Stevie is the final piece of the puzzle, having joined the group on bass in October 2006. Scissors’ self-recorded, self-released debut, 2005′s Bruno, served as a sort of how-to primer for the band. For its follow up, the act wanted something more representative of their performances. “We wanted it to be playful and to sound like it does live,” says Bryan. “We’re lighthearted and fun people, and we wanted to let that show.”
The group utilized an outside producer: Charles Goodan, who’s worked with the Dust Brothers, Beck, and Carlos Santana. Over several weeks, Scissors tracked new material in Silverlake’s Sonora Studios, as well as re-recorded two numbers from Bruno (“Ghetto Ways” and “Marsha,” which would be released as a double A-Side single by influential UK label Rough Trade). The disc was eventually mixed by Mark Needham, who’s worked with everyone from the Killers to Fleetwood Mac to Chris Isaak.
The resulting Underhanded Romance due in the U.S. on L.A.’s Eeenie Meenie Records, June 12 (and overseas on Rough Trade later this year) feels both wildly fresh and instantly recognizable. There are touchstones — the Cure-like guitar of “X’s Are Forever,” the Modern English breakdown of “You’ve Got the Moments,” the delicate Beach Boys-ish ballad of “Bring Us a Brick” — but more than anything there is exuberance and fun (remember fun?). Imagine the Strokes rip-snorting rock, if Julian Casablancas were smiling instead of sneering. Imagine the Gang of Four covering the early Kinks and Stones catalog, with a healthy dose of American mischievousness. Imagine pumping bass, chunka chunka guitar riffs, the kind of piano hooks that stay in your head for days, all topped off with Bryan’s hiccupping, lascivious vocals (not to mention the occasional whistled bit, hand clap, or Jew’s harp twang). Songs like “Mama Your Boys Will Find a Home” (released as a single in the U.K. via Rough Trade) and “You’ve Got Your Moments” are as giddily insistent as anything Karen O could come up, without all that bothersome ennui. “Lay Down Your Weapons” may be the most joyous tune ever written from an ex-con’s point of view, and “Marsha” is the most festive kiss-off song since, well, the Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off.”
Scissors For Lefty is a rock ‘n’ roll party machine, one that runs on gasoline, cheap liquor, and BFF power. “Some bands don’t look like friends; they look like four people who are independently hoping they succeed,” says Bryan. “That’s not us at all.”
1. Nickels & Dimes
2. Next To Argyle
3. Lay Down Your Weapons
4. Ghetto Ways
5. X’s Are Forever
6. Wandering Arms
7. Save It Cory
9. Got Your Moments
10. Mama Your Boys Will Find A Home
11. Bring Us A Brick