lespecial, the genre-defying trio out of Kent, CT, has announced a lengthy run of shows billed as the 2021 Fall RepeaTOUR. The trek is named after their latest single and video “Repeater”, and the southbound leg finds them on the Spirit Lake stage at Suwannee Hulaween, before heading north to Heist Brewery in Charlotte for what’s sure to be a barnburner on Wednesday, November 3rd [Tickets HERE].
lespecial have had a helluva year, in spite of a pandemic that ground touring to a halt for a seemingly endless time. These boys are adept at making lemonade, and recent performances have shown audiences just how badly they missed raging the stage. The crowds have been rabid, sending the frenzied energy right back to the terrific trio. From masterful LP Ancient Homies in 2020, to primordial Primus tributes, to their own micro-festival Le Getaway, the three amigos, a trifecta of instrumental wizards, are doing their best to make up for lost time.
In the run up to the Southeastern leg of the RepeaTOUR, I caught up with bassist Luke Bemand, and got few questions in on the state of the lespecial union, ten months into 2021.
*this conversation has been edited for length and clarity.*
Upful LIFE: Ancient Homies is nearly one year in the rearview. What are some reflections of the process making that masterpiece?
Luke: I think we all feel really proud of what we were able to accomplish with Ancient Homies. We were fortunate to be able to work on it and ultimately finish it during a time that acted as a stalemate for a lot of bands. Logistics and travel restrictions weren’t as much of a difficulty for us living close together, and we wanted to take advantage of that. For some bands it wasn’t an option, but I feel like we felt creatively rejuvenated to be able to be off the road and just focus on writing and recording. It felt good to give our fans new music to enjoy during the pandemic as well, and connecting with them through the streams was a lot of fun. But being back on the road now and connecting with people in person is what it’s all about for us, and it’s been amazing to perform the material live and see that connection and that resonance it has with people in person.
Upful LIFE- what’s the secret to playing music with the same 2 dudes for 15 years & keeping it fresh, inspiring, interesting?
Luke: We’ve been playing and writing music together for over 15 years now, since we were in high school, and even grade school for Rory (Dolan, drums) and I. We grew up playing music together and it’s a part of who we are, so it’s always felt natural to continue progressing and pushing ourselves. Fortunately we never really confined ourselves to a singular genre or sound so we’re able to continue evolving and our fan base is open minded enough to go on that journey with us. We all love music, listening, writing and performing. The almost telepathic bond we’ve formed throughout the years to me is more of a blessing than a curse. I feel like we owe it to ourselves and everyone that’s been on this journey with us to keep building and getting better. And the good news is, I think we are.
Upful LIFE: You just did your 2nd ever lespecial micro-festival, Le Getaway. What are some dope memories or reflections from that experience?
Luke: It was a special weekend for us. Being so close to where we grew up, there were a lot of friends, family and fans that have been with us for so long coming together. For me it was really special because I grew up at Club Getaway. I lived there as a kid when my mom worked there, then worked there as a camp counselor and DJ. My parents actually met there and had the first ever wedding there. I’ve always thought there was something special about that place and getting to share it with so many people was an amazing feeling. It felt like a true return to form and a full circle event to our first ever “lespeshtival” in 2011. We tried to put an emphasis more on activities and music workshops than a typical festival and it worked beautifully. I hope we can continue doing it for many years to come!
Upful LIFE: When you think of lespecial in Charlotte, or touring thru Appalachia, what comes to mind?
Luke: Our first show in Charlotte was at the Heist Brewery in 2019 and was our first show with West End Blend. They’ve now become good friends of ours and we had the pleasure of hosting them this year at Le Getaway. For our first show there we were taken aback by how into it the crowd was. We’ve had some amazing shows in Asheville over the years, and I feel like there is something special about music fans in North Carolina. They really go all in, and we’ve got some fun things planned for our return to Heist Brewery on this run.
Upful LIFE: Covers vs originals. Obviously you do an amazing Primus tribute, but you also touch on lots of other artists, from The Band to Limp Bizkit to RATM to Radiohead. Do you have a favorite cover song or band?
Luke: I think for us, as well as a lot of bands, paying homage to the music you love or inspired you is important. It’s obviously fun and keeps things exciting for us live, but it’s also a way to connect to your fans or people who haven’t heard your music before. It shows a sort of lineage or connection to why we do what we do. Sometimes your fans only want to hear your original music and I respect and appreciate that. But playing covers is a fun way to earn new fans, or provide some insight to your influence for older fans.
I used to take the school bus to Rory’s house and just learn Primus songs to cover when we were kids. Their music means a lot to all three of us, and we’ve all dedicated a lot of time to learning it. So performing it live is in some way acting out your childhood dream. I’m grateful I still feel inspired by seeing bands I love and am able to interpret it in my own way to an audience. I saw Limp Bizkit in Connecticut this year and it really was a cathartic and full circle experience. Playing “Break Stuff” live was something that needed to happen after that. And seeing hundreds of kids moshing to it at Summer Camp Music Festival was hopefully as cathartic for them as it was for me. For people who really don’t like Limp Bizkit, maybe not….
Upful LIFE: On the Primus tip- you’ve been doing a lot of stuff in that universe, from full album cover sets to multiple podcasts. Meanwhile, Primus is celebrating Rush, maybe the greatest rock trio of all time.. Do you see lespecial in that royal lineage of 3-piece rock juggernauts? What are some other trios over the years that really inspire you as a musician & collectively as a band?
Luke: There’s always been something special about a trio for us. The number three carries weight for us, maybe in some sort of symbolic or almost mystical way. We played into that numerology concept for Ancient Homies, using scales derived from sequences of 3 chromatic notes, the Homie trio of improv tracks, etc. At the end of the day I think the concept of 3 individual, equal parts becoming the sum of its whole is important to our band. A lot of our favorite bands are trios. Obviously Primus like you mentioned, Nirvana was a big early influence, Rush, Medeski Martin and Wood. I think there’s power in a trio. Plus having Jonny and myself play synths saves us van space on having a keyboardist….
Upful LIFE: Give us your Mt. Rushmore of bass players.
Luke: When you think of a Mt. Rushmore of musicians I suppose it has to be subjective. For me personally I would say:
Les Claypool – Obviously a huge influence on me and one of the reasons I play bass. But he also earns a place by being so unabashedly unique and becoming such a renowned, legendary musician all while staying so true to himself.
Jaco Pastorius – Just a truly brilliant, one of a kind mind that changed the frontier of bass playing forever. He was a big influence on me early on, and while it was never my intention to try and emulate his sound or style, I loved his fearlessness and was blown away by his skill. A star that shined too bright, he was a true gift to this world and his story has a very tragic ending.
Chris Wood – The elements of free jazz, hip hop, funk that he blended were a big influence on me, as well as the entire Medeski Martin and Wood style of improvising was on us. To go from playing Mingus style chops on an upright, to J Dilla inspired hip hop on an old Fender J Bass, to Nocturn style creepy classical riffs with a pick on a Hofner bass blew my mind as a teenager, and I’m grateful I got to see them live so many times.
Tony Levin – There are a few bassists I could give the fourth spot to, and I may be biased because I had the pleasure of seeing King Crimson live this year, but I have to give it to the great Tony Levin. He’s still playing with impeccable skill and tone in his 70’s, and the band sounds as tight and brilliant as ever. Without Discipline, we may not have Primus or Tool and Tony’s fretless playing is a huge part of that album and the 80’s King Crimson lineup’s sound. Plus, “Thela Hun Ginjeet.”
Upful LIFE:- Such a sick song! Heard the Frog Brigade do “Thela” with Eenor, Skerik, Mike Dillon back in 2000 & that shit changed my life. What’s in the pipeline for lespecial moving forward in 2022, at least whatever you are comfortable sharing/teasing etc
Luke: We’re excited to continue our Fall RepeaTOUR, and for the Southeast>Mid-Atlantic leg coming up following Hulaween. It’s been amazing performing the music from Ancient Homies for live audiences, but we’ve also been playing a lot of new music we’ve been writing, and it’s fun to see audiences respond to that and how it in turn affects how we continue writing it. We’re starting to put together the pieces for our next album, and I can say confidently that it will be another step forward in this sonic stew we’ve been concocting for most of our lives now.
Upful LIFE: Thanks so much, Luke! T-minus HULA then boom! Charlotte at Heist Brewery. See ya there!
Luke: Thanks B!
-As told to B.Getz