Fast Leiser of Fun Lovin' Criminals

by Carl Wiser

The Fun Lovin' Criminals founder with the stories behind some of their biggest songs and wildest adventures.

Fun Lovin' Criminals L-R: Naim Cortazzi, Brian "Fast" Leiser, Frank Benbini

The Fun Lovin' Criminals are criminally underappreciated in America, where they're best known for "Scooby Snacks," a song about robbing banks on Valium. Formed in New York City, they draw more from Tarantino and Scorsese than from Lennon and McCartney, telling stories that could serve as screenplays. Many of their songs are set in the City and deal with wiseguys of various flavors. You would think they'd claim their home turf as a stronghold, but their fanbase materialized in Europe, where they remain a big draw, especially in the UK and Ireland (U2 enlisted them as an opening act on their 1997 Popmart tour; Echo & the Bunnymen had them play on their 1999 What Are You Going To Do With Your Life? album).

The band formed in 1993 when Brian "Fast" Leiser and ex-Marine Huey Morgan1 ended up working together at a club called The Limelight, a New York City hotspot. Huey was the frontman/lyricist; Fast the beatmaker/sampler/keyboard guy/trumpet player/bassist. Fast's tracks were laced with hip-hop beats and dialogue from movie clips ("Scooby Snacks" pulls from Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs), but with live instruments forming the foundation. Huey came up with a rap-singing style that served these story songs and meshed with the tracks. Their 1996 debut album, Come Find Yourself, includes "Scooby Snacks" and the band's manifesto, "The Fun Lovin' Criminal." They released five more albums from 1997-2010, landing a dozen chart hits in the UK.

In 2021, Morgan left the band, and with no other suit-wearing, swaggering, street-smart frontman in the wings, Leiser took over as lead singer, with Naim Cortazzi joining on guitar (Frank Benbini has been their drummer since 2003). This lineup released their first music, an EP called The Roosevelt Sessions, in October.

Fast has been living in London for over 15 years now. In November he returns to America with FLC for a tour with stops in some cities they haven't played since the '90s. He's told the "Scooby Snacks" story before, which you can read in the Songfacts entry, so in this interview we focus on other songs in their catalog as well as some key moments on their journey, like when they starred in a Miller beer commercial that somebody didn't think through. We also uncover some "Fast Facts" (we couldn't resist) that involve Harrison Ford, Christina Applegate, and a lady named Saffron.
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): Where did you grow up?

Fast Leiser: My dad was an IBM guy and a Navy guy, so I moved every five years until I was about 10, when we moved to Chappaqua. Then in the late '80s my parents moved to Florida and that's when I moved to Brooklyn. So I was always in the City from a young age, 11, 12 years old, because you can get on the Metro North and be in Manhattan in 45 minutes. I was always out record shopping and stuff. I do miss it. We're very excited to be doing a tour in the States.

Songfacts: Did you go to college?

Fast: I went to Syracuse, but I learned more off-campus than I did on campus. I went for the music school on a trumpet scholarship but I got really into electronic music and samplers. I had a sampling keyboard and I spent all my time at my friends' houses with their samplers and synthesizers instead of going to school.

We would drive down from Syracuse to New York to see bands play. Industrial and alternative and dance bands, everything from Ministry, to Nitzer Ebb to Nine Inch Nails, and then we'd drive back. To think of doing those four-to-five-hour drives just to see a concert, that's dedication.

So my education was at night instead of the day, and that didn't last long - about three semesters and then they asked me to leave Syracuse. I would have been class of '94. That's when I moved into New York City and started working at all of Peter Gatien's clubs like Limelight, Palladium, Tunnel, USA. I was like 18 when I did that.

Songfacts: Your origin story has you at the Limelight club where you form the band.

Fast: Yeah. I was in a techno group called Moses On Acid, which was our little techno-house group that we started in Syracuse. We had a cult following playing shows. Then I met this English promoter named Neville Wells, who was promoting an alternative-industrial night on Tuesdays. He introduced me to Huey, who was a bartender there, and said, [assumes British accent] "You guys should do music together."

We hit it off right away and wrote most of our first record in the first few weeks of us just messing around with his stack of CDs and my sampler and all my little beats, which were breakbeats for house and techno music. Huey said, "Slow those beats down to like 96 BPMs instead of 130."

We got lucky with this sound we were messing with, and everything else for 30 years has been a real education.

Songfacts: At some point you hit on the song "The Fun Lovin' Criminal," which forms the whole concept of the band. Can you talk about that?

Fast: The name is from a graffiti crew in New York that was known to be one of the few multicultural graffiti crews. There were a lot of influences from different types of art coming in to this graffiti crew, and we felt our music kind of matched it. And when we were writing songs, we felt like we needed to have a theme song like The Monkees had theirs. So ours was "The Fun Lovin' Criminal," which is a very tongue-in-cheek story about big-upping ourselves, and it really does explain a lot of our origins and what we were feeling at that time in our early 20s living in New York City.

It was the song that for us was our breaking away from limitations in music. The band I was in was doing one type of music: house music. And Huey's band was more of a blues-rock thing. We felt with FLC we could mix hip-hop with rock and you could mix jazz with low-fi beats and you could mix Latin with reggae. There are similar middle points there. Hip-hop was our middle point, with me coming from an electronic side and Huey coming from more blues. "The Fun Lovin' Criminal" was the perfect mix. You got these country slapstick guitars, and you've got trumpet in it, so it was all these influences and inspirations, which is what New York City meant to us.

When we wrote that song, it became pretty obvious that it was going to be our Monkees theme. It was the second song we ever did. The first was "The Grave And The Constant."

We write the beats and all that, and then we figure out what type of song it is. "The Grave And The Constant" is a political take on Huey's time in the Marines and growing up. So the style of the music and the way it makes us feel will determine what type of song it is. The track "The Fun Lovin' Criminal" is an obvious party song and it's the song we always start our shows with.

Songfacts: What kind of sampler/sequencer were you using back in the day?

Fast: Back in the day it was an Ensoniq EPS 16 Plus. I had to work extra shifts at the Limelight for like two months just to be able to afford that extra 20 megabytes of memory. The sampler only held 22 seconds, which at the time felt limited, but looking back on it now using laptops with unlimited memory, nah. When you're limited, you only come up with quality shit.

With that sampler, you could lower the sample rate and then you'd have two minutes but your sample sounded awful, which worked for many sounds. I still do that when I'm messing with stuff: I lower the sample bit rates just to get a different kind of sound. That's what I loved about samplers growing up and still do to this day.

In our new music there's lots of chops and slices. That's what I always admired about producers that actually chopped up samples, like DJ Newmark or Cut Chemist, Shadow. Those DJs were ones I really looked to. Even the guys in Massive Attack and Portishead, the way they were chopping up loops. DJ Premier in the hip-hop world is one of the best - he's the true leader of it all.

To be able to flip a bit of music and make it your own is a pretty rare skill these days. A lot of people just drop in bars and beats, I always like chopping stuff up. It feels like you're adding something to the art as opposed to just ripping off someone else.

Songfacts: Quentin Tarantino famously took something like 37% of "Scooby Snacks,"2 but besides that, did you ever run into problems clearing the samples?

Fast: Yeah, from the start we ran into problems. Once we met the sample people [record company lawyers] the first thing they told us was, "Don't sample."

Our original demos, every song had three, four different movie samples in it because the whole time we were writing and building up these bits of music and writing the songs for Come Find Yourself, we were also watching LaserDiscs.3 We were always watching True Romance, Reservoir Dogs, Goodfellas, but even some sci-fi stuff. We were watching Blade Runner and Star Wars and anything that was really good on LaserDisc. And we were biting dialogue from all these movies.

The sample people told us we could not use dialogue from movies because you have to clear it with the script writer, the movie studio, the director, the producers, the guy who says it. But when you're sampling audio, you really only have to clear it with the publisher and whoever is the songwriter. In a lot of cases, especially older music, you'd be surprised how little popular artists are really involved in that side of things.

We had to write letters to widows to say what their husbands' music meant to us and can we please sample his guitar? "Free Bird" is a famous one where we sampled the vocal going, "Lord, I can't change," for our song "Bombin' The L." We actually had to write a letter to the widow and she let us use it. But then other people were like, "No way." Like Phil Collins. He asked for the lyrics of the song, we sent them to him, and he personally didn't like it so he said no. So you change a little bit about it and then it's not a sample anymore.

We were learning the skills of not only sampling and clearing samples, the business side - which sucks - but also learning to replay samples with instruments, because obviously we do play instruments as well.

Songfacts: So you wrote a letter to Ronnie Van Zant's widow that got you the clearance for "Free Bird"?

Fast: Yes. Huey wrote a really nice letter. He explained why we were using the sample in the song and the meaning of it, and she was totally cool with it.

A lot of people have been cool with it, some people haven't been, which I can understand. But I think Sting taught everybody, yeah, who gives a fuck? Let them sample your music. You get like 50% of their publishing on it, and you put another kid through college, like he did with Puff Daddy's track.

Songfacts: Jimmy Page did too. He let Puff Daddy use "Kashmir."

Fast: Right? Go for it. It's helping him, and it introduces new people to your music. You know, I had to educate my daughter, who's 11, on The Police and Steely Dan. And it's not that she doesn't like it, she loves it. But how is she gonna hear that without someone telling her? She's not going to listen to a '70s or '80s station, she's listening to Dua Lipa. But if you ask her favorite five artists, Steely Dan, The Police and Bob Marley will be three of those.

Songfacts: A few Fun Lovin' Criminals songs I want to talk about. Let's start with the song "Loco," which I found out is absolutely enormous in Europe.

Fast: That was our highest chart position, but you know what helped that? It was in a beer commercial for Miller.

They wanted to shoot the commercial but there was a strike in the States so we couldn't do it in New York, so we found a bridge that looks like New York in both Toronto and Sydney, Australia. We said, "Yeah, we'll go to Sydney, all expenses paid."

The problem with that commercial, it was supposed to be a global campaign but they didn't put too much thought into it. There's a traffic jam, we're on the way to a show, we can't go anywhere because of the traffic jam, so we decide to do the show right there in the traffic jam. We set up our instruments, we're playing, everyone gets out, starts drinking beer, having a good time. Well, what happens when the traffic clears? Everyone is wasted and driving drunk?

So they only aired it in parts of Europe, including England, for a very short period of time. But it is on our YouTube channel.

It's a fun song. While we were there we did the music video for "Loco" on a boat. This is late '90s, early 2000s when Puffy, Bad Boy - so funny that he secretly inspired us - he was putting out his videos for Biggie, like "Hypnotize," which is on the boat in Miami. We were doing our stripped-down-budget version of that, not on a big yacht, but a yacht. And they're not the best-looking strippers in the world, but they did their purpose.

So we did our video like that, but I think our fans always knew we did it with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. We were on a budget, and basically, Miller paid for that video.

Songfacts: The song "Smoke 'Em" is kind of funny because it's got these very American references like Don Shula, Phil Esposito. But the song is huge overseas.

Fast: That what's really funny about Fun Lovin' Criminals music in general. Europe was much more open to hearing these stories and having to figure out what they mean. We'd come overseas and live these somewhat rock star lives and then come back to New York where everyone's like, "Yeah, no one gives a fuck about you here."

But then again, we toured with U2 across America. Our only real proper tour was with U2. The problem with that is, you play for a huge amount of Irish Americans, which are some of the best, most loyal people in the world, and then we never went back to those towns to play. We'd always travel over to Europe because they were much more willing to offer us decent money for shows and big festivals, which they never really had at the time in America apart from Lollapalooza.

We ended up doing so much work overseas that the offers dried up in the States. We've never had any regrets about that, but that's why we're looking forward to this tour in November to get out and show people. The same thing we're doing now is what we've been doing for 30 years, just unfortunately we haven't done it with you guys, so we apologize. We don't regret it, but we're trying to make up for it by going out touring now.

Songfacts: Did you tour with Oasis at one point?

Fast: We did one show with them in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom. It was fun doing a show with those guys.

Fast Facts

1) Fast dated Saffron, lead singer of Republica.

Saffron is great. She's super influential because she was the singer in a house-techno band called N-Joi before she was in Republica. As far as a cult band, N-Joi was just so cool. Such a great live band. She would dance around and do her stuff, and that's when I got interested in her musically. Then we started touring in the early days of FLC with Republica, and I didn't put two and two together until I realized she was the Saffron from N-Joi. Then it was love at first sight.

We had a good few years together. I don't regret any of that. I will always respect her for what she's done and how she inspired me musically, getting into synthesizers and stuff.


2) Fast was in a bad movie with Christina Applegate.

My techno group, Moses On Acid, was in a movie with Christina Applegate and James Marshall. It was called originally called Cyberstorm, now called Vibrations, and it's online somewhere. It's about a keyboardist in a band who through a horrible accident, through bullying, which is bad, loses his hands and then learns to play keyboards in a techno band with these robotic hands. He turns homeless, loses all his friends because he lost his hands, and he falls asleep in a warehouse in Brooklyn, the only place he can live. He wakes up and there's a rave going on, and Moses On Acid are the band at the rave.

It's a song that we never could release because it was at the same time we got a record deal for FLC and I had to choose which band, the band I was in for five, six years, or this brand-new band FLC. I went with FLC because that was a major label.

But that song is out there and Christina Applegate is the raver girl who befriends the guy. Little-known movie, not a good movie, but I'm in it with my head shaved.


3) Fast made Easter Eggs with Harrison Ford and sparked one up in his bathroom.

In the late '90s, my little FLC crew in New York, I didn't know this, but a friend's friend's girlfriend's aunt was good friends with none other than Harrison Ford. Now, the big joke all through the years was that I was such a big Star Wars fan, because I was a bit geeky. On tour, I might have brought a few action figures with me, maybe even a Dagobah playset with my Yoda. And I might have set it up in the hotels and stuff. A bit geeky, not really rock and roll, but that was my thing... I'm a keyboard player.

I met people along the way who were also huge fans. The bass player in the band Ash, he brought his Star Wars figures along. So when we'd be on these tours and playing big festivals, we'd all get together with our Star Wars toys. It was great.

So all my friends know I love Star Wars. One night, my friend says, "We're going to my nephew's birthday party on the Upper West Side." So we go there, we go in this private elevator. The elevator opens and it's Harrison Ford's house. There's Harrison Ford.

Everyone's laughing because they met him a couple times. I never did. There I am shaking like a child. The worst part about it - Harrison probably wouldn't like this part of the story - my friend who's been there smokes weed. He was in a band with John McEnroe, the tennis star, another amazing, cool, dude like Harrison Ford. But my friend said, "We need to smoke a joint. Go ask Harrison if we can smoke in his bathroom."

All the kids are on another floor having their party so all the parents are downstairs, and there's Harrison on a little chair with a little plastic plate in his lap, and I have to go ask him if we could smoke a joint. He looks at me and says, "Yeah, go in the bathroom."

I was like, "Wow, I'm a prick for asking Harrison Ford that." But there we are blazing in his bathroom.

Three, four months later, we went out to Jann Wenner's house - the Rolling Stone guy - because this friend of a friend, his girlfriend was all-in with them, was like family with all of them, and it was around Easter. There's Harrison Ford painting Easter eggs by himself. He's like, "Does anyone want to paint Easter eggs with me?" I was like, "Yeah, I'm in." So I actually got to sit and paint Easter eggs with Harrison Ford.

Harrison Ford, down-to-earth and such a cool dude. Pot smoker. I'm not a name dropper, but whenever someone asks if I've met someone famous, I say, "Yeah, I painted Easter eggs with Harrison Ford." It was so surreal yet so normal. We didn't talk about Indiana Jones or Jack Ryan or Han Solo or anything. We talked about colors, how you can mix colors to make different colors, because we were painting Easter eggs for the kids to find.
Songfacts: Fast, I'm going to name a few song titles, just tell me your thoughts on each song. Let's start with "Love Unlimited."

Fast: Real good vibes with that song because that was at a time when we had just finished touring and promoting Come Find Yourself, so it was really the first moment we had to look back on the previous two years and go, "Wow, we just did so much in such a short period of time with this dream of ours. Now we've got to start writing more songs."

It was all about the love we have for the people that were helping us along the way and supporting us. We never really had that from our intimate families.

So, what kind of story can we make up about that? Well, let's talk about Barry White. Barry White is the Walrus Of Love, an amazing songwriter. He's got such a legacy of music that's timeless production-wise, and he plays all these instruments. He's not just this big singer dude, he's someone like Prince who encapsulates what you can do in music and the love you can show people.

The biggest blessing with "Love Unlimited," Barry White did an autobiography, and towards the end of it he talks about people that have covered his songs and how he's honored that people have covered his music. Then there's a whole paragraph about how one of the best kind of covers he heard is by this New York band, Fun Lovin' Criminals, called "Love Unlimited," talking about how Barry White will save your life. He said something like, "It's a killer groove and my hat's off to you guys." He wrote a whole section about us, then he died like six months later.

Songfacts: Is the song a cover?

Fast: No, it's not a cover. I think he meant it was an homage to him. It's a song we produced with the string sound in it like Barry White would do with his Love Unlimited Orchestra.

That whole second album, 100% Colombian, was us honing our production skills, keeping the formula the same with the rough edges but at the same time getting access to better string sounds and better guitar, drum sounds. How would Steely Dan get their drum sounds, you know? And that was when we really had fun in the studio with Tim Latham, our engineer for everything we've ever done.

Life is all about learning, so if we're in a studio and someone else is paying for it for a month or two, let's learn how all this stuff works.

Songfacts: Moving to The Roosevelt Sessions, "Unfinished Business."

Fast: In the past year, the band has gone through a lot of changes with a major lineup change and me being the singer now. And it was like, how are we gonna do new music? Well, we'll do new music the same way we did before, it's just we're going to write lyrics.

One of the things we always admired about Huey with his lyric writing was telling these stories, which is harder to do when you don't live in New York anymore. But we have a whole wealth of experience growing up and living in the '80s and '90s in New York, which were two great decades to live in and around New York City.

"Unfinished Business" was one where it was like, alright, we need to put something out. We can't let people think, what is going on with the band? We want to get music out as soon as possible. We want to go perform it for people everywhere we can. That's a bit easier to do now, with all respect to Huey for quitting the band. Frank and I, we just want to write and record music.

So that song being the first one on the EP, was asking, what is it we love about our band? It's telling these stories. The first part of it is the story about Donnie Brasco, really. It's about being true to yourself and not taking any cheap shortcuts that will end up screwing someone over. Being genuine is something this band has always done, and "Unfinished Business" relates to how we've still got a lot to offer the fans of the band.

We're not in our 20s anymore running around all whacked off Scooby Snacks, but we still have a love for the music we created and we still have a vault of unreleased beats that we're working on. These four [on the EP] aren't even our number one choices. We're not saying that arrogantly, it's just that these four seemed to make the most sense to put out now as an EP. They have that smoky, dark alley, retro New York vibe to them, a noir vibe. We put it together really quickly.

The first verse of "Unfinished Business" is kind of the story of Johnny Depp in the Donnie Brasco film, how Al Pacino's character gets whacked for bringing him into the family. It was basically, be true to your friends and your family in that Mafia sense or else you'll get whacked. Obviously, we're not gonna be whacking anyone, but this is a little gangster operation. We're not breaking any laws, we're fun lovin' criminals. But at the same time, there are rules when it comes to how we write our music, produce our music, perform it. We need to be proud of what we're doing, and that's what it means. It's kind of that Cosa Nostra for musicians.

Songfacts: "The King Of New York."

Fast: Yeah, that's John Gotti. In the '90s, Gotti was still running things. Cars were still blowing up, people getting hit outside of Sparks Steak House. We were working at the Limelight and it was crazy to witness all the stuff, but it was such a wealth of influence and inspiration for writing stories.

So why not write a story about some crazy guy who looks up to John Gotti and wants to break him out of jail? Working at the Limelight, there were all these different people from all different parts of New York with different heritage, especially Italian Americans. We heard them talk about these gangster movies, Goodfellas and stuff, and they'd kind of reenact them. We were getting these movies in front of us working at the club and working with these people. Some good things and bad things, some crazy things, but no shortage of inspiration.

A lot of people say, "But John Gotti was an evil person." Listen, we're not getting involved with the politics. We're musicians who are writing little stories. It's a similar thing with Tarantino if you think he needs to be responsible for the stories he's telling when he's not saying these are true stories. That's our philosophy too. We're not interested in spouting off on politics, especially nowadays. We're here to provide an escape from all that, something to unwind and not worry about your problems.

Songfacts: I watch a gangster movie like Goodfellas and I cheer for Henry Hill even though he's really a bad guy. I find myself wanting these guys to succeed even though they're criminals.

Fast: Yeah, and there's nothing wrong with that. If you're watching that Dahmer thing and wishing he succeeded, maybe you've got some issues, but if something's being promoted for entertainment, whether it's dark and twisted or something else, you're welcome to believe whatever you want to believe. Same thing with kids playing video games like Grand Theft Auto.

And remember, in Goodfellas, a lot of them end up dead.

Songfacts: Another song set in a club is "Bump." Can you talk about that?

Fast: Sunday nights at Club USA was a gay night called "Marc Berkley's Bump."4 Huey and I were always working there and they were just the nicest people. Some shit would go down on, say, Sunday nights at the Tunnel as opposed to Sunday nights at Club USA.

So that is a direct song about us working in these nightclubs. Peter Gatien and his clubs were a huge inspiration for us with our music. These are clubs where you'd hear all different types of music in one night, something you don't really get nowadays.

We're playing that in our set now - we haven't played it for about 10 years. There's a lot of songs that are in our set now that fans of the band haven't heard for a long time.

We actually did a remix of "Bump" called "Mark Berkley's Remix" even though he had nothing to do with it. But it's a house version of "Bump" with a sample from Shriekback.

"Bump" is going back to the Loco days, like 2000. It's a great album and we had so much fun. We went out to Hawaii for like a month. We were supposed to be working on that album but we didn't. We ended up writing the album Mimosa and just partying in Maui. Who wouldn't?

Songfacts: The song off Roosevelt Sessions, "Shake It Loose."

Fast: Our friends heard it and thought we wrote that song about Huey. Nah. Over the past few years, everybody has gone through some sort of shit with what's going on in the world, and for us, that song is more about how it affected our mental health. You look for the good in everything, but how can you do that with what's been going on the past few years? You just have to shake it loose, shake that monkey off your back.

It's really important to keep moving forward, otherwise what's the point? So that song for us was was a big, cathartic release of all this tension. We can understand why people think it's directly related to Huey, and that makes sense, but it's not just him. It's for other people dealing with any sort of mental issues, whether it's themselves or dealing with someone else, whether it's substance abuse, or anxiety or depression. The whole point is that we're supposed to be one human family. There's always a wealth of information and resources there to help people through any problems, so that's just our version of it. We put it in a song.

Songfacts: When you're playing live, what's one of the songs that really connects with the audience?

Fast: Obviously "Scooby Snacks" is a big one. "Fun Lovin' Criminal," a lot of the old ones for the fans. But the Barry White one's a big one because you can feel the love when that song's being played. I think the crowd can see that.

There's an element of surprise. People might remember our band but not be a fan, but they'll come to a show and go, "That was actually quite cool." Because there's never going to be a festival or show where the band on before us or after us is going to be the same type of band. There's something special about being in this band, and it's the reason Frank and I are willing to deal with the consequences of Huey leaving and keep pushing forward with playing this music for as many people as we can.

Songfacts: Is there a song we haven't talked about yet that is important to you?

Fast: There are so many. Some people like to say, "My songs are like my children, I can't pick a favorite." Well, if I had 60 kids, there's going to be a few I like more than the others.

The track "Up On The Hill," which is the first track on 100% Colombian, I can't find a flaw in that song from a personal standpoint. The way the beats produce, the way the keyboards all sit in there, the fact that it's got Sade's sax player Stuart Matthewman on it, the drums, the lyrics are cool. To me that's a perfect FLC song.

But also there's songs like "Mi Corazon" off the Livin' In The City record which remind me of great times we've had in the band when everyone was gelling. That song was done in like 2005 when we went to Miami.

We've learned over our 30-year history to do the things we want to do, not have any regrets if we don't make money. Let's try not to have too many lawsuits, because God knows we've had enough of those, and let's just try to have fun. The whole point is to have fun, which is what Frank, myself, and our new guitarist Naim are definitely doing now. We're playing in smaller places. Yeah, we're making less money, but we're having more fun than we've had in 10 years. We're releasing EPs and we're playing all the songs that we want to play.

I personally love on the EP the track "Village Groove" simply because it's the first song I recorded with Frank in the studio with my voice. Typically, if you're in a band for 30 years, you don't want to be the singer, and now all of the sudden it just seemed to make the most sense. Who's going to sing? We're not going to get some other singer. It has to be me.

So when Frank was like, "You're gonna have to sing on the new songs," I was like, "Eww." But Frank being a singer himself was very awesome in the studio helping basically produce how I sing. The first thing he said was, "Do it quietly. You're on a microphone. You can go up to the mic and your voice sounds so much cooler."

So that track "Village Groove" I like because I'm singing it. We had a good friend of ours named James Maddock, a great singer-songwriter from Leicester who lives in New York, help us write the lyrics for it, which helped jumpstart us. We're already working on our next EP. It takes too long to do an album, but we can get an EP done in a month or two.

Songfacts: You haven't lived in the Village for a while, so maybe it was good to have somebody there helping you with the lyrics.

Fast: A little bit, but the song is about making ends meet, making bones. It was great to write lyrics about New York. We're talking about the experiences when we were growing up. Now we're in our 40s and 50s looking back on half our lives and the nostalgia takes us back to the '80s and '90s. What a great two decades it was for us living in New York City.

Songfacts: You said you had lawsuits?

Fast: What band doesn't? If you're going to be in the business for 30 years, you're either going to have someone having a drug overdose and dying - which thank God we haven't - or you're going to have lawsuits.

So we've had lawsuits with ex-managers, with ex-drummers, with different promoters for different weird reasons. The point is, we got through all of it. We definitely learned the only ones who win are the lawyers, and you really hope it doesn't happen again.

It's easy to be in a band and just release stuff yourself, do some local shows - you're all good. But if you want to try to make a living out of it, you gotta learn the business side, and that was the thing that interested me most, especially at Syracuse. The only class I liked in the music school was the music industry and theory class, because I was learning more about the business and how scandalous it is. The problem was, that class was at like 7:10 in the morning, so after like two months of it, I was like, fuck this.

October 27, 2022

Get tour dates and The Roosevelt Sessions at funlovincriminals.co

Further Reading:
"Cotton Eye Joe" and the Rednex Story
Songs inspired by movies
Bettye LaVette
Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup
Gene Simmons of Kiss

Footnotes:

  • 1] Early on, Fast and Huey didn't divulge their last names, something you could get away with in the '90s before the internet told their secrets. This was a time when Jack and Meg White of The White Stripes were claiming to be brother and sister when they were actually a divorced couple. (back)
  • 2] Tarantino also claimed a songwriting credit on "Scooby Snacks," which Huey didn't appreciate. He made the case that Tarantino was constantly borrowing from other movies just as FLC borrowed from him, but Tarantino never gave the directors he homaged a cut. (back)
  • 3] LaserDisc was a transitional format from VHS to DVD. The discs were the size of vinyl albums, and like albums, you had to flip them over halfway through. At the time, it looked like they might be the next big thing. Devo thought so - they made their early music videos figuring they'd be huge on LaserDisc. (back)
  • 4] Marc Berkley was a promoter who organized various gay nights at Peter Gatien's clubs. (back)

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