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Louis XIV - Kings of Rock'n'Roll

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Friday, 7 March 2008
Louis XIV were responsible for one of 2005’s highlights, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, which cemented their status as old romantic rock’n’roll icons. And this year they’re back to do it all again. 3D’s Carlisle Rogers talks sex with strings with the former kings of France (not really).

A lot of adjectives have been thrown in the general direction of Louis XIV, many of them trying to describe the band’s musical leanings, some of them the band’s political bent. These include things like post-punk and garage, chauvinist, racist, etc. What’s interesting is that one listen to their new LP, Slick Dogs and Ponies, and all of that is dispelled.

What arises from the mire of hearsay and innuendo is a band that manages to fuse neo-classicism with indie, humour with vitriol, and fun with rock’n’roll. And let’s face it, rock has been far too serious lately. Gone are the halcyon days when David Lee Roth had nothing but himself in spandex and hot girls running around the stage. All the fun has been left to hip hop these days. Hip hop was never supposed to be about girls and bling and drugs, but rock’n’roll was. If rock’n’roll had four elements, they would be girls, bling, drugs and volume.

So, in a sense, they aren’t post-punk, or neo-classical at all; Louis XIV is just a rock’n’roll band. It’s just hard to recognise after so many years of slumber.

“I don’t know where people get these ideas,” songwriter and producer Jason Hill says. “Somebody told me to go on Wikipedia, which to be honest I had never been on before, and I was reading what it said about us. I was like ‘really, that’s not exactly accurate’ because I wouldn’t consider our music American garage or garage rock, especially on this record since there are lots of classical elements. There are strings on everything in a very sophisticated manner and that we didn’t do in a garage.

“I’ve always had a fascination with the strings and obviously you can tell by how often we use them throughout the album. We came off of tour a couple years ago supporting the last record and there were strings on that last record, but not to the extent that there are on this new one. We got off the road in that four-piece mentality of two guitars, a bass and some drums and we were bored with it. We did that for two years and just got sick of it and needed a new instrument to write for and cellos, violins and violas seemed like more fun. We also tried to approach it in a similar way to the guitar and from the standpoint of the outsider in terms of arrangements. Now I just absolutely love writing string arrangements.”

The reason the band has been the subject of those aforementioned negative adjectives has a lot to do with their unabashed rock’n’roll-ism. Take the video for the band’s Your Shoes are the Star of the Show track off a recent EP, The Distances from Everyone to You: it is straight out of the ’80s, kind of a Hot for Teacher for Generation Y. Of course that’s going to land you in hot water in a place like America, where the conservative Christian Right wields so much power now. But it is not rock’n’roll’s job to capitulate, but to aggravate.

Jason says the EP was essentially a stopgap between albums.

“Yes, that was a collection of b-sides. The record was supposed to be released in America in August, but there were timing issues because it wasn’t a good time for the record company to promote the record, so it got pushed back until January,’ he says. “In the meantime, we had all these songs we recorded which is all we ever do because we have our own studio and I produce and engineer everything, so we are always creating something and wanted to put out some of the songs. We wanted them to see the light of day so we thought we’d release an EP and literally it was a matter of me going down to the studio and throwing together some mixes. We did Flash as a dare not knowing that the guy who was daring us to do it was for some TV show. The TV show ended up being horrible and we wouldn’t have done it if we had known it was for a TV show.

“Your Shoes are the Star of the Show was just a very basic song with not much to it. It was a bit of a joke because I bought these shoes, when I was down in Mexico, for Brian, these alligator skin high-heel shoes and he walked into the studio one day and I made the comment ‘hey your shoes are the star of the show.’ I wrote a quick little bullshit song about it and it was one of the many songs we did over the course of the year in the studio.”

Working on a new track now that’s headed in an entirely different direction, Hill says he’s toying with more electronic methods.

“I produced this band and got them a deal with Atlantic Records using the demo, but I was busy so I couldn’t finish the record,” he says. “The ended up doing the record with somebody else, but liked the original stuff I did with them, so they asked me to do a remix of a song. Naturally, I had a few days off and I was itching to record, so I added enormous string sections to it. I’m sort of working on a dance record in a way, but dance in the way of Grease or something you would hear on an old Barry White record. It’s pretty bad-ass and I even re-wrote the chorus. The only drag is that I’m on a bad sleeping schedule because I’ve been working on this thing and making myself sick in the process.

“We tour with a strings section, they are basically part of the band now, and it was six in the morning the other morning and they finally blew up at me. I ask a lot of the people around me and I don’t even think about it because we are making music. But I just try to get a couple of good bottles of wine and have fun writing stuff.”

WHO: Louis XIV
WHAT: Slick Dogs and Ponies through Atlantic/Warner
WHEN: Out now