Before moving from Seattle to Brooklyn 14 years ago, Love as Laughter's Sam Jayne had a rehearsal space at the Institution on Western Avenue between Vine and Cedar. It was one of the larger rooms, a grimy den up a small flight of stairs. Jayne was constantly recording and throwing Keith Richards–infused ideas down on a digital eight-track. He hatched ragtag rock and pop jalopies through the years, building up his own lo-fi touch. Like his guitar playing, Jayne's vocals somehow come off sounding lazy and sharp at the same time. However hiss-filled and nonchalantly put together the songs may be, they always seem to turn over with wit and vim. After two decades, Jayne has put out six Love as Laughter albums, two on Sup Pop, and he's seen time playing in Lync. Before heading this way for a run of Northwest shows, Jayne spoke from a Brooklyn nook.
How are you? What are you doing?
I'm going to start with I'm good, I think? These days, I'm either at home working or at work working, mostly. It's mostly all music-related, and I got one of the best bartending gigs in Brooklyn. Zeke Howard and I are the "joint chiefs" of the label/media company we are starting called Tracks of Quality, which, so far, makes records, tapes, and merch for Lync, Love as Laughter, and Lonnie Winn. In the future, we'll be branching out a little in other media with the focus on music.
What's the weirdest place you've ever played? You ever played on a pirate ship?
In Paris, yes, I played on a pirate ship. After a while, ending up at a crappy club isn't weird anymore. I just played in a mansion built in the 1800s on mothafuckin' 14th Street in Manhattan. Now it's this super-exclusive private club that's a historical landmark. Carrie Bradshaw used to live in the basement. You know, Ferris Bueller's wife. All the floors are themed, and it's pretty wild.
Have you ever passed out in the middle of a show?
Lync did a show in a barn in Bellingham one time, and the kids who put on the show made the barn like a real venue with a stage. Not only did we get to the show in this fucking awesome three-on-the-tree Econoline, but somewhere in the middle of our set, James stopped playing bass. I didn't notice for, like, a full minute. Dave was still playing, so I finally looked over, and James was inside a hole in the stage, which he had created by jumping in the air all Ray Cappo style and straight crashing through the stage and knocking himself out. Then he crawled out and kept playing.
You've been doing Love as Laughter for 20 years? What's changed about LAL in that time?
Band members, the world, you, me, vans—the vehicle, not the shoe. Seriously, though, it's a super-long time for what started as an obsessive cassette tape project.
What hasn't changed?
Well, guitars operate the same way, which is cool. You don't have to get a system upgrade every few days or get more buttons or something. Amps are still loud [laughs]. People still seem to like music and partying, although I don't even know how since they banned Sparks.
LAL has had some different lineups. Have there been any nasty member changes? Like, you had a bass player for a while who thought he was Spock from Star Trek? And he tried to be utilitarian like Spock, but he wasn't utilitarian at all, and then he showed up at rehearsal in a complete Star Trek outfit and attacked you with a pillowcase full of razor blades? Unfortunately, you had to let him go.
I'm going to ignore that bait [laughs]. To me, I see different groups of friends of mine and how we got along, or didn't, both musically and in the weird fucking situations that being a musician can put you in. And, to be honest, the situations that I tricked them into. The current lineup is myself, Sonia Manalili on bass, and Lee Hinshaw on drums. Neither of them thinks they're Spock. We lost our keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist and best bro Miguel Mendez because he is a fantastic chef, and apparently that is more of a "career" than being in Love as Laughter. I think we both know that he is incredibly wrong. He's never going to read this because he is too damn busy opening awesome restaurants. Forcibly going back to a three-piece, though, is one of the best things that's ever happened.
You're skilled at recording in the lo-fi sphere. How do you make lo-fi sing? What's the trick?
I've always been looking for different ways to cheaply and simply record; I'm not sure if it sounds good, but that's not the point. I like music with jagged edges, slips, and faults, because I don't want to hear a machine making music. I want to hear humans making music. So as a human making music, I want people to hear that. It will always be assisted by technology, but I try not to let that control whatever sound comes out of what are sometimes very personal recordings that I'd like to still be perceived as personal after all the manipulation.
How's Brooklyn? What's the latest trend?
Latest trend is hats, for sure. People love hats! Can't get enough. Also a big trend is hit-and-runs. Everyone's fucking crippled now, thanks. There are anti-graffiti robots, which are fucking sick because they clear the way for more graffiti!
Do you have any hidden spots that you go to in New York, to get away from all the people?
Get away from people? I don't even understand that. If I want to get away from people, I just go to Citi Field to see the New York Mets. There's never anyone there [laughs]. My friend Billy came up with a good one: "How come the Mets wear those camouflage uniforms for troop-appreciation day? It's not like anyone is going to see them anyway." Boom. I'm not telling you any place I like to go. You can make fun of me all you want, but any other New Yorker would do the same. As much as I fought this, I've lived here for 14 years now, so I got adopted. Go to the museum, or go wait in line at that place you read about in Time Out. I'm not telling you shit. I've been trying to get to the beach, reach the beach, and other than that I just go where I think my friends might be. It's hard to spend time with the people you actually care about here when everybody's busy. Thank dogs I have a life involving music that brings people together.
What things about Seattle do you miss? Developers have torn down a ton of places you probably used to go to.
I miss the Northwest and Seattle all the time. It's gorgeous. Most of my immediate family is there and on Bainbridge Island. All that "development" stuff has been happening for a long time. It's what happens when you give an open invitation to developers and keep no aesthetic dear to you for your city, or your town, your block, your classroom, your ice cream stand, whatever. Same thing here—total free-for-all rampage making the slums of the future. This happens in Brooklyn, Queens, and so on, because there's little or no zoning and people just see money coming in and think it's good for everyone. It's not. It's temporary and scammy. Current slumlords, like mine, think the invasion and price gouge for the newly created shit boxes directly influences their practices and rent increases. It doesn't, they're just robbing people temporarily. If New York can support all these people in the future, I will eat the Sunday edition of the Times for brunch. What's more likely is more class division and poverty. Don't get me started on political ranting. New York is wonderful, but the rent is too damn high and thieves walk in the daylight.
Where'd you record that live video for "LZY SLDR"? How did that song come about, when you wrote it? What did you originally record it on? What's it about? Who's "Pa"?
That video was recorded at Adrien Grenier's house—his cool basement studio is called Wreckroom. He and his crew do a good job of getting bands he likes in there for a day to record and make a video. "LZY SLDR" was born when I was making some demos, not really knowing what the next wave of Love as Laughter songs would be. Originally I recorded it on a Boss portable digital eight-track, which is an evolutionary grandkid of the Roland 16-track digital we recorded Destination 2000 and Sea to Shining Sea on. I messed around with the lyrics a bit and got "I'm a lazy soldier, lazy under Pa." With Pa being an abbreviation of father, which in this song represents both the mortal and spiritual Holy Trinity—the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Through a few lines, I'm very loosely trying to admit, as a character representing myself and all of the earth's denizens, my failures and laziness toward respecting the work that has come before. Of trashing Eden. Whatever that Eden may be in the mind of whomever, and this is all metaphor for modern problems. I'm not a religious zealot or anything. I'll take science.