>> The psych-folk collective Lick Neon released a single today titled "My Face is Hangin' Low" which draws influences from a range of influences including Paul Simon, Esperanza Spalding, and Cat Stevens. Check out our interview with the Boston-based group of instrumentalists and look forward to their debut album 'Be Good to Yourself' which is set to release on March 15th.
Could you explain the meaning behind your band name?
Nick: When I was in high school in Houston, there was this kid, Ryan, who started switching the first letters of everyone in the classroom’s first and last names. When he did my name, Nick Leon, I guess it stuck. I was called Lick for the rest of high school. And then, when I got to college in Boston, someone from Houston ended up going to college with me and brought this nickname up North. Eventually, I felt obligated to make Lick Neon the name of the project. Though it is a play on words on my name, Lick Neon is a group. I write the songs and the band brings them to life. Ryan went on to win class clown in the senior superlatives.
How did you all meet each other and form Lick Neon?
Nick: I met each member of the group individually. We all met at Berklee College of Music. This group has had a handful of members, but the current lineup has been together a while now.
Yianni (Lead Guitar, The Bahamas) and I have known each other the longest. We live together in Boston, and funny enough we met outside a party 3 years ago on the same street we ended up living on now. We clicked and I have played with him more than I’ve played with anyone ever since. He teaches me all the good licks. He’s my favorite guitarist.
Tasya (Piano, Indonesia) has also been in the band from the beginning. I saw a live session of her’s on our school’s social media page, and I had no idea who she was. The song and arrangement was all her. It blew me away, and I had our first Lick Neon gig booked 2 months away and I had no keyboard player. She didn’t know me but she had heard my demos through the grapevine, and she said yes straight away when I messaged her to join the band. I was sold.
Clem (Drum set, France) joined the band about 10 months ago. I met Clem through his girlfriend, who owned the apartment that was the spot for the musicians in our scene to get slippery on the weekends. Eventually we became good friends, and I have always been a big fan of his solo project, Clem Lo. He is a fantastic drummer and joined the band after our previous drummer stepped out to focus on his own work. Clem had subbed for us before and was the first person I asked when we lost our drummer. You can hear his finesse on the upcoming album.
Thomas (Hand Percussion, Norway) and I met in unusual circumstances. We both had the same hat. It was such a good hat and we both would see each other in the streets and glare at each other like “that motherfucker is wearing my hat!” Eventually, I started to see this dude playing congas at every gig I went to. He was everywhere. One summer day, long after i got rid of the hat, the band and I were walking to the studio to lay down a demo for our song “The Cold.” On the way we ran into Thomas. I stopped him and said, “Hey man, are you trying to record some congas right now? I love your work.” Thomas came to the studio 30 minutes later, and I haven't been able to play without him since. He’s a machine!
Austin (Bass Guitar, California) I have known Austin for a couple years now. He joined the band in December, after our previous bassist started working more in depth on his project. Lick Neon has had a good handful of bass players over time. Andre, the bassist before Austin, is also the producer of all the songs on the new album. Austin actually studies drums, and plays guitar his own project called, Lilacs, which I am a huge fan of. I have seen his bass work in the studio and at jam sessions, and knew the chemistry was there. We are finally able to share the stage together! I do all the electric bass on the record, so having Austin live helps give the songs a new feeling.
Could you share the backstory behind your latest single "My Face is Hangin' Low”?
Nick: This song was written in a dark month for me, lyrically speaking. It was written almost 2 years ago, around the time I first began to regularly put jazz into my listening routine. I had just been out of a relationship that had me pretty low. I wrote the chords first, and then wrote out this template for the lyrics. Each verse and chorus is its own poem in this one, rather than each chorus being the same lyric. It was loneliness and curiosity and a couch and 3 am and a cigarette.
What musicians had the greatest influence on the sound of your upcoming debut LP 'Be Good to Yourself’?
Nick: When writing these songs, I was most inspired by Paul Simon, The Police, Mac Demarco, Tom Petty, Esperanza Spalding, Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, James Taylor, The Beatles, Steely Dan, and The Doobie Brothers.
What has been the most redeeming part of recording and finishing up the LP?
Nick: The excitement of the audience being able to go home and listen to these songs after they hear us live. It has been a while since that was possible. Also, I feel more free to start writing the next record now that my bucket is empty!
What does each of you do to have fun and let loose when you're not playing music?
Nick - “Nintendo / Houston Astros / Hosting.”
Thomas - “SMASH BROS.”
Austin - “Big dope and The Office.”
Clem - “Smoking weed and crate digging.”
Tasya - “Taking a long walk or doing anything as long as I am in the open air.”
Yianni - “I like to shop for records and guitars.”
What is your go-to food to bring on the road while touring?
Nick: Most likely we will just stop at whatever is open when we are driving from city to city. We can be easy to please.
What are some of your favorite little-known spaces in your home city of Boston?
Nick: The place we got our start would be the best answer. In Boston, there is an area called Allston. All of the underground music out there happens in the basements of Allston houses, all usually inhabited by college students. They turn their homes into venues, and name them, and pay the bands, and it’s a beautiful thing. This one place… it was called The E.R. and they were the top dogs. We played our first ever lick neon show there, and went on to play many more. They were a venue that did not discriminate any music styles. There were jazz shows, pop shows, metal shows, and anything you could name. They gave growing acts the platform to develop a stage presence in a safe space full of open minds. The E.R. ended up getting shut down, and is now rumored to be a frat house…
What can fans be expecting to hear from you in the near future?
Well in the big picture, listeners should expect more diversity in style. We strive to cover as much musical ground as possible. We have a record coming out March 15th, and we plan to put out a couple new tracks shortly after to keep the sound a-growin’. Our first tour is this spring in Texas, making an appearance at SXSW, and plan to further tour the Northeast USA in the summer. <<