Sean Laskey - Pieces of Diamond in the Rough
Sean Laskey is real. He's a diamond in the rough. Or is it raw? Pearls in oysters? Let a thousand write-about-rock cliches bloom. But seriously, how does a writer describe something that is familiar, like you heard it on the radio, but you know that you haven't? Sean Laskey begs that question. And whatever happened to Big Star (aside from Alex Chilton having his song "We're All Right" made into the theme song for "That 70's Show")? Sean Laskey answers "Don't worry I got it covered." And what happened, amidst all the revival mania and rank imitation, to tasty licks, harmonies, and true song craft? Sean Laskey has the answer. With arrangements that recall George Martin (but with more austerity) and a strict adherence to taste and economy, Sean Laskey (www.seanlaskey.com) comes with a full plate of delicious tunes and flavors consisting of various elements but blended into one dish called Pieces.
"Out of Our Hands"
MP3 - RealAudio
Hailing from San Francisco, California, his music evokes a different feeling than the Cali pop punk currently seen on the Warped tour. Tunes like the CD opener "Ease of Mind," "Top of the Moon" and "LA" evoke seventies bands like Big Star's rock-riff style and song craft. Other songs like "Out of our Hands," "Life's Secrets" and the CD's finale, the opus "Sleep," uses the orchestrated pop style found on classic Beatles records like "Sgt. Pepper's." Like many musicians, Sean was inspired to pick up the guitar by the fertile pop era of the seventies.
What are your earliest musical memories?
[Sean Laskey] My very first experiences with music were passive. I sat in the back of an empty church drawing on scraps of paper a couple nights a week while my mom rehearsed with the choir. She was a great singer. We had an old piano in the house. My mom would sporadically play it when the mood hit her. I still remember the first time I felt the power of being in the presence of pure acoustic music! It's that beautiful feeling of being able to "hear" music with your ears and your body!
What early seventies rock bands influenced you, and how have you blended them into your sound?
[Sean Laskey] Aerosmith was my all-time favorite band in the 70's. They were one of the few heavy bands of that era to really craft their songs with great parts. When Tom Petty came out I liked his music from the start. It was loose and not too refined which I found exciting. The Beatles were still being played heavily (on the radio) in the 70's. They are so impressive because they filled every part of every song with something of interest. It could be a simple change in percussion or a lush harmony change, but in all cases, they made their entire song fun to hear.
Sean Laskey Video: "Life's Secrets"
Quicktime Movie Download
The keyword for Sean Laskey is craftsmanship. One thing I like to see from musicians is the results of sweat, of effort. On the tune "LA," a simple, standard rock riffs and chord changes are transformed from the average to the excellent by a few simple touches. The song starts with four hi hat cymbal hits, followed by a guitar intro, and away we go! The first verse starts out like a basic love song, albeit with a nice turn of phrase:
"My love was dripping from above like a honey-filled jar of sour lemonade! My heart seldom ever parts from a hometown singer with a song to serenade! Sometimes I'm wondering, silently, will this ground support my weight!"
MP3 - RealAudio
All right, he loves this babe. To quote George Harrison, "it's all too much." But then, it takes a turn on the chorus and then you know:
"LA, LA, yeah! ...took the best girl away, LA! As if the underworld went, astray. You took my best girl away, LA." What? She's gone? "My love was a sympathetic dove you could see her smile bright from a half a mile away! Now my rock was reeling from the shock of a half-pound hammer on the top of my parade! LA, LA, yeah! ...took my best girl away, LA! As if the underworld went, astray. You took my best part away, LA."
He could have taken the literal approach to John Lennon's dictum, say what you want and make it rhyme, but he took time to make the images at once clever and thought provoking as well as easy to understand. Each verse, each chorus is like he stated above, is marked by some organ swells, textured guitar riffs, and other colorful and surprising touches that elevate the song.
RealAudio: Ease of Mind
Obsessive love gets an Alex Chilton meets Paul McCartney makeover on "Not Over You." An acoustic guitar intro with vocals sets the scene in one stanza:
"You said something to me. But, that was yesterday. But now I'm ready for you, talk to me today/I used to watch you while you worked. While sitting at your desk. You should go out with me, old movies are the best."
The strings and piano enter halfway through the verse and build into a dramatic crescendo as Sean reaches the chorus:
"I never took a hit so hard before. The word we always spoke was even more... I'm not over you ... not over you."
Whereas a grunge dude would roar or whine out the lyrics (I feel! Feel for me!) or an emo dude would warble in an overwrought attempt at pathos (Oh, oh, it's so ... remember the feeling, what's that feeling?) Sean just sings the melody and lets the strings and the guitar suggest a feeling, but like any good writer, leaves room for the reader (listener) fill the breach with one's own.
Nylon-stringed acoustic and pedal steel guitars evoke the beach and summer love on the Donovan style rock groove "My Thrill Is Not Gone Yet." This sand dune singalong brings to mind a 21st Century Hawaiian tropic beach movie until - with a vocal "ba-ba-ba-ba-baaa" - the electric guitar kicks in with Led Zepplinesque flair that the White Stripes wish they could pull off and pop vocals that show up all brit pop for the shell that it is. Using subtle misdirection Sean sings a song about diggin' some hottie:
"Oh, sugar shake my way...on this long hot tropical day. Oh, sugar shake my way...on this long hot tropical day."
Then he once again lyrically flips the script and we see that the hottie is a long time lover, and things are still cookin':
"One million sand dollars today. I'm feeling kind of rich with this island pay ... A Paradise so far away that reality don't come my way. I shipped out across the sea, of sensibility. Hear the waves crashing onto my beach, ba-ba-ba-ba-baaa.... Oh, the red sun's starting to set. Oh, I think you should know, the thrill is not gone yet!"
Who says rock can't be ballsy and elegant at the same time?
Sean Laskey Video: "Ease of Mind"
Quicktime Movie Download
When was the moment you decided you wanted to make music your main focus?
[Sean Laskey] About three years ago, I started to agree with the old cliché that "life was too short for all this stress" so I went back to music like a tornado.
When I think of the Bay Area, I can only come up with names from the psychedelic and early eighties punk/experimental scene. What is the Bay Area scene like for your brand of folk-influenced pop?
[Sean Laskey] The scene is difficult for my style. The scene is very youthful and people who are a little older are usually working too hard to have time for music. They work all day, raise kids, and then go to bed. I think the best area for my type of music is elsewhere... I refuse to change my style. I never try and "fit-in" so the music scene here has always been a bit tougher but that's all right with me. I like the challenge!
RealAudio: All My Life
And the challenge for the listener is to not let the easy-going pop sounds fool you. Like the chess pieces on the CD cover, there's more to Sean Laskey's strategy than to rock and entertain. You might look at things a little differently.
For information on Sean Laskey's CD Pieces and his general whereabouts, contact him at www.seanlaskey.com.