TIG article The cool, cocktail party pop of Lushy Photo by Ivan Lasso


The cool, cocktail party pop of Lushy

Photo by Ivan Lasso

For a decade now, Lushy has quietly been making some of the coolest and catchiest music to come out of the Northwest. Their sound and aesthetic immediately brings to mind retro, cocktail parties but with more international influences. You hear elements of swing, jazz, bossa nova and whatever the music was in Bond films back when Sean Connery was 007 and at the same time you want to dance in between sips of your dry martini.

As the band gets ready to release their third official LP, Spaced Out, they have just started playing with a new, full lineup and have sort of rechristened the band “Lushy 9”. While previously playing with a revolving cast of musicians and using a laptop to supply the remaining instrumentation, the band has just begun playing with an expanded lineup to that now has a steady rhythm section, synths, keys and a horn section. The principle members of Lushy are singer Annabella Kirby (who sings in an indie pop band called The Moonspinners), multi-instrumentalist Andy Sodt and guitarist Matt Nims, who I met for an interview over drinks at a cozy downtown bar. Some of the musicians that have played with Lushy over its history include the KEXP DJ Johnny Horn and Lynval Golding, now a Puget Sound resident who was a member of the hugely influential (and now reunited) English ska band The Specials.

Ten people in all complete the live Lushy band, but the name Lushy 9 will remain. Kirby joked that “we counted wrong and now there are ten people in the band.” While the principles agreed that Lushy 9 would be their name and liked the ring to it, Kirby added “it’ll never be the Lushy 10, even if we have ten or sixteen people in the band.”

This Sunday night’s show at Neumos, opening for Dengue Fever, will be just their fourth with their expanded arrangement and sans laptop, but for a lot of people, it’ll be their first opportunity to see Lushy 9, so the band is treating it like the debut. The band now includes Kirby, Sodt and Nims and Brad Chodos-Irvine (percussion). The musicians currently playing in the live lineup of Lushy are Mark Bentz (bass), Debbie Sweetland (keyboards), Don Kenoyer (synth), Patrick Napper (trumpet), Zach Davies (trombone) and Fletcher Andrews (drums). “It’s more band for your buck,” Sodt in our interview. Really, any party is better when more people show up.

While the band has expanded their lineup, their sound has also evolved from their tiki party origins. One of the first Lushy shows was at an event called Tiki Oasis, held in Palm Springs, which fit the group’s early dynamic well. Sodt explained, “We were doing a lot of exotica stuff at the time and were into Martin Denny, so we were trying to do stuff like that. We’ve strayed away from pure tiki now and we have more influences, but back then we were pure exotica or tiki.” It was that show that led to their distribution deal with the independent label Dionysus Records.

The band attracts a diverse crowd to their shows, often bringing an older audience that you wouldn’t normally see at a club like the Sunset or Chop Suey. They also said they play an average of a private party a month, often weddings. “We’re not a typical party band that people hire, but people really like it,” Kirby said and Nims added “we can party with the best of them”.

“We don’t know how to capture the younger set, maybe we could do a Ween cover” Sodt quipped during our interview with Nims joking “yeah, that’ll get us down to thirty-five year olds.” Talking with the band for over an hour, it was often difficult to tell when they were serious and when they were kidding, especially with some ideas for merchandise to sell at shows and online in the “Lushy Lifestyle Store”. All jokes aside, Lushy does appear to be having a lot of fun with the music they make and with the crowds they play to. Talking with them, you get the sense that they will continue to play together until it stops being fun – and no one foresees that happening anytime in the near or distant future.

Spaced Out, forthcoming third album, is set to be released in February with a hard copy but fans should also be able to download the album digitally shortly after this article is posted, and likely before Sunday’s show with Dengue Fever. Sodt says it’s different because “we decided we want to make a dance record and go back to the best of the seventies and use that as our influences.” The album, they said, is a reference to the famous bandleader Enoch Light’s 1969 album, also called Spaced Out. Nims said they took their time recording it, but recorded it before adding any new musicians to the band so the core members of Lushy played all of the instrumentation on this album. They would, though, like to record an album soon with the new members of the band.

My favorite song from the new album is “Get It”, a cool as ice retro pop song that seems to have a hook in nearly every line Kirby sings yet and each verse is catchy itself, without having a defined chorus. When it gets to the bridge, the song goes in a completely different direction, led by both Kirby’s harmonies and the melody.

For as many articles you’ll read about how contemporary bands are rediscovering music from their parents’ generations, there really isn’t another band in Seattle like Lushy. They are completely forthright about their influences (an entire afternoon on Google wouldn’t have led me to Enoch Light’s name – and I knew who he was before the interview), but more importantly they seem to have as much fun themselves as the crowds do that hire them or that they play to. While they may blend elements of forties, fifties, sixties and seventies music throughout their songs, pop music always endures throughout each and every era because people (as a mass) enjoy catchy songs and they like to sing-along and they like to dance. Easily enough, anyone who likes that, should love Lushy.

{Photo by Ivan Lasso.}

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