Interview: Derrick Martin of The Lucky Bastards
DC's affair with rock music was a long and torrid one. There's a lot of musical history in this city and rock music is no exception. Starting with punk/hardcore bands of the 80's like Fugazi and Bad Brains to grunge rockers of the 90's like David Grohl till it finally gave way to the more Hipster Indie scene, DC has been a place where rockers can feel comfortable mixing. It is also a place where mixing doesn't only constitute being in one music scene. In DC, rock combines with R&B, Neo-Soul, Go-Go and even on occasions, Hip Hop.
Growing up here, musicians Phil and Derrick Martin have seen a lot of change in the music scene as well as in the city itself. Being interested musically themselves, it seems only natural that they are part of one of the most popular bands in the area. Formed in 2001, The Lucky Bastards have had a rising popularity. They have performed at clubs like DC9, Velvet Lounge and the illustrious Indie hangout, the Black Cat. They even performed at last year's H Street Festival. Their debut album, entitled Hikikomori (the Japanese word for a phenomenon of isolation and withdrawel affecting young people) is scheduled to be released at some point this year. Right now, they are working with Hip Hop producer Nisan Stewert.
The brothers Martin travel between the various music scenes in DC with ease, because it's not the scene that they feel comfortable in–it's the music. A conversation with them can go anywhere from whether or not Young Jeezy is really all that good to which Radiohead album was better: Kid A or OK Computer?
Derrick Martin took some time out to answer some questions for us here at The Couch Sessions. More after the jump.
How did you get into rock music? How and when did the Lucky Bastards come together?
Most of the formation happened without us even knowing we were starting a band. Neither of us had ever sang or played an instrument, however, while i was in college, someone gave Phil a guitar and he didn't particularly like the feel of it so he picked up a bass and it felt right to him. So he gives me the guitar and- only as older brothers can do- demanded that I learn how to play it. So I had been doing some writing for cathartic reasons for several months. So when I picked up the guitar it kind of naturally just led me to want to put what I had written into song. I had started taking lessons at the guitar shop on Conn. Ave and got friendly with Gus and a guy my age named Lauris who was a transplant from Fla. He started jamming with Phil and I and before we knew it, we had learned some songs I had written and were looking for a drummer. After that things moved quickly. We found Dan in the City Paper and started gigging almost immediately. Lauris left following a short break the band took, we temporarily replaced him with James Reeves, a superb musician from a local band called guerilla transmission and later found Thomas Williams. Recently Dan left us and we???ve been playing with Neil.
Being from DC, there must have been various music forms you experiences growing up. Aside from rock, which genre do you think influenced your music style?
By the time I had started playing guitar, I had only been listening to rock for a year or two. Phil and I grew up like most black people in that the music we listened to from birth to [our] late teens was gospel, R&B, hip-hop and for me, I had a fascination with classic R&B/soul. Also being from the area we were- and still are- very fond of go-go. I started listening to rock after kind of being turned off by most hip-hop in the late 90???s. First 2 records: Nirvana- Nevermind, Pearl Jam Ten. Those 2 records got me going. After that I pretty much gave myself a pretty intense crash course in rock from the Beatles to Radiohead. Out of that period of learning what types of bands I liked, I really got into the Beatles, Radiohead, Love,Talking Heads, Pink Floyd, Joy Division, Led Zeppelin, Flaming Lips- really too many bands to mention. Since Phil and I are brothers we were pretty much listening to the same thing. Dan brought a love of classic Motown, Stax and jazz as well as a lot of modern indie bands. His taste in music was as broad as ours if not broader. Tom???s loves were mostly Anglo- eighties bands like the Cure and Joy Division. He also had very classic rock leanings as well as a love for the Chili Peppers and other Nineties alternative bands.
A lot of your music stems from you and your brother's experiences growing up in DC. What are some specific memories that have influenced your music? Are there any messages you want to get across to your listeners?
From a songwriting perspective I started out with mostly very personal, cathartic writing. As I got more into writing somewhere along the way, my writing became more about my surroundings and their effect on me and everyone around them. Our full length, which will be officially released next year, is basically a macabre love song to my city. It starts on the subway (in my mind the L???Enfant station platform in the direction of Greenbelt) and ends up back in the same place, visiting different areas and sections of the city as it goes. I like to think of it as a tour of DC through my eyes/mind. I think that being in this area definitely influences the live performance as well. Songs like kamikaze definitely have a go-go feel to them and others have a melodic indie feel that is indicative of this city. I believe the city is as responsible for the diversity of my band???s music as much as the diversity of influences.
The music genre that you play generally caters to a majorly white audience. Do you ever feel any backlash to your being black and playing rock music? Do you think the changing scope of the demographic (i.e. gentrification) is affecting the music scene, more specifically the indie music scene?
The best thing about the DC music scene is that it???s fairly homogenous. I see a lot of hip-hop heads and neo soul types rubbing elbows with indie and punk kids at our shows. I always liked that. The thing that I don???t like about about it how small it is. There are extreme limitations in the number of legit rock venues in this city for bands to play. We deal with the diversity in our music pretty simply. We have a built in component of 2 guitars, bass and drum which in and of itself locks you into a certain sound. Also, thought he influences are diverse, the interpretation of those influence coming out through us doesn???t sound ripped off or out of place. It sounds familiar yet fresh, like all my favorite bands.
What are you listening to these days? I.e. what are some of your top songs?
These days I find myself anticipating albums more than actually listening. Like I???m definitely looking forward to the new Pearl Jam and Radiohead albums. One album that has been on rotation a lot is the Antonym and the Johnsons album. Other than that I???ve been listening to a lot of old soul and R&B. Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, Otis