San Francisco’s campy glam-poppers, Scissors For Lefty, may have been under the radar for the past six years but to say the group took a “break” isn’t entirely accurate. Since the band’s last EP, 2008’s Consumption Junction, they’ve been collecting lessons learned in the biz, making room for some life off the road and getting deeper and perhaps darker than they have ever before.
“We’re going into some territory that is not standard for Scissors For Lefty,” the group’s lead singer Bryan Garza says of his band’s recently released full-length, Bangs & Lashes. “We used to sing more about San Francisco and love gone wrong. This is more focused on the complexity of why love goes wrong and/or what’s going right and how to hold onto it and celebrate it.”
“Bangs & Lashes,” the playfully artsy video for the new album’s title track, certainly carries a less-than-savory peeping-tom vibe. Garza says the song itself is a reinvention of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”—this time from the obsessive vantage point of the stolen man.
“Dolly Parton was singing, ‘Please don’t take my man,’” Garza explains, “and this is his perspective of, ‘No please, please take me.’”
If Bangs & Lashes reminds you of the back rooms of your favorite nightclubs where the soundtrack is primarily ’80s-era British- and goth-pop, Garza says that probably has something to do with his band’s regular Thursday night dance dates out in San Francisco, where the group gravitated toward the back-room DJs spinning gloomier beats.
But perhaps what really sets Bangs & Lashes apart from previous Scissors efforts is the balance it strikes between polished studio wizardry and raw, energetic musicianship. Garza says that is simply a product of experience. The band self-produced and recorded their debut LP, Bruno on their own time; after they were signed to Rough Trade they recorded 2007’s Underhanded Romance in what Garza described as a “whirlwind” two-month sprint; this time around, they once again took their time, but were able to incorporate the sophisticated production techniques they’d picked up on the previous album.
SCISSORS FOR LEFTY – BANGS & LASHES – Director’s Cut from GLASSCOFFIN on Vimeo.
The finished product is an album that is clean, but not sterile—emotive but not sloppy. Garza describes it comparing it to “a slick, one-mic recording.”
“To me, that’s the ultimate way of doing it,” he says—to make it feel real and not cut-and-paste.”
After many years spent touring with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Blonde Redhead and Panic! At The Disco, Garza says a break was necessary—and not just to find time to record Bangs & Lashes, but to avoid “singing about the rigors of the road and these trivial things that everyday people aren’t going to connect with. We wanted to make sure it was more about our life experiences instead of just some kind of touring life.”
Some of these life experiences include the deaths of loved ones, including Garza’s aunt who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.
“Things like that were not easy to work into a pop album before and this album gave us a chance to really go there,” Garza said. “That meant a lot.”
In addition to delving into deeper more difficult lyrical material and self-producing Bangs, the band also made some other significant changes in the makeup and operations of the band.
Due to the economic downturn and the continued contraction of an already shunken music industry, Garza says Scissors For Lefty had to reassess some of its longstanding strategies of touring and distributing the band’s recordings. Scissors For Lefty stopped searching for a label or record deal, and now use social media and online streaming services to promote and distribute their music.
“We realized you have to do everything yourself,” Garza says. “If you make something awesome, it will find a way to shine.”
While the local scene was in flux, so too was the Scissors lineup. Ever since 2006, Scissors For Lefty was the “marriage” of the Garza and Krimmel families. On the Garza side, there was Bryan, his brother Steve, and their uncle Robby. On the Krimmel side, there were the brothers Peter and James. In the midst of recording Bangs & Lashes, Steve left the band, but was quickly replaced by Garza’s younger cousin, Eric. And Garza says he wouldn’t have it any other way—especially when it comes to performing.
“Shows are just a really great time for us to love each other,” he said. “We had a lot of eye contact at the last show and were just like, ‘Hey man! You’re my cousin! Look at us do this! And there’s your mom and my other 15 cousins out there in the audience watching us.’ It’s very fun.”
Scissors For Lefty play the Blank Club on Nov. 15. More info.