Where Is My Mind?: The Lawsuits' Brian Dale Allen Strouse
- by Q.D. Tran & Maggie Grabmeier
have been steadily building their reputation in the local music community as a rollicking live act. However, with their latest LP Cool Cool Cool
, which was produced by Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog
, Man Man
, etc.), the band has stepped up their game in the recording studio. Armed with their finest album to date, The Lawsuits will be celebrating its release tonight at Johnny Brenda’s. We caught up with frontman Brian Dale Allen Strouse to chat with him about the making of Cool Cool Cool
, how to write a love song, and much more, which you can check out below.
The Deli: Your new album Cool Cool Cool just came out. What does the title mean to you? BTW: Is the album title any reference at all to Abed’s catchphrase on Community?
Brian Dale Allen Strouse: Well, there’s no denying that we are a society of cool. Instagram likes, Twitter followers and Facebook fans seem to be the only thing that defines us as humans. We want our coolness to be judged off what comes out of your speakers when you press play.
No reference to Community - I’ve heard that quite a bit though. Just recently saw a few episodes. Good show.
TD: Did a lot of the songwriting happen during the recording process, or did you have most of the material ready before heading into the studio?
BDAS: A bunch of the songs had finished blueprints as we entered the studio, but just about all of them became mangled and flipped around once we started working. Songs like “Arts & Crafts” and “Cool Cool Cool” were demos from my home studio. They were brought in and improved, but not changed very much. Bill was very fond of the song “Cool Cool Cool” from the jump. Originally, that was not a song that we considered for the album, but I’m glad we went with it.
TD: What did you do differently with this album under Bill Moriarty’s guidance that you’ll take with you moving forward?
BDAS: We gave ourselves time to try different things. “Arts & Crafts” was demo’d way before we entered the studio with Bill, probably even before our Numbers EP, but the rest of the band didn’t see that kind of music as being a part of The Lawsuits’ sound. Bill helped to carve out what our sound is, and I think or I hope it’s close to all encompassing. He gave us the confidence to produce what we wanted to produce. Oh, and I think he’s got a fine ability to get really good stuff out of each individual member, and then pull it all together to make one cohesive idea.
TD: Are the songs in the album meant to fit together cohesively, or are they more of a smorgasbord of different ideas that you were working on at that time?
BDAS: This album is the best representation to date of who we are and what we do. It’s certainly a smorgasbord of different ideas, but I think they fit together well. While all the songs sound different, you tend to flow through the album not realizing that you just heard acoustic guitars and clarinets follow a circus-like, piano pop song. It’s fun for us.
TD: Your songs sound like they are influenced by different generations of music. If you could go back to any decade, which would it be, and why?
BDAS: Yeah - I’ve absolutely been influenced by musicians of all types and times. As a fan, I might go back to the 70’s to see some of the legends in their prime.
TD: You have immersed yourself in the Philly folk/blues/Americana music community. How has this relationship affected how you write, play and listen to music? Can you give some examples of lessons learned?
BDAS: We’ve met great people, and made some lifelong friends by our association with the scene in Philadelphia. It’s definitely healthy and thriving, with some standouts that I like to keep in my peripheral. We get inspired by everybody and everything. It’s hard to shut that off. Maybe inspiration isn’t even the right word. But there are people in the scene putting out a level of quality that makes us want to step our product up.
Learned many lessons along the way! Performing live is not just standing at a mic strumming a guitar. If you’re lucky enough to have people pay money and come out to see your band, show your appreciation, and give them a show. It’s more than just what’s coming out of the speakers. Move your hips. :-)
TD: Love is a common topic in your songs, and there are so many love songs out there. What elements of good love songs do you find necessary to have to move you?
BDAS: Yeah, that’s true. I suppose the best love songs are the ones that hit the widest range of audience with their message. And to achieve that, I believe you have to use general concepts and stay away from the more specific ones. Let’s take YouTube video views as our gauge for how good the love song is: Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” vs. John Prine’s “Bruised Orange.” Both songs are great and about love. Both artists were hugely successful in their own right. Whitney Houston has about 65 million views on Prine in this case. Not the best study, but the point is simplicity. I believe it has something to do with the content of the songs, and there are few easier messages to understand and relate to than “I will always love you.”
What’s difficult, as a songwriter, is that we want to write the best songs we possibly can. Especially those who are considered and/or consider themselves good lyricists… You wouldn’t want to dumb down your message in the tunes, right? Why would someone write, “I will always love you,” when they could possibly write something much more profound? The issue is in the way the average listener hears your stuff. Again, people seem to like ideas that are simple and require less thought.
TD: Your bassist Brendan Cunningham made a cameo in Toy Soldiers’ new “Red Dress” video. What do you think of his new look?
BDAS: Bren looks good in everything.
TD: What are your plans after this release run of shows?
BDAS: Record another album. We’re ready to expand upon what we did on Cool Cool Cool.