Sam, Luca, and Jarett, thanks for speaking with us today about your band Bury Me A Lion.
Q1: When did you guys first begin playing music?
LUCA: I remember playing music for the first time around ten years old – drums, guitar. At 14, I joined my first band. After that, I never stopped – I dreamed of being a rockstar! So, I moved from Italy to the United States to pursue the dream. With these guys (Sam, Jarett), we’re working to share our music with audiences all over the world.
JARETT: I remember my love affair with music started running down the batteries – and cassette tape – in my mom’s Walkman listening to the Beatles’ “Revolver” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. Even then, I didn’t even think about the idea of being a musician until I heard Hootie & The Blowfish’s album, “Cracked Rear View”. In high school, I started playing bass guitar so I could jam with my friends. (I still remember playing Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” and Godsmack’s “Moon Baby” until it drove my parents crazy.) But I started to realize I wanted more than just to play bass – I wanted to be a songwriter and a performer. From high school through college, I was performing in musicals and plays and improv groups, writing my own music on acoustic guitar, and recording with my friends. The freedom and relief of writing and performing has always driven me.
SAM: My sister took guitar lessons from a tutor as she was graduating high school. My parents passed these lessons on to me – even after some serious protesting on my part! Although I initially had reservations, something just clicked when I played that first chord. I have literally played every day since. To call it an obsession is a real understatement. I have slight obsessive compulsive disorder, so I don’t even have a choice whether to play or not. But my obsession has made me the guitarist I am today.
Q2: At what point did you decide it was a path you guys wanted to take as musicians?
SAM: In late summer 2008, the three of us experienced a drive to create something with other musicians. I had so much stock material written that needed to be expanded to band form. Luca is from Italy. I’m from Manhattan. Jarett was raised in Augusta, Georgia, then lived in Switzerland. A decade ago, we would’ve never connected. But the internet – that powerful “imagined community”! – brought us together. I put out an ad on Craigslist and Jarett and Luca responded. Luca and I played separately and I was amazed by how talented a drummer he was. I knew I wanted to play with Jarett when I saw his MySpace (remember MySpace?) page cover of Grizzly Bear’s “Knife”. Jarett and I played together, and wrote what became our first song, “One Arm For Another”, in about 2 practices. Luca returned in October 2008 from a trip to Italy, we jammed to “One Arm For Another” and we just felt it. There was a click and it felt natural. With every practice and new music, we were seeing an end goal that became more and more possible!
Q3: Where did the name Bury Me A Lion originate?
JARETT: As you know, choosing a band name is very difficult. (Ok, maybe not for everyone, but at least for us!) If you can think of a band name, it’s already taken. Just like they say about sex – if you can think of it, someone’s out there doing it…no matter how weird! Sam and my first inkling once we had written “One Arm” (sic) and “Constellations” was to just choose a band name to “brand” ourselves on MySpace and Facebook. Sam suggested “The Is Ok.” Horrible name. We both knew that – yet tried so hard to convince ourselves it was “cool.” (The Strokes really set off a brushfire of “The” names.) Using that as stopgap, we thought on symbolism we could get behind – courage, pride, strength. So, we chose the name, “Lion, Lion.” (Indie music’s other popular type of band names: “animal names!”) As we prepared to record our eponymous first EP, we did due diligence and found an emo band with a similar name – so we had to change it yet again. This time we vowed it would be too different to be a copy of anything else! I was obsessed with The Pogues throughout 2008 and found a lyric in “If I Should Fall From Grace With God” that I thought was really cool: “Bury me at sea, where no murdered ghost can haunt me.” Sam and I didn’t want to relinquish the “lion” symbolism, so we thought of the idea of being buried as a lion. And what that meant for us. And what that could mean for others.
Q4: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
LUCA: Like any good band, we are the sum of our influences. (See Q6.) We are modern rock purists – that in-your-face, drums-guitar-bass-vocals fundamentals. We pride ourselves on being a resurgence of real rock music in a time when the industry scene is dead. Alternative rock is dead and redundant. Pop, hip-hop, country, and house are started to merge elements and become this vague, beat-heavy, tasteless pill of music. We’re not the only ones out there that are defined by our ability to not fit into this scene, but we like to think we’re part of that rising. The Smiths times The Strokes plus The Doors. Melody, sincerity, and rock.
JARETT: Swag. Swag.
Q5: How excited are you guys to be a part of the inaugural Catalpa Music Festival in NYC this summer?
SAM: So incredibly excited. Put it this way – we received the selection email from Frisky while we were in a store and I just yelled as loud as I could. Over and over. I’m pretty sure the retailers thought I was trying to rob them. Jarett was embarrassed, mostly because I didn’t really explain myself and I still started yelling. After we processed what it meant to be playing Catalpa NYC, we could stop throwing up high-fives and yelling and just getting lost in thought as we walked down the street. And that’s dangerous in Manhattan!
JARETT: It is such an overwhelming feeling of achievement. To have put in so much sweat and time into Bury Me A Lion to be rewarded with an opportunity – not only to share our music with a whole brand new group of people, but to do it alongside some of the greats of modern American music. The Black Keys – I remember buying “Thickfreakness”! It’s amazing to see how far they have come as a band and musicians. We have lived their growth. And we aspire to that growth. Snoop – we all know he is a legend. His music, his collaborations and his relevance is unparalleled by any other artist out there. And you got a slate of artists that we are honored to share the bill with – TV on the Radio, Girl Talk, Felix da Housecat… Put it this way. What is more of a privilege than to be billed with the same artists who inspire you, who have accomplished the things we want for Bury Me A Lion.
LUCA: And let’s not forget how much of an honor it is to be a part of something so new and exciting. We’ve never played anything of this scale before. And Catalpa NYC has given us the opportunity to reach new audiences and to support those musicians. Right here in New York City! Our backyard. Our hometown! Playing a festival is contributing to a whole experience. And we intend to deliver.
Q6: What bands influence your style of music?
JARETT: One of our greatest strengths as a band is our varied backgrounds. Luca’s bedrock is the classical giants and innovators of rock music – Queen, Bowie, INXS, Nick Cave, Michael Jackson. Sam loves indie rock (The Strokes, Phoenix), 60s R&B (Temptations, Gaye), jazz (Brubeck, Coltrane), and classic rock (Led Zeppelin, America, Deep Purple). Personally, I am keen on beautiful, classical voices and styles (Morrissey, Piaf, Abdel Halim Hafez, Fairuz, Stelios Kazantzidis) and storytellers (Louvin Brothers, Keane, Hank Williams, Metallica).
Q7: What are some other festivals you guys would like to play if given the chance?
JARETT: Glastonbury, Sasquatch, Northside (local Brooklyn one I volunteered at in its first year).
LUCA: Reading. Big Day Out. Rock am Ring.
SAM: CMJ. Lollapalooza. Coachella.
Q8: How has the response been to your latest release, Year of the Lion?
SAM: With every release, our musicianship has improved. We’ve grown, we’re tighter, we’re less afraid to try new things and take risks. We were very fortunate to be able to put together our first tracks and our newest material and see the common threads. To see ourselves defining ourselves as we create. And we are also very fortunate – for having only been Bury Me A Lion since 2009 – to have such an international fanbase. Our families and friends love it – of course. But it means a lot to have people around the world express how much they enjoy it. Big thanks to Chris Camilleri (http://chris-camilleri.tumblr.com/) who has produced us from the very first EP and to Steve Hardican (http://eyeqmktg.com & http://www.wearnuthing.com) who has designed our artwork from the very beginning. Your support, and the support of all our fans, made this record possible, so it’s as much yours as it is ours!
JARETT: When someone tells you that you’ve written something that means something to them. Or that it’s one of the most beautiful songs they’ve ever heard. Or they just love singing them whether you’re in the room or not! That’s truly a measure of success.
Q9: Fans can buy your album via http://burymealion.bandcamp.com/. Is there somewhere fans can buy physical copies of the album?
SAM/LUCA: Come to our shows!!!!!
SAM: And soon enough on Amazon!
JARETT: But, seriously, just find a way to get it on your music device and blast it in your car, or play it at your desk, or play it at your local bar. If you promise me you’ll play it at your local bar, I’ll send you a free digital copy of the album. We just want you to tweet us (@burymealion) or Facebook us (http://www.facebook.com/burymealion/) and let us know where you’re listening to it!
Q10: What are you guys looking forward to most this summer?
LUCA: Playing Catalpa. Without a doubt. Taking the stage with, or next to, or near – whatever you want to call it – playing that same bill as our fellow musicians, the artists who inspire us and show us this is something we can do.
SAM: And taking advantage of this great buzz and opportunity to share our music with new people. And hopefully using this momentum to get out and tour!
JARETT: And to have you, reader/listener, play “Year Of The Lion” in your car, bar, boat, mother’s house, rotary club…I don’t always want to sing alone. Come to the show and sing with us!!
SAM: Oy gavult.
Thanks again for talking with us. Congratulations on the new album and being added to the Catalpa Festival at Randall’s Island in NYC. The festival is July 28-29 and tickets are available online at www.catalpanyc.com