Legend has it that David Bowie once convinced Mick Ronson, lead guitarist for Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, to wear makeup by telling him it would help him get girls. Glam-band Louis XIV takes similar fashion cues from the Thin White Duke, as well as vocal cues from gutter bards Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. In other words, the members’ pedigree is flawless, which makes their music sound fantastic, if a bit derivative. However, listening to The Best Little Secrets Are Kept (Pineapple/Atlantic) is a bit like listening to famed anti-Semitic composer Richard Wagner if he had decided to include lyrics in “Ride of the Valkyries.”
Singer Jason Hill writes, among other things, “Is life without me merely interlude / While you dream of my body stabbing you with all of my attitude?”But are accusations of misogyny really warranted?
“Absolutely not,” guitarist Brian Karscig said. “On the surface, I could see how people could think that, but the fact of the matter is that the entire album is written for affection and appreciation of women.”
So what drives the lyrics? Narcissism?
“Totally,” Karscig admits. “We’re confident about what we do, but people get the impression that we’re arrogant, sexist men. To be quite honest, none of these songs were meant to make it to a level of analysis.”
Karscig has known Hill and drummer Mark Maigaard for decades and uses familiarity to his advantage. “(People) ask, ‘How have you guys only been around a couple years, because the way you play, I can tell you have a notch up on bands that are bigger than you.'”
Who are these bands that Louis XIV has a notch up on? Karscig explains, “I really hate ragging on bands, because they’re doing what they’re passionate about, but I can’t tell the difference if you put on 3 Doors Downs, Nickelback or Creed.” While he differentiates his band from acts that dominate the FM dial, Karscig dismisses the consistent glam rock label comparison.
The songs do drip with the decadence of Bowie, and appropriately, of Louis XIV, the absolutist ruler famous for his palace at Versailles, near the Paris basement where the San Diego quartet recorded tracks. Asked what his band has in common with the Sun King, Karscig laughed. “None of us actually knew he was the Sun King until we were called that.”
“We wrote all the song titles before we wrote the songs, as an experiment to write a concept album about a boy who starts to think he’s actually Louis XIV,” he continues. “After that we just decided to call the group Louis XIV. If we had called the riff ‘Henry VIII,’ we’d be in a completely different situation right now.”
Louis XIV plays the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. N.W., Thursday with Runner and the Thermodynamic, Nic Armstrong and the Thieves. $10 adv/$12 day main stage.