Q&A: Andy Jordan of Lenz on Making a Concept Punk Album and the Importance of Laziness
With his bands The Cuts and The Time Flys, Andy Jordan honed straight-ahead rock 'n' roll that borrowed the tunefulness and swagger of '70s glam and power-pop but coupled it with a thoroughly modern, sordid sleaze. Now, with that approach enjoying lots of popularity in the Bay Area garage rock scene, Jordan has abandoned it in favor of conceptual solo records under his solo moniker, Andy Human, and nebulous, kraut-informed synth-rock with Lenz. In the parlor of an unassuming East Oakland home, we recently discussed his aesthetic motivations, the importance of instinct, and Jordan's apparently infallible bullshit detector. Lenz's newest record, Under Neon, will be out on Tic Tac Totally Records in March, and the band performs with Nü Sensae this Friday, March 2, at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in Oakland.
Andy Jordan of Lenz
Does having Andy Human and Lenz allow you to exercise two different songwriting instincts, or is one overflow for the other?
Those need to be two different animals. There will inevitably be something that doesn't work out for Lenz, but I'll still want to record it. I make a lot of recordings in my spare time. The Andy Human tape on Burger [Records] was a consciously different project, without real drums, but it still seems like a poppy rock 'n' roll record. I have hundreds of recordings and sometimes ideas will come out of those and I'll decide they're right to play with a band. Sometimes I think it should be under one moniker, but right now it makes sense having two separate things. Andy Human is more about doing concept records. The next one is a concept punk album and the last one was more of a synth concept record.
Is it conceptual lyrically as well? A concept punk record seems kind of contradictory.
It's fake punk, everyone likes a little fake punk. A lot of those Killed By Death singles, like Freestone, weren't true "punk" bands. Like "Bummer Bitch" by Freestone, "Bummer bitch / you make me sick / bummer bitch / you give me zits." They were a bunch of these sleazy biker hippies, not punks. That was what The Time Flys were about. They were a tribute to all the mustachioed, late-'70s American biker dudes making a punk 45. Scumbags that did some conceptual punk single about wrestlers or something. It's really funny shit. All of that stuff nowadays is self-conscious. Singing about burgers and pizza is cool if people do it well. It has to do with the feel of the playing and production.
Have you been amused by the comparisons people have made to describe Lenz?
I'm not sure what comparisons have been made. What comparisons have been made?
Well, I've said that you sing like Lloyd Cole, the songs remind me of the Stranglers at times, and the keyboards remind me of Wall of Voodoo.
Well, that's probably because we use one of the same keyboards Wall of Voodoo did. It's a Mirage sampling keyboard. It runs on floppy discs and essentially samples tons of '80s synths. When you manipulate them, it sounds awesome.
If you had to describe your primary influences for Lenz, what would they be?
When it started, the main idea was to shed any aspect of rigidity in terms of genre. That said, we are obviously influenced by certain krautrock bands. Definitely an appreciation of the effects people were using in the '80s. It's also nice that no one really wants those pedals or synths, so you can get a flanger or a chorus pedal or a Mirage or DX-7 for cheap, instead of seeking out some '70s analog Moog that costs thousands of dollars.
I interviewed Rank/Xerox a while ago, and they discussed their decision to not use any genre names or reference any other bands when they are rehearsing, writing, or doing an interview. If you had to describe the music of Lenz or Andy Human using only descriptors, not any genre names or bands, what would you say?
Well, I think I already did that. I guess I called it rock 'n' roll, but it's about space and instinct, survival. It's my attempt at pop minimalism. That was sort of missing in other bands I was in. Less always becomes somewhere in between less and more. It's about using sideways as an approach. So for Rank/Xerox, that's their processing method. I've had similar ideas, but it never works. I've given in to my instinct, which I usually think is better than everyone else's.
What do you think of covers?
I like it when a band takes a totally classic Beatles or Stones song and fucks it up, completely making it their own.
So it should be about subverting the original, rather than paying homage to it?
You do one by doing the other, the two are related. If you're subverting something, it could be a veiled homage whether you intend it or not.
It seems like the power pop and glam influence that The Cuts had is more popular now than when The Cuts were active. Now that it's popular, you seem to have abandoned it. Is that deliberate?
That's very observant, my fine young fellow. Well, if the first Cuts album came out now, I think there would be a lot more ears for it, and I am a bit chagrined, if that's what you mean. After the year 2000, most underground music became completely co-opted in one way or another. Bands can be lo-fi or too loud for mass consumption, but what can you do that's completely new? I'm not sure, but like I said, you can take something old and change it.