The first 30 seconds of "Rat's Brains & Microchips," the lead song off The Lost Sounds' new album, are not necessarily what you'd expect from this Memphis combo. Jonathan Kirkscey's beautifully bowed cello chords serve as the prelude for their latest synth-driven onslaught. It's an imaginative departure for the group, blasting one Flyer letter-writer's recent contention that the Lost Sounds "are a bunch of meatballs who believe that the listener should suffer indescribable pain" to smithereens.
"With the cello, we wanted a diverse sound, something we couldn't do on frets and keys," Lost Sounds co-founder Alicja Trout says. "Jonathan has a different take on music -- he's classically trained. We were apprehensive about asking him to play with us, but he seemed to really like it."
"Jonathan was the only person we knew who could do it," Trout's partner Jay Jay confirms. "He was nice enough to take time off from the Memphis Symphony to come play some elementary music," Jay Jay says with a laugh. When guitarist Jonas Garland broke his shoulder just before the Lost Sounds were supposed to go on the road for their last tour, which featured 29 shows in just 28 days, they recruited Kirkscey.
"Logistically, Memphis is a really good place to be from," Jay Jay says. "And as far as music goes, I like the whole underdog thing you get when you tell people you're from Memphis. When we're on tour, we always get strange looks from arty guys who ask us where we're from. 'Oh my Gawd -- how do you guys live there?,'" he drawls in mock contempt. "I don't like to use the word 'soul,' but Memphis definitely has something to it that's more human than other cities. The flaws here make it more real."
"Outside of here, people are really weirded out. They wonder where we get our ideas from, because we definitely don't do traditional Memphis rock-and-roll," Trout says, likening the sounds on Rat's Brains & Microchips to an amalgamation of pop and low-fi rap metal. "You can have a real love/hate relationship with Memphis, but right now I really love it. Going somewhere like Othar Turner's picnic is a really special experience. It really grounds you from the 'I wanna be on MTV' mentality."
Catch the Lost Sounds at a record-release party for Rats Brains & Microchips Friday, November 22nd, at Young Avenue Deli.
Looking for something more traditional? Head over to the Center for Southern Folklore this Saturday, November 23rd, for a Night of Comedy with 103.5 radio personalities Mother Wit and PA Bomani. Running from 9 p.m. to midnight, the benefit for Mother Wit's nonprofit Grace Foundation promises to leave 'em rolling in the aisles. "She has a real gift," center employee Drew Long says. "In the half-hour that Mother Wit was emceeing at the Music & Heritage Festival, she got more money from people in the audience than the entire rest of the festival put together."
Long, who runs the bar at the CFSF's Peabody Place location when he's not promoting events, has been working with the center's director Judy Peiser since August. "My 'trial by fire' was working on the festival this year, but it was the best week of music in my life," he says. "I'd never been around so many different types of music or met so many people. Waking up and breathing music all day -- and knowing that I had something to do with it -- was an incredible feeling."
The native Memphian, a recent graduate of Northwestern University, hopes to invigorate CFSF activities with a younger audience. "When I was in college, I was so impatient to come back to Memphis," Long says. "I felt like so much was beginning to happen here. These little sparks of energy and passion are so exciting to be around."
Mark your calendar for the center's Thanksgiving Weekend concert, which the CFSF hopes to make an annual event. The November 29th show, a Tribute to the Roots of Memphis Music, will feature performances from The Daddy Mack Blues Band, The Spirit of Memphis gospel group, and The Orange Mound Jazz Messengers.
Andria Lisle writes about the Memphis music scene each week in Local Beat. You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.