Crazy on-stage antics and naked dancing is all in a night’s work for hardcore art rockers Les Savy Fav, says Eamon Sweeney
It's official; Jim Morrison was a lightweight. All that shamanic posturing and the arrest warrant for indecent exposure is as tame as a choral recital compared to the outrageous stage misdemeanors of Tim Harrington, front man for hardcore art rock firebrands Les Savy Fav.
"Probably the worst incident was when I hit a crippled kid," Tim confesses. "I know that sounds absolutely terrible, but let me explain. We made up on the spot. I never saw his crutches and I thought he hit me when I was stage-diving. There was this tense stand-off moment with the crowd, who had every right to be outraged. We went from the verge of kicking off a mass brawl to actually French kissing within seconds. In those few brief moments, you had this extreme soap opera. That's what you get with a Les Savy Fav show."
In addition to a knack for improvisation with whatever random props he comes across, Harrington is a dab hand at stage batter. "And when the sun runs out of light, we're gonna take power from the moon," he said onstage in New York. "Think about the size of our cars that run on moon power!"
I did a double take at Primavera earlier this year when I thought I saw a naked man dancing onstage. It transpired that this was just another day in the office for quite possibly the most influential band to emerge from Rhode Island since the Talking Heads.
However, they remain criminally under acknowledged. "Les Savy Fav had a huge impact on how we wanted to make music," reveals Kele Okerele from Bloc Party. "They are one of the bands we owe the most to. A friend took me to see them play at 93 Feet East in 1998. I was completely blown away by their incredible stage show. I think it's hard to mix comedy and music successfully, but they were very funny. "
What exactly this wild bunch will get up to on New Year's Eve in Dublin is anybody's guess. "Our shows can get a bit crazy anyway," Harrington says in what could be construed one of the understatements of the year. "We've done a few New Year's Eve shows and the audience are always that bit more, shall we say ... exuberant."
Surely the authorities must take a dim view of Les Savy Fav by now? "The only time I got serious grief was from these hard-nut Mafioso dudes," he says. "We were playing somewhere which had a mud pit, where people were doing all sorts of depraved things. Why they took exception to me just dancing in the mud is a mystery. I was kept in a laneway with all these mean-looking dudes and my band had no idea where I was. In such a situation, I try to make people laugh to lighten the mood. Eventually, I'm very glad to say that it worked."
An alt-rock band from Derry called Jetplane Landing playfully tipped them a very respectful nod by christening one of their songs, Why Don't They Play Les Savy Fav on the Radio?
"We heard it and it's very flattering," admits Harrington. "The answer to the question posed by the title is that even though we have some very catchy music, we're certainly not radio-friendly in any commercial sense. When the whole Williamsburg thing blew up a few years ago, we thought we'd just release a few sevens [7 inch] singles rather than chasing the whole online thing where everyone'd buzz up a band and it all gets forgotten about just as quickly. This short, temporary blast of profile became all the rage. We've been around far too long to pursue that approach. I think it's fine, because subsequently the last two albums appear to have very organically gained us an audience outside the States."
Let's Stay Friends in 2007 featured cameo appearances from the Fiery Furnaces, Broken Social Scene, Modest Mouse and even fans singing down the phone. "With our last album, we wanted to cavort around the world and try some freaky stuff." says Harrington. "With this one [Root For Ruin], it turns out we enjoy making love with one another more than with a group of strangers."
This beguiling mixture of humour, depravity and honesty means that no two Les Savy Fav shows are the same. Amid the slew of cheesy discos and rubbish tribute bands, they could be an excellent choice to ring in 2011.
Les Savy Fav play The Button Factory on December 31