An Oral History of The Lost Sounds originally appeared in Razorcake #75, released in August/September 2013.
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An Oral History of The Lost Sounds
Three promising Memphis garage rock musicians—Alicja Trout, Jay Reatard, and, Rich Crook—came together in 1999 to form the Lost Sounds. What followed over the course of their six-year run helped broaden the genre of garage rock through the Lost Sounds’ experimentation and a disregard for convention.
Alicja Trout had already gained recognition around Memphis for her stint in the short-lived group The Clears (1997-1998). Influenced by krautrock and synth punk, The Clears were a logical precursor to Lost Sounds. Eighteen-year-old Jay Reatard was a less likely candidate for Lost Sounds. The figurehead behind the Reatards—one of the most chaotic garage rock bands of the late ‘90s—Jay’s foray into synth punk was unexpected. His move from The Reatards to Lost Sounds also brought drummer Rich Crook .
Lost Sounds’ early recordings were rooted in garage rock. Tasteful covers like The Lollipop Shoppe’s “You Must Be a Witch” and “Frankenstein Twist” were part of the band’s early set (the former appeared on their first full length Memphis Is Dead). Synths and metal elements—not to mention odd song structures and lyrics about pandemic disease—set the Lost Sounds apart from the crowd. From the start, Lost Sounds was pretty far removed from The Standells.
Like Roxy Music, they were big on ideas. Technical ability wasn’t a prerequisite. Jay couldn’t play keys and Rich might have been more comfortable on guitar than drums. None of that mattered. Hard work and self-sufficiency paid off. The band recorded itself and Alicja provided the band’s album art.
By 2001, Empty Records picked up Lost Sounds for two stunning records, Black Wave (2001) and Rat’s Brains and Microchips (2002). With each successive album, the group grew as musicians with Alicja and Jay switching off on guitar and keys. The two also improved their production skills. The last Lost Sounds record was recorded on a digital 24-track recorder and by the end of the band’s run few elements of garage rock remained.
Lost Sounds were known for their live shows. An anxiety filled Jay Reatard couldn’t stand a moment’s hesitation between songs. (I caught Lost Sounds in 2004 and it remains the most intense live show I’ve witnessed.) Alicja recalled their set being “forty-five minutes of brutality” and that’s no lie.
Alicja and Jay dated for several years, but the relationship had dissolved by the time Larry Hardy signed Lost Sounds to In The Red. Despite the group’s solid EP (Future Touch) release and an amazing self-titled full length, Lost Sounds didn’t outlast the breakup. After a horrible European tour (their last show was in Germany), Lost Sounds abruptly ended in 2005.
Jay Reatard went on to have a fairly successful solo career. He was incredibly driven, abrasive, and mercurial making it all the more rare that someone with Jay’s makeup and talent found even a modicum of financial success in music.
Jay passed away in 2010. He was only twenty-nine years old.
Eight years after their breakup, a review of Lost Sounds’ career is long overdue. Much has been made of Jay Reatard’s solo work, but it wasn’t the genesis of his career. Jay spent more time in Lost Sounds than he did in any other band and grew as a musician. He also learned to record, master, and produce albums in the process. He, arguably, recorded his best work with Alicja and Rich. Inarguably, he grew not only as a musician but as a producer. He couldn’t have recorded and played all of the instruments on Blood Visions (2006) himself without the experience he gained in Lost Sounds.
When Lost Sounds is mentioned in the press it’s not uncommon for Alicja and Rich to be overlooked. Although Alicja Trout has kept a lower profile, she’s remained incredibly productive, playing in River City Tanlines, Mouserocket, and Black Sunday. Alicja has been a pillar of the Memphis garage rock scene for more than fifteen years. Without her contributions, Lost Sounds wouldn’t have been the genre-defying and influential band it came to be. (Both The Intelligence and UV Race count Lost Sounds as an influence.) Rich Crook proved to be an incredible drummer with Lost Sounds. Crook had the constitution required to put up with Jay’s fits and to interpret Alicja’s early abstract songs. Rich went on to form Lover! (with Greg Roberson) and is currently playing in Thing.
Interview by Ryan Leach
Alicja Trout: Songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist in Lost Sounds. Also played in The Clears, CC Riders, Nervous Patterns, Destruction Unit, and Black Sunday. Currently in The River City Tanlines and Mouserocket. Releases solo material under Alicja-Pop.
Rich Crook: Drummer in Lost Sounds. Played in The Reatards, Knaughty Knights, and Lover! Currently in Thing.
Ryan Rousseau: Lost Sounds touring bassist. Played in The Wongs and The Reatards. Is in Digital Leather, Earthmen And Strangers, Tokyo Electron, and Destruction Unit.
Federico Zanutto: Ran Solid Sex Lovie Doll Records.
Meghan Smith: Worked at Empty Records.
Larry Hardy: Owner of In The Red Records.
Jay Reatard (1980-2010): Songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist in Lost Sounds. Also played in The Eunuchs, The Reatards, Nervous Patterns, CC Riders, Destruction Unit, Final Solutions, Angry Angles, Terror Visions, and had a successful solo career.
Patrick Jordan: Played bass and guitar on Lost Sounds’ self-titled record.
John Garland: Played bass in Lost Sounds.
John Acosta: Played bass in Lost Sounds.
Jon Kirkscey: Played cello on Rat’s Brains and Microchips.
The Reatards and The Clears
Ryan: What bands were you in before Lost Sounds?
Rich: I moved to Memphis in the summer of 1997. I met Jay and started playing with him in The Reatards in ‘98. I played guitar first. But The Reatards were like The Oblivians; we all switched instruments. I played drums on the Grown Up Fucked Up (1999) record. That sort of solidified me as a drummer in Memphis.
Alicja: The Clears lasted about a year. We were around in ‘97 and ‘98. I liked the music we were playing. Others did too, but it really wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to do something a little more rock’n’roll. I wasn’t into Kraftwerk. I only found out about that stuff (krautrock) because everyone kept referencing our band to it. We dressed up silly and robotic in The Clears. That was our look. We’d go into the hootchie momma stores in the mall and buy shiny plastic clothes off the close-out racks. We really weren’t trying to imitate Kraftwerk or Devo. One of the guys in the band just happened to have a ton of analog keyboards.
Formation of Lost Sounds
Ryan: Lost Sounds formed in 1999, correct?
Alicja: We might have started in 1998. Jay and I became friends. We started making kitchen recordings in ‘99. I was into keyboards. I had everything from analog keyboards to cheap Casios I’d pick up at the thrift store. Jay was known for being in The Reatards. He was also an amazing 4-track recorder. Later on he became great at working on 8-track, 16-track and 24-track recorders.
In the late ‘90s, there were a lot of bands trying to get that Farfisa sound. Real ‘60s. We didn’t have a Farfisa so we used a Roland String synthesizer. It sounded like a cloudy symphony. We’d put that through an overdrive pedal. Jay and I just wanted to see what we’d get out of it. We both liked to drink vodka in the kitchen and make noise. We didn’t have much of an objective at the beginning.
I knew The Clears wasn’t my end-all, be-all band. I think Jay felt the same way about The Reatards. The Reatards was a way for Jay to show his love for The Oblivians and garage rock, but he was into a lot more stuff. He liked Devo a lot. At some point, Jay picked up a Screamers 7”. “Punish Or Be Damned” was on it. The Screamers seemed to get rediscovered around the time we formed Lost Sounds. Ryan (Rousseau), from Destruction Unit and The Wongs, was discovering the bands on the Red Snerts compilation (a record compiling early ‘80s synth punk). It sounded like the direction we wanted to take Lost Sounds into. Jay was so comfortable with garage rock. Although he was a Devo fan, he was a little uncomfortable using analog keyboards.
Rousseau: I’d play The Screamers for Jay. Hardcore Devo, too. I had that collection on a Ryko CD. That shit was wild. Jay and I were into the same kind of stuff. We wanted to rock the fuck out. We’ve always been into similar music. I got Jay into Faust, too. Later on, he got me into Flying Nun (an independent New Zealand label).
Alicja: Lost Sounds was a mixture of Jay’s personality and my own. Rich Crook was less paranoid. He fit in because he was tough and could take whatever came his way. All of our free time would be spent experimenting. Jay and I liked jumping around with sound. If we made one song one day, we’d make another one that sounded completely different the next. That’s why Lost Sounds sounds so different from The Reatards and The Clears. We also jumped around on different albums. By the time we were on In The Red, we had the double-stack keyboards.
Rich: Jay and I knew Alicja. I had a crush on Alicja. Little did I know, Jay did too. He was going out with another girl at the time. I had made Reatards T-shirts for the European tour we were going on with The Persuaders. We left in January of ‘99. I wanted to give Alicja a T-shirt. I told Jay, “Hey, before we hit the interstate, let’s stop at Alicja’s house so we can give her one of these T-shirts.” I really wanted to impress her. “Hey, we’re off to Europe. Here’s a T-shirt!”
During that time Jay and Alicja were forming a relationship so I had no chance with her in a romantic way. They had made a two-song demo. They said they were forming a new wave band. I’m not sure if Jay had a place to stay when we got back from Europe. He might have moved in with Alicja by then. Not long afterwards, he asked me if I wanted to play in Lost Sounds.
I was very excited to be in Lost Sounds. Although I had given up on forming a romantic relationship with Alicja, I still really wanted to be in a band with her. Jay definitely had his sights on her. Alicja was great in The Clears and Jay recognized that. At that point, Jay was just the kid down the street I’d pick up and rescued from the fight he was having with his stepdad. I always saw Jay as a little kid. I was four or five years older than him and Alicja was older than me. Jay got lucky with Alicja. I’d just scratch my head when I’d think about it. It didn’t bother me at all because I could tell early on that Lost Sounds would likely turn out awesome. I was happy to be part of the ride.
Ryan: Could Jay play keyboards when Lost Sounds started?
Alicja: Not at all. It was a good thing because Jay was a better guitarist than me but I could play keyboards. Of course, it wasn’t so good when I switched to guitar, but it made us work harder at the instruments we were weaker at.
Rousseau: Jay felt like he was really progressing with Lost Sounds. We were all getting into other types of music. We couldn’t only play punk. We wanted to do other stuff.
First 7”: “Plastic Skin” EP on Solid Sex Lovie Doll (2000)
Ryan: Federico Zanutto at Solid Sex Lovie Doll released the first Lost Sounds 7”. It always amazed me how on the pulse of underground American music his Italian label was. Do you remember how you made contact with him for the 7”?
Alicja: I think Federico wanted to do something with The Reatards. Jay told him, “Well, I’m doing this other band now called The Lost Sounds. Want to release our first 7”?” The internet wasn’t really prominent at that time. There wasn’t any way for him to know about it otherwise.
Federico: At the time, I was listening to a lot of American bands and The Reatards were one of my favourites. I didn’t know about the existence of Lost Sounds. When I approached Jay, I think I contacted him by e-mail, asking if he wanted to release a Reatards single on my label. He replied that he had just started a new band called Lost Sounds and had recorded some songs with them. If I wanted to, I could release those songs. I told him, “Of course.”
Ryan: “Plastic Skin,” “What I’d Say,” and “Lost and Found” show up on that 7”.
Alicja: Those are the ‘99 kitchen recordings Jay, Rich, and I did. We were just forming our sound then.
Federico: They sent me a tape. I preserved it because it meant a lot to me. Recently, Alicja asked me if I could send her the tape for the Goner re-press of the single. She kindly sent it back to me, as she knew how much I valued it.
Rich: I was excited about the first 7”. Up until then I had only played on the Grown Up Fucked Up album with The Reatards. We all had a hand in the record—although Jay and Alicja more so because they wrote the songs. They brought me demos of the songs on cassette. That helped out a lot. We recorded the record in a back room of a house that Alicja had bought. The fact that it was coming out on an Italian label was cool.
First LP: Memphis Is Dead released on Big Neck Records (2001)
Ryan: Had you done much touring before you released Memphis Is Dead?
Alicja: We had only really played in the South by that point. Oxford (Mississippi), Jackson, and New Orleans. We had gone up to Chicago, too. Maybe Milwaukee. But we hadn’t done too many out-of-town shows.
Ryan: Did you do the cover art for Memphis Is Dead ?
Alicja: Yeah. The cover photo is a French castle with some imagery from the film Shoot the Moon.
Ryan: The back cover says it was recorded at “This Ain’t Easley’s Studios.” Did you and Jay record the album yourselves?
Alicja: That was what Jay called his studio. It’s so funny. At the time, Jay thought Easley’s studio was posh and pretentious. Doug’s studio was anything but that. The Easleys were the nicest guys. Their studio became hip for a while. Jay was looking at the world through his teenager’s viewpoint. I thought, “Whatever. I’d be happy to record with Easley.”
Rich: The Baseball Furies were on tour in Memphis. Jim (McCann) from the Baseball Furies stayed at Alicja’s house. Lost Sounds didn’t end up playing with them that night. I think The Reatards did. We asked Jim if he wanted to hear the Lost Sounds recordings we had made. Once he heard it, he flipped out and said, “I want to put this record out!” He called his friend Bart (Hart) from Big Neck. After a couple of weeks, Bart said, “Yeah, let’s get started.” We recorded that whole record in a basement of a house that Alicja’s friend owned. Alicja just rented a room. She had her recording studio down there, which was just a reel-to-reel. It was pretty basic. If you listen to it now, the drums sound like shit. There was nothing to that recording. It was bare bones. We were a total garage band recording in a basement.
Ryan: Memphis Is Dead is an angry record. “Satan Bought Me” is on there. There are also some garage-influenced tracks that made up part of your early sound, like “I’ve Lost It” and the Lollipop Shoppe cover (“You Must Be a Witch”).
Alicja: I was lucky that I found Jay and Rich. I brought really strange songs to the band. Jay and Rich had never recorded anything like “Satan Bought Me” before. They gave it a shot. My brain doesn’t go to those places anymore. “Satan Bought Me” slaughtered my voice. It sounds scary and, at the time, I thought like that. I didn’t want to sing the song live after a while.
When I wrote it, (George W.) Bush had just been elected and there was a feeling that the United States would be turning really conservative. Everyone felt that the four horsemen of the apocalypse were coming. It was a scary time. I remember hearing things about bar codes, that bar codes were everywhere and taking over. Mix that with no responsibility in my life outside of showing up to work and paying rent, I’d just let my mind wander. Someone was telling me all these theories about the symbolism in the dollar—that kind of stuff. I remember thinking, “Yikes!” A short time later I figured there was no way anything that calculated could take place.
Rich: I respected Alicja so much. I thought she could do no wrong. I felt so fortunate and lucky to play with her. I still think she has it all. I just wanted to be a part of it. Whatever she threw at me I was going to work with.
Ryan: Did the psychogeography of Memphis impact Lost Sounds?
Alicja: Absolutely. It’s a city where you don’t always feel safe. There’s a lot of poverty here. You have to have a sense of humor about it. Jay and I internalized events around us and took them very personally. I don’t do that as much anymore.
Second LP: Black Wave released on Empty Records (2001)
Rich: Jay had formed a relationship with Empty before we went to Europe with The Reatards.
Meghan: Empty released Grown Up Fucked Up by The Reatards. Not long afterwards, Jay called me up and said he was doing a side project with Alicja called Lost Sounds. I didn’t know Alicja then. Prior to Lost Sounds, I spoke with Jay a lot. Jay said Lost Sounds was releasing a full length (Memphis Is Dead). I asked him why he didn’t give us the option of putting it out. Jay said I wouldn’t like the record. I told him to let me be the judge of that and to send me the new tracks they were working on. Empty ended up doing the next two full lengths (Black Wave and Rat’s Brains and Microchips). All told, Empty put out more records by Jay than any other label.
Ryan: Alicja and Rich mentioned that Jay was the one contacting record labels.
Meghan: Jay loved to talk. E-mail wasn’t his strongest thing. Jay didn’t have a ton of schooling. When he did that first 7” (with The Reatards), he took it to school and the music teacher said, “Great. Bring us something we can play on CD.” Jay walked away from that thinking fuck you. Although Jay didn’t have a lot of schooling, he was extremely smart. He wasn’t book smart. When you’re in school, that can be difficult. He had a ton of energy and wrote a lot of songs. He threw a lot of them away. He had that talent. Jay was an easy person to hang out with when he was in a good mood. I talked with him more than any other person in my adult life.
Ryan: Black Wave is a double LP. That’s a lot of money to ante up for a release.
Meghan: We never told bands what they could or couldn’t do. If a double LP is what you created, that’s what we were going to put out. It wasn’t a big deal. We only were concerned with whether the record was good. It’s a very complete record. I love vinyl but Black Wave works well as a CD.
Ryan: Black Wave has one of my favorite Lost Sounds songs on it, “Ocelot Rising.”
Alicja: “Ocelot Rising” doesn’t have very many lyrics. It was a song that would have typically ended up as a home recording, never to be released. Again, Jay and Rich were willing to try different things. That song helped me discover that it’s easier to play songs that are loud and fast as opposed to slow. People would request “Ocelot Rising,” but we’d feel uncomfortable playing it. We were usually feeling so anxiety-ridden. It was hard to play mellow.
Rich: Black Wave was recorded at The People’s Temple. At that point, Jay and Alicja were not living together anymore. Jay was staying with some of the guys in The Oscars. They lived in this big warehouse close to Sun Studios on Union Avenue in Memphis. They called it The People’s Temple. It was a punk rock collective. They’d host shows and parties there. We recorded all of the music on Black Wave on the second floor of that building.
Ryan: Would you guys collaborate on songs?
Alicja: We would write songs individually. I would try to get my ideas across to the other members of the band. Sometimes Jay and Rich would add their own touch and do something different. The cover art for Black Wave shows us getting attacked by some atomic rays in the city. It’s supposed to be scary. But we were also using humor. We might have sounded serious, but we didn’t perceive ourselves that way. Jason (“Panzer” Craft) from The Persuaders said, “You guys are like black metal and new wave.” He came up with the name for our music: black wave. We thought it was funny. That’s where the name for the record came from.
Ryan: The cover of Black Wave has a really endearing photo of Jay on it. He’s running with a mini-keyboard, sort of crouched. He’s really young and healthy.
Alicja: He’s sort of giggling, too. Jay was a giggly guy. He’d get drunk and his voice would get really Southern sounding. He wasn’t always the dude with the raspy voice, looking to beat you up. He would shoot bottle rockets out of his ass at parties to make people laugh.
Meghan: Lost Sounds did the cover art for Rat’s Brains at Empty’s office while they were on tour. I remember Blake (Wright, head of Empty) was gone that day. The fight that ensued between Jay and Alicja was pretty ridiculous. It’s a great cover but they had a seven-hour argument about it. They fought over every aspect of it. I would try to walk away from the two of them. Jay would pull me back into the argument. That was Jay’s personality coming through. Alicja wasn’t like that.
Alicja: I think people got excited about Lost Sounds little by little. There was a steady growth. By the time we got on In The Red, anyone with their ear to the ground knew who we were. Girls were interested in the band, possibly because there was a girl in Lost Sounds. Jay’s fans were interested. Of course, some of them—who liked The Reatards—didn’t like Lost Sounds. People into keyboards liked Lost Sounds.
Rousseau: I was so excited when I got to play bass on their first West Coast tour. I had the van. I think Jay and Alicja rode to Phoenix on a bus. It took them like five days. Horrible. It was right when Black Wave came out. Our show was half Memphis Is Dead, half Black Wave. I thought Black Wave was amazing.
Ryan: Was Jay the catalyst that got you going live?
Alicja: Jay was a catalyst. He was terribly high strung. Jay had an abnormal level of anxiety. It was unhealthy. I came from a family that had an unhealthy level of anxiety, so dealing with it was normal for me. You get accustomed to playing shows as an endorphin rush. You only get that way by screaming and letting yourself go.
We weren’t always having a good time playing. There would be times where everything was going great and then it’d be like, “Shit, Jay’s freaking out again.” He’d be yelling at someone or freaking out about something. It wasn’t all the time. To this day, I don’t like playing quiet shows. But I definitely don’t want to go back to the days of singing “Satan Bought Me.” I just don’t have that much anxiety any more. It might be part of getting older.
Jay had no tolerance for people messing up. Rich and I had the same internal feeling, but we wouldn’t let it out like Jay did. As a group, we functioned well because we all wanted to get the job done. We’d occasionally have a fourth person in the band who was the easy-going personality. With John (Garland), Patrick (Jordan), or John (Acosta), it was a case of thinking, “Okay, we can only take it so far before they start freaking out.”
Rich: Jay’s anxiety was awful, awful, awful. You could feel it ten feet away. Nobody wanted to make him angry. When Jay got angry, the tour could be canceled or he’d decide that he didn’t want to get in the van that night. The list of complaints, threats, and demands just mounted over the years.
It got to the point where he wasn’t happy with just himself being anxiety-ridden, everyone had to be anxiety-ridden with him. It worked. I’m wired that way. Alicja is a lot more calm and levelheaded. It’s really tough to describe. We’d try to get through the show without any mistakes so he wouldn’t fly off of the handle. He’d make it uncomfortable for everybody: promoters, the people there seeing the show, other bands on the bills, the guy who was supposed to pay us at the end of the night.
We might have had a place lined up to stay that night. Jay would piss those people off and they’d be gone. Then there’d be nowhere to stay. But, at the same time, we wanted to put on a great show. We were so well rehearsed. We practiced twice a week for three hours at a time. We had our show down. If anything went wrong on stage, you’d better watch out. Something was going to get thrown at you or, at the very least, you were going to get yelled at. It was tough.
Alicja and I wanted to keep everything streamlined and harmonious. Jay felt that way, too. If he fucked up, Alicja would give it right back to him. Then Jay would dish it right back. They were in a relationship together so they had the right to do that. I didn’t know how to handle it. I’d be ganged up on or it would be me and Jay on Alicja or Alicja and me on Jay.
There was a lot going on in Lost Sounds. An argument might have surfaced in the van ten minutes before we got into town or ten minutes before we got on stage. In retrospect, it’s really funny. It wasn’t a lot of fun at the time, though. I always felt rewarded when nights went well. There was a heavy and dark dynamic to Lost Sounds.
Meghan: I booked a Lost Sounds show with a band that shall remain nameless. Jay had a meltdown. The opening band couldn’t play because half of them were out scoring crack. Alicja told me, “We’re in Seattle now. You go deal with Jay. I’m taking the night off. I deal with this Monday through Friday. You go into the van and find out what’s wrong with him so we can go on stage.”
Other Members of Lost Sounds
Ryan: Were the other guys like Patrick (Jordan) who came into the band able to handle the tension?
Rich: They did. When it was just the three of us—Alicja, Jay and me—we did get along most of the time. We laughed a lot on tour. But when it got dark, it got dark. When it got light it was really, really light. We got along well. We spent so much time together. When the other guys came in, they felt like outsiders. They weren’t part of this trinity that had begun at the beginning. They didn’t have that much invested. They just had to learn the parts. As far as getting emotionally involved, there was a wall between them and us.
Alicja: I think that the people who came in and out of the band left because they weren’t songwriters in Lost Sounds. Sometimes, they’d move to a different city or wanted to form another band with their own sound. They were never made the scapegoats.
I can’t recall if I read this or someone told me this, but Jay said in an interview that Lost Sounds was his last real band. I think he was frustrated because he had a sound in his head that he couldn’t get others to duplicate. With Lost Sounds, we developed the sound and ideas together. Jay and I never said, “Play your part exactly like this.”
Third LP: Rat’s Brains and Microchips released on Empty Records (2002)
Alicja: “Black Coats/White Fear” and “Energy Drink” were the most popular songs off that album. We were really hitting our stride by then. We thought Rat Brain’s and Microchips was going to hit a lot harder than it did. But like I said, we always had a steady climb and increase in fans. It was exciting for us. The tours were great. We were making decent money and selling a lot of merch. We were really productive.
That album didn’t sound exactly how I wanted it to sound. Jay made it sound a little more blown-out than I wanted it to. But when I go back and listen to it now—it was recorded digitally with 16-tracks—had it more clarity, I would have liked it more. We sounded really brutal live. I just didn’t want the record to sound like that. But, overall, I’m happy with Rat’s Brains and Microchips. We got a little experimental with the opening track. We opened up our shows with “Rat’s Brains and Microchips.” We were really tight by that time. Our shows were forty-five minutes of brutality.
Rich: I love Rat’s Brains and Microchips! “Black Coats/White Fear” is my mom’s favorite Lost Sounds song. My mom loved Lost Sounds. Black Wave and Rat’s Brains sort of bleed into one another. I don’t prefer one album over the other. There are a lot of keyboards on Rat’s Brains. Jon (Kirkscey) was playing cello with us. The band was getting big. The funny thing is that all of our equipment was still shitty! It didn’t matter how big the band got. We were trying to do something different. We were really leaving garage rock behind by Rat’s Brains. Jay and Alicja were moving onto something different. It’s a fun record. It’s not as serious as Black Wave. Then again, the covers were always goofy. Look at Rat’s Brains. We’re flying around on microchips. Alicja loved doing the covers. We all thought they were great.
Ryan: You helped get Lost Sounds on In The Red, correct?
Meghan: I was going to leave Empty. I gave the label a year’s notice. I knew that Jay was going to leave Empty. There were a lot of labels interested in doing records with Lost Sounds. John (Reis) from Swami wanted to do a record with Lost Sounds. Lost Sounds ended up doing a whole tour with Rocket From The Crypt. Oddly enough, Slim Moon from Kill Rock Stars wanted to sign Lost Sounds. When Jay told me about Slim Moon being interested, I said, “That’s weird.” Jay replied, “Well, he’s booking a show for us in Olympia. You should come out to Olympia and then we’ll come to Seattle.” I drove to Olympia.
The show was weird. It ended up being at this biker NA bar. Alicja, Rich, and I were going to leave Jay with Slim Moon. They were supposed to discuss putting out records. I knew it wasn’t going to work. Slim was probably too weird for Jay. Alicja, Rich, and I went to some bar. We didn’t have cell phones at the time. Twenty minutes later, Jay found us. He must have just walked from bar to bar looking for us. Jay said, “I can’t believe you left me with that guy.” I told him, “It’s Slim Moon from Kill Rock Stars. I thought you could handle it.” Jay said, “He’s weird.”
I have a really good friend named Bruce Milne who ran Au Go Go Records (Australia) for a lot of years. He was visiting here in the States. He said, “Hey, Larry (Hardy) really wants to put out one of your bands. He wants to talk with you about it.” People who ran labels, they didn’t want to do anything underhanded. Eric (Oblivian/Goner) was okay with me releasing a Reatards LP. It was a small community back then.
I told Larry, “You’re not going to hurt my feelings by releasing the next Lost Sounds record. It’s okay.” I don’t know if he could have done more for them than we could. I’m not sure if Larry was too into metal. The Lost Sounds had a metal sound to them. There was really nothing like the Lost Sounds before they came out. They were new wave, punk rock, metal, and garage all at the same time. They came up with something different. They also had a strong female in the band who could really play.
Future Touch EP released on In The Red Records (2004)
Larry: I didn’t meet Meghan until I got involved with Lost Sounds. She helped explain the dynamics of the band. Normally, I wouldn’t need someone to do that, but in the case of Lost Sounds it was good information to have. I did an interview with a magazine. They asked me what bands I liked that weren’t on my label. I told them Lost Sounds was my favorite. I think that’s how the band knew I was interested in them. After Rat’s Brains, they were looking to move to a different label. Jay cold-called me out of nowhere. He asked me if I wanted to release their next record. I never dealt with someone on my label who called me as much as Jay did. He called me every day. He told me, “We need to be in constant communication with the people we’re working with.”
Rich: Getting on In The Red was a big deal. We were doing records consistently with Empty up until then and nothing was really happening. The same distribution and the same promotion would be used for each record. We all felt that we needed to step it up a little bit. We weren’t interested in becoming rock stars. But when we heard Larry was interested in putting out one of our records, we definitely felt we had to follow up on it. Meghan from Empty was the one who told Jay that Larry was interested. Jay did all the talking with labels. I’m not sure what the relationship was like between Blake from Empty and Jay. The relationship between Jay and Meghan was good. Empty dissolved a short time later. When we signed with In The Red, Larry gave us a big enough advance to buy a 24-track recorder that we used for Future Touch.
Alicja: I’m not even sure why we put out that EP. I think we wanted an introduction to In The Red. Future Touch is going to be reissued soon. It’s going to be re-mastered. It didn’t get mastered properly the first time. That was our fault. We didn’t have a proper record player to listen to the test pressing on. We took it to different record players and it sounded squashed. “Black Flowers” sounds more blown-out than it should. At that time, Jay was thinking of making the records sound cleaner. We were going into different places with a heavier emphasis on keyboards and different song structures. Jay had become a really good keyboard player by then.
Larry: I don’t recall why we released that EP either, as opposed to a full length. They always had an abundance of material. Jay and Alicja told me how much money they wanted to record what became their self-titled record. It was the money they needed to buy more recording gear. Lost Sounds recorded themselves and produced their own records. I gave them the money. I think it was a case where they said, “Hey, do you want to do an EP to establish the fact that we’re on your label?” It happened really quickly. Right after we struck a deal, they had Future Touch ready to go. Looking back on it now, Future Touch is a really strong record. I’m glad we put it out.
Fourth LP: Self-titled released on In The Red Records (2004)
Ryan: Patrick (Jordan) plays bass on your self-titled record. He also plays the incredible solo on “We’re Just Living.” I think you call it “LA lead” on the record.
Alicja: Patrick is a great guitar player. Sometimes after practice, Patrick would play guitar and Rich would sing. I’ve actually got twenty minutes of them recorded—Rich singing, “Every rose has its thorn…” Patrick would follow along and Rich would yell, “Take a lead, Patrick.” Patrick would go off. If you ever meet Patrick, you’ll find out quickly that he can’t see anything. He’d go to people’s houses and look at their records, his face would be three inches away. Cops would stop him and yell at him: “What are you doing?!” We’d say, “He’s nearly blind!” Patrick was all ears to make up for his vision. We’d have to tune his bass on stage. He couldn’t see the tuner.
Ryan: I really like the B Side to your self-titled record. “And You Dance?” and “Let’s Get Sick” are some of your best songs.
Alicja: I agree. What’s funny about that record is we put all of the songs we were most uncomfortable with on the second side and those are the better ones. Had we stayed together, Jay’s songs would have turned into new wave pop and my songs would’ve been loaded with weird timing changes. We were totally outside of garage rock by that time.
End of Lost Sounds (2005)
Alicja: By the time Larry took us on at In The Red, Jay and I weren’t dating anymore. We tried to keep the band going after our relationship ended. It lasted about seven or eight months. It made things weird, especially on tour. That may have been the reason why the band ended. I know Jay can’t speak for himself. Jay had Final Solutions. I had River City Tanlines and Mouserocket. I think he got mad that I was making records with other bands. If people appreciated my songs, he got angry. Jay wasn’t that way in the beginning.
Jay got pretty blatant about dating other people and bringing it into the mix of our band. That made me not want to hide that part of my life anymore. Something about me was irritating him a lot. Although I wasn’t trying to step on his toes, it seemed to eat him up. He was drinking more. In London he hit me with a mic stand really hard. He got into a physical altercation with me and a yelling match with Rich on that tour. That was the end of the band.
We played a show in Dresden, Germany. They take bookings seriously in Europe. Jay just left the stage. The promoter said to us, “What’s wrong? What did I do?” He felt bad. There’s a language barrier and he didn’t know what was going on. That was pretty uncomfortable.
With River City Tanlines, I realized acting that way wasn’t normal. They (Terrence Bishop and John Bonds) could play aggressively and party till six in the morning but still have a good time. They don’t yell at the sound guy and the audience. Rich and I just became acclimated with that in Lost Sounds. I was upset that Lost Sounds had so much going for it but that it was falling apart. Even though I wasn’t dating Jay anymore, I would have stayed with the band. But it wasn’t working for him.
Rich: Alicja and Jay had broken up. It was sad that the band was going to end because of it. I wanted to continue. With Jay’s personality, continuing Lost Sounds after their breakup couldn’t have worked. With Alicja’s personality, it could have. Alicja is very diplomatic. Jay wanted to go onto greener pastures. He started dating someone else. He was infatuated with this new girl.
The fact that he had to go on one more European tour that he had committed to… he had called everyone on the phone and said, “I can’t go on this European tour.” We all hated cancelling. We may have cancelled six or seven shows before. Alicja and I were not about to cancel a whole tour that we had signed ourselves up to. People had worked hard setting it up. Jay was unwilling to do it. We thought he was being a big baby about it. He was. We went to Europe. The shows were amazing but Jay definitely did not want to be there. The last show of the tour was a dark night for everyone.
Larry: Jay was recording Blood Visions while he was still in Lost Sounds. He told me that he wanted to do a solo album. They were about to break up but they decided to tour Europe one last time. We had talked about doing another Lost Sounds album but it got to the point where it wasn’t worth it anymore. They were all miserable working together. Alicja told me she couldn’t be in Lost Sounds anymore. She said that Jay had “a great way of sucking the fun out of everything.” I can totally see that. Jay was pretty intense. Blood Visions is largely about his breakup with Alicja and Lost Sounds. That’s his breakup album.
I tried to convince Jay to keep the band together. I thought they had a really good thing going. I’m convinced that had Lost Sounds toured more behind their self-titled record they could have broke through to a bigger audience. It just fell apart and it was all due to Jay not being able to be in a band with Alicja. I told Jay, “This happened to X. John Doe and Exene split up but they were able to work together still. You can do it, too. My friends in the Muffs went through the same thing and they still play together. You can be friends with Alicja and work with her.” Jay did not want to hear that. He said, “If we’re not going out, then I can’t work with her.” Jay tried to make life hell for Alicja on that last tour. He was having a ton of fits. He wasn’t pleasant at all.
Post Lost Sounds
Alicja: Jay’s life ended the way it did. I think had he lived for a few more years, he might have been able to deal with his anxiety better. He honestly came from a very disturbed family and living situation. There’s that saying that if you smoke for ten years, it’ll take you ten years to truly feel comfortable with quitting. I don’t know if that’s true, but I think had Jay been away from his family for seventeen or eighteen years—the time he spent with them—he might have been able to come to terms with some of things he went through when he was young.
Larry: I haven’t gone back and listened to much of Jay’s music since he’s passed away. It’s hard for me to listen to his voice. Lost Sounds is a little easier because at least Alicja is on there too. A whole bag of mixed emotions comes up when I hear Jay’s songs. I imagine that will pass over time.
Ryan: Is there a Lost Sounds record that stands out to you?
Alicja: Rat’s Brains is the strongest record as a whole. At least I think so. I listened to Future Touch recently because we got it re-mastered. There’s a lot of me on that record, so I’m a little uncomfortable with it. It’s very satisfying when you have these abstract ideas and your band is willing to play them. I wasn’t too happy with the self-titled record we did for Larry, but I listened to it after Jay’s death and I’m happier with it now than when we released it. I’ll never write songs like that anymore or be in a band like Lost Sounds again.
I think my songs with Black Sunday are the ones I would’ve brought to Lost Sounds had we continued. Nervous Patterns were songs that didn’t quite fit the bill with Lost Sounds. River City Tanlines formed in 2004 when Lost Sounds was still going. That was a way for me to do something easier. It was rock. I didn’t want to sing about the end of the world all the time. When you’re in a band with someone you’re in a relationship with, you’re not going to write love songs. You can’t make it that obvious. You feed each other’s creativity in different ways.
Larry: Lost Sounds was my favorite thing Jay ever did. Jay working with Alicja was so cool. It’s a shame they never took it further. They never made a bad record. Jay ditched keyboards after Lost Sounds. Blood Visions has no keyboards on it. That was intentional. It was his reaction to Lost Sounds. It’s too bad because working with synths and keyboards made his work so much stronger.
Lost Lost released on Goner (2012)
Ryan: Lost Lost is a great collection. The version of “Black Coats/White Fear” on there is incredible. It’s very stark and forceful. I think it’s the definitive version of the song.
Alicja: Lost Lost was a great way to close out Lost Sounds. I love “Black Coats/White Fear.” That’s one of the first songs Jay brought to the band. It’s the same recording that appears on Lost Lost. I remember hearing it for the first time. It had what a 4-track recording brings. You really step inside someone’s brain with home-recorded 4-tracks. It’s a very private moment.
Ryan: “Black Coast/White Fear” is so stark and cold. It paints a picture of war-torn Europe in the early ‘40s, where colors and symbols could signify whether you lived or not.
Alicja: Jay wrote that song about the Columbine massacre.
Ryan: That goes to show you how precocious Jay was with his songwriting. He’d write songs that people could interpret differently—whether it be Europe in ‘39 or Colorado in ‘99. He caught the feeling of fear and anxiety in that song.
Alicja: How cheesy would it be to say, “Hey, I just wrote a song about the Columbine High School massacre”? How bad could a song like that be? Of course, Jay’s song didn’t come off that way. “Clones Don’t Love” was about a Middle Easterner’s interpretation of a “typical” American. This was after September 11. Americans are the clones in the songs and Islamic Extremists were getting rid of these zombies. In Lost Sounds, we covered social events but in a way no one was aware of. We were into creating visual pictures instead of taking positions on particular events.
Rich: Alicja was so nice about giving me a cassette or CD-R of the demos she’d make with Jay. Lost Lost shows everyone what was going on in Jay’s head and Alicja’s head. There are tracks on there that I don’t even remember doing, like “Frankenstein Twist.” It’s really cool. That was recorded at the same time as the material that showed up on the Solid Sex Lovie Doll 7”. Jay and Alicja recorded so much stuff.
I can’t stress enough how important it was to be in a band with Alicja. I didn’t know it at first with Jay, but he went on to have a big role in Lost Sounds. I didn’t see that coming. Jay learned everything in Lost Sounds that he took with him later on. Jay always had it but he developed his skills in Lost Sounds.
I watched a Johnny Ramone interview yesterday. It was the last one he ever did. Johnny always knew what was going to happen. He’d tell the other members of the band what to do: “If the vocal mic goes out, Dee Dee, knock it down and mouth, ‘One, two, three, four. Don’t look scared. Don’t look vulnerable.’” That was Jay’s thing. He understood where Johnny was coming from on all fronts. Had Jay broke things down in a different way, things could have been a whole lot easier. Jay didn’t want to tell everyone what to do, although he did it. I don’t know how else to explain it.
There were so many jaw-dropping moments: “I can’t believe Jay just said that,” “I can’t believe Alicja just said that.” It was raw and honest. I’ve never witnessed anything like that since. Jay didn’t want people messing up. If you did, there was going to be a price to pay. People were fearful of Jay. That is true even for me and Alicja at times, but we also became aware of Jay’s hidden agenda. You also have to remember that when Jay would go on a tirade of his choosing, Alicja and I were left to clean up the mess—a lot of damage control. So a lot of resentment began to build up concerning Jay. That also added to what was being projected off the stage from all of us and he knew it as well. It was a conscious thing on his part. He was very smart and manipulative that way.
Everywhere we went, we played the same intense show. We were so rehearsed. We didn’t want to fuck anything up. We were a regime. It was hard sometimes. I think we had a great run. We put out so much stuff in such a short amount of time. So many tours. We got a lot done considering what was happening in the band.
I miss Lost Sounds. I really do. I don’t miss the situations that would come up, but I miss playing the music. I haven’t been challenged like that since. I was getting good at drums. I was becoming a real drummer. It was that constant pressure and practice. When Lost Sounds ended, I never reached that skill level again.
I miss Jay, too. We fell out after Lost Sounds. We were just getting to a point where we’d call each other every couple of months to check in. And then he died. I was so happy that he’d wear a Lover! shirt I gave him. He didn’t have to do that. He even wore it on an album cover. I think of it as a nod to a friendship that once was.
Larry: I think Lost Sounds almost singlehandedly changed the direction of garage rock. When Memphis Is Dead came out, it caught me by surprise. It was a weird record—part goth but with hints of black metal in it. All these elements that never would have been in a garage record before were there. As they got bigger, bands like Blank Dogs and the Intelligence started popping up. They were using synths but were somehow considered garage rock still. I don’t think that would have happened had Lost Sounds not done it first and paved the way. The people in UV Race who are really young, they’re huge Lost Sounds fans. That’s one of their favorite bands. Daniel (Stewart) from the UV Race—he played in Total Control as well—he brought Jay over to Australia. They found out about The Screamers through Lost Sounds. It’s so weird. A number of young people have gotten into them through Lost Sounds.
There have been a couple posthumous Lost Sounds releases. In 2011 Fat Possum released Blac Static, a best-of collection. A year later Goner released Lost Lost, a collection of demos and outtakes. Well worth the admission price, Lost Lost contains my favorite version of “Black Coats/White Fear” (a 4-track recording Jay brought to the band as a demo). A re-mastered repressing of Future Touch (2004) should be out soon on In The Red.
(Check issue #29 of Razorcake for Miss Erika’s interview with Alicja and #30 for Speedway Randy’s interview with Jay and Ryan Rousseau.)
Ryan Leach is a skateboarder who grew up in Los Angeles and Ventura County. Like Belinda Carlisle and Lorna Doom, he graduated from Newbury Park High School. With Mor Fleisher-Leach he runs Spacecase Records. Leach’s interviews are available at Bored Out (http://boredout305.tumblr.com/).
Razorcake is a bi-monthly, Los Angeles-based fanzine that provides consistent coverage of do-it-yourself punk culture. We believe in positive, progressive, community-friendly DIY punk, and are the only bona fide 501(c)(3) non-profit music magazine in America. We do our part.
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