October Feature Band: Commonplace
This is a band that isn’t as concerned with their image as they are with their music. Commonplace is a synthesis of five talented individuals with diverse backgrounds that come together in musical expression that is anything but “common.”
Lara’s voice is distinct. It is highly stylized and leads to comparisons ranging from Liz Fraser to Siouxsie Sioux. Lara is quick to point out that she is her own singer though. “I’m not Siouxsie, and I’m not Sinead. Commonplace is not the “Church of Love and Rockets.” You can hear influences from their favorite bands but they have changed, incorporated through their personas, and turned into their own unique creations. The best witness of this is their single “The Chosen Ones.” Lara’s voice is rich and full. Her vocals blend with the lush guitar sounds of Scott, Colin and Troy and are held in check by Jason’s drumming. You can sense an earnestness as you listen to the songs.
The musical forcefulness is apparent in their live performances as well. The energy and drive of their music are even more powerful live. Scott’s the one to watch as he hammers at his guitar, bent over and overcome by the band’s song.
Lara started out as a vocalist for Bad Yodelers, which she described as a “unique introduction” to singing in bands. Up to that point, her vocal experience was limited to singing in school choruses. From Bad Yodelers, she moved on to Blood Poets which later became Howl. While singing for Dinosaur Bones, she met Scott and then became Commonplace.
Lara describes Commonplace as “a real band effort. Everyone has a say.” Lara wrote the lyrics for the two singles, but Scott also writes the lyrics. Songwriting credit goes to all members of the band, but the songs are inspired by individual members. They don’t write with a specific sound in mind but form songs to their own liking.
Everyone in the band has different influences: “We jokingly call Troy the ‘death rocker.’” The ‘gloomy’ side of Commonplace is attributed to him. Lara cites Scott as the “pop” influence. “I don’t mean that in a bad way, like Depeche Mode or something.” Probably more like The Church or other “pop” musicians in that vein. Colin’s orientation is more towards folk and ballads. All the members agree on the likes of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. Reluctantly, Lara admits she grew up on country music. “My dad missed The Beatles, okay. He was in med school so he had no idea who The Beatles were. So I was raised on Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn. I mean, I remember running around the living room when I was eight-years-old singing, “Ring of Fire.” That’s what my brother and I listened to.” Not really embarrassing when you consider Social Distortion and Wall of Voodoo covering Cash’s songs.
Basically, Scott is the lead singer of the band. He puts together the press kits and did the graphics and packaging design for the singles and t-shirts. His determination has helped get the band a distribution deal with Rough Trade Records that will hopefully get their single into record stores around the country. “Scott just kept bugging people,” and it worked out.
Now that the singles have been out for a while, Lara finds little things that she’d like to change, notes that she feels weren’t quite right, and such. The musician/poet in her is “overly critical” of what she writes. Love and death and takes—all the usual topics—come into play in her lyrics but from her own point of view. Vehemently denying she’s a feminist, Lara is interested in the female musician’s point of view. “I just want to see what women write. You don’t hear as much of the woman’s point of view. It’s usually some guy crooning about some girl. And if a girl’s crooning about some guy it turns out like Concrete Blonde’s ‘Joey’ which is one of the most pathetic songs.”
Commonplace works—musically and literally. You only have to listen to the single or see them live to figure that out. A refreshing band on the local scene, Commonplace—try as they might—will succeed.
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Jojo’s Corner: September 1990