When I first heard Low Cut Connie during South By Southwest in 2015 it was a liberating experience. I had been listening to the Philly band for a year or two before, but it was their barnburner of a set that gave me a feeling that rock and roll was alive and well as long as these guys were around. Their Jerry Lee Lewis meets Chuck Berry with a healthy dash of Springsteen and bar band sleaze is the kind of stuff few bands even attempt now, perhaps because it isn’t “hip” or because putting on a fiery rock and roll show takes bravado and energy. This was the kind of music that makes you forget about how fucked up the world is and simply enjoy the moment. During that set it felt like everyone watching was collectively letting their troubles go, including the rowdy as all hell band. To say I was floored would be putting it lightly.
The idea of rock and roll as the great liberator is timeless and also an idea that weighs heavily on the mind of Low Cut Connie’s front man Adam Weiner. Dirty Pictures (part 1), which comes out via Contender Records on May 19th, is filled with the theme of liberation through rock and roll. Somehow, it manages to be a political album while also being anti-political. Through one piano-driven rabble-rouser after another, the band appeals to the listener to let it all go, forget the bullshit and the sadness, and embrace your brothers and sisters with love, no matter race or views. The culmination of this spirit may come in their colorful take on Prince’s “Controversy” (hear it below), which has become a beloved staple of their live sets. Dirty Pictures is the first of two albums Low Cut Connie plans to release within the next year, and each song feels like a single aimed at bringing people together regardless of their differences. In other words, the band is making rock and roll that feels more vital than ever before. Recently, Adam Weiner took the time to talk about the past year, the new album, and where Low Cut Connie is going. Glide is also excited to share an exclusive listen of one of the standout songs on Dirty Pictures, “Dirty Water”.
The main single – “Revolution Rock and Roll” – seems to embrace this classic idea of rock as the great liberator. Do you still see it like that and where does that idea fit into the attitude and philosophy of the band?
I sit down and I wonder why, after all these years, considering this band has never exploded and gotten signed, why after so many ups and downs am I still hear doing this. It’s such a crazy life. I think with that song I was really asking myself that question and the only thing that sustains me through all that is that it has to really sustain me with something more vital than success. I feel like there’s a real liberation and uplifting spirit that happens at our shows, and with that song I was just reminding myself of that and reminding people that rock and roll has that ability if you allow it to. I can’t say whether it’s present in other peoples music or on the radio, but I can tell you that I feel like it’s my job to reach people on a deeper level and lift them up in a way they won’t forget. I’m sure there are those people who will miss Low Cut Connie being that crazy garage band, but I feel like this is a development and maturation of the band.
One of the big things that happened last year was the departure of drummer, guitarist and singer Dan Finnemore. How has the band dynamic changed since then?
A door closes, another door opens. Our lineup has changed like fifteen times in our six-year history. Each album and each year brought a new dynamic and a new lineup, so it’s always been a band in flux. My relationship with Dan was a very special one and one that I knew I’d be foolish to try and replicate. I’ve never tried in this band to replicate something that we did before. I always just try to pick up and do something that feels good at the moment. Back in the early days our guitar player was a guy named Neil Duncan – he produced our first two albums – and he was responsible for producing “Rio”, “Boozophilia”, “Brand New Cadillac” and “Shit Shower Shave”. After he left the band we knew we couldn’t replicate that so we turned into a five-piece and expanded into a totally different idea.
So with Dan not being in the band, I took it as an opportunity to explore something new and make the sound a little heavier. Because we all live in the same country now, we can actually rehearse, so I think we became a tighter band. People always describe us as a bar band and I don’t think that’s a problem, I sort of wear that as a badge of honor. But one thing associated with being a bar band is being sloppy, and Dirty Pictures is the first record where we’ve lost a little bit of that and have shown people that we can do a bigger sound and a be little more aspirational in the vibe. I was really happy during all of our shows in the last year that people have really responded to that and people like the new stuff it seems. I just think it’s a new era.
Has it been more of a challenge for you to assume the role of full-time front man?
It took me about five minutes to adjust but I guess after all these years maybe I know what I’m doing. We’re at a place now where there are enough fans that the fans just lift you up and carry you for an hour, and the nice thing about being the central part is that I can create a relationship with the audience members in the first minute and I can allow it to grow, whereas before it was a very charming but clunky back and forth energy. Now it can be just a steady flow and that’s been really nice. It’s a totally different endeavor as a performer. If you watch someone like Prince or Bruce Springsteen onstage, it looks seamless, and I had to really think hard about how to make it feel seamless.
You are putting the new album out on your own label Contender Records. Was the motivation to just do your own thing and not deal with another label?
I started Contender for Hi Honey, our last album, but I started it out of desperation and it wasn’t really a label, it was just sort of a storefront. This time so much has happened with the band that I was just really feeling strongly like I wanted control over how our music got out there, how it was promoted, and I just wanted to own up to the fact that we’re a DIY mom and pop shop and give up on chasing after people in the industry to get behind us. We’re kind of reaching our fans without that so I set up Contender Records for real last year and the folks at Redeye Distribution are really enthusiastic about the band. Now we’ve hired a bunch of our pals who are working with us and at least I know who to blame if things don’t go well.
Would you bring on other bands in the future for the label? Philly alone has a ton of bands.
I definitely want to develop and produce other acts for sure. I’ve got a project I’m starting to work on which is more of a documentary recording project out in the field. I’ve got a lot of ideas and we’ll see how much time I have to devote to any of them.
Listen to Glide Magazine’s exclusive premiere of one of the standout tracks on the new album, “Dirty Water”:
This is the first of two albums you’re releasing this year. Where did that idea come from and will the other album be dramatically different than this one?
We are pretty much finished with the second album. I can’t tell you that it’s going to come out this year but I can tell you it will come out within the next year. I have a lot to say with Dirty Pictures (Part I) and I want to let them marinate for a while before we come out with part two because it’s pretty different from part one. As to why we did that, we went into Ardent Studios and made a pretty big monster, close to 70-minute album. That wasn’t intentional, it was just sort of like an explosion and it went well and we were all happy with all of it. But I don’t like to sit down – unless it’s Stevie Wonder or something – and listen to an album for 70 minutes. Frankly, when you put out an album in 2017 a week goes by and it’s old. Considering this is something that took a couple of years to make and many years to write, I don’t want to put out something in May that’s 70 minutes long and have it be October and people say when’s the new one coming out. So I really wanted people to zero in on some of these songs, and part of the way I felt to do that was turn it into two distinct records. It was so easy to craft them into two halves because there was a magnetic pull between the songs and they just sort of grouped themselves together, and there was a sound that was different on the second one than the first.
You include a Prince cover (“Controversy”) on the album. Can you talk about Prince’s impact on you as an artist and the reason you’re drawn to this song specifically?
It’s sort of shocking that we’re allowed to put the song out, but we got permission. What can I say that hasn’t been said? Prince is untouchable in so many ways. As a performer in America, I can’t think of anybody who has influenced and inspired me more – somebody that got up onstage and tried to liberate – I can’t think of anybody who has influenced me as much. It’s kind of like, if you go to Graceland and take the tour, when you get to the end of the tour, they play this haunting audio clip from Priscilla Presley: “How will the world exist without Elvis Presley?” I really had the same feeling last year when Prince left the building. In contrast to somebody like Leonard Cohen – he and David Bowie sort of wrote their own exit – I feel like Prince had a lot more to say and his words are more crucial than ever right now in America.
As soon as he passed, I felt a really strong feeling about “Controversy”. Around the time he passed we were descending into a time of great strife in America – the election season of last summer Low Cut Connie was touring all over America and the crowds were very mixed. There was a sort of hostility at some of these events we were doing – we do quite a lot of free outdoor festivals and events in rural America in the summers. Without getting too specific, it was a mixed crowd in terms of demographic, race and politics, and there was a lot of tension at some of those shows. Doing “Controversy” for some of those crowds – for some reason those words would bring everybody together. I was getting people with NRA t-shirts to put their arms around tattooed pierced lesbians and sing “Controversy” together. Prince did something very few people have ever done – he brought the party and opened the spiritual gates. We try and do that at our shows and I can’t think of a more powerful way to honor him than to perform that song every night for people.
We live in some strange, turbulent times. Do you feel pressure as an artist now to include some kind of political message in your music and performances?
I see it from both angles but I feel really just honored that I have any kind of platform in this world, which many people do not have. That’s the business that I’m in is making people feel things. These are perilous times, and during this time people have a lot of things they need to let out, and they want to feel a certain kind of way for the hour they are with us. I feel honored to be able to do that. As far as feeling a pressure to deliver a specific message, I don’t. The world is a fracturing place and as an artist it’s the greatest honor to get up and do something liberating and healing. People have already said the new songs are more political than our previous work, and I can’t say yay or nay to that. “Death and Destruction” is a song I wrote a long time ago, and it just felt right at this time. I don’t feel the pressure, I just feel centered in the moment. If you’re asking in any way if I’m immune to the feeling of anger, strife, and confusion, the answer is not at all. The only time I personally get to escape feeling stressed and worried about our country and our planet is the hour that I’m onstage, and that’s another perk of the job.
Low Cut Connie release Dirty Pictures (part 1) on Contender Records May 19th. The band has a ton of tour dates coming up and you are strongly urged to catch them live. Check out all of the dates and grab tickets HERE.
Top photo: David Norbut