With the aptly-titled sophomore effort Commitment, Chicago's Lucky Boys Confusion hit the ground running in an unapologetic yet melodic look at life from behind a microphone, guitar amp, or drum kit. It is a defining moment for any hard working band that's ever picked up an instrument or packed into a van and hit the road.
In the two and a half years since their Elektra debut Throwing the Game, the toils of life on the road have seasoned the group - a run of 250-plus shows in 2001 and hundreds more in the subsequent years has made this determined young band grow up quickly. Memorable stints with everyone from Something Corporate and The Juliana Theory to Blackeyed Peas and a turn on the Warped Tour ensured this resilient fivesome their reputation, but it is their willingness to grow as songwriters that guarantees a bright future for Lucky Boys Confusion. I was 19 and Adam was 17 when we wrote the songs for Throwing the Game, explains frontman Stubhy. There's a big difference in maturity and growth on this record. We survived a pretty tough year last year, a lot of soul searching both business and personal. I was never a believer in adversity bringing out the best in you, but it's amazing how a lot of bad stuff can make you a better writer.
It's no secret that Commitment is a reflection of the band's core philosophy. Says Adam Krier, the other half of LBC's ambitious writing team: The title means so many things to us the commitment between us and our fans, our commitment to each other. We started out so young and have been through so much. I think the key to this record is that we shed some of our influences and learned to trust our instincts more. We're dedicating it to the people who stuck with us.
It's the unique songwriting relationship between Stubhy and Adam that melds the band's diverse musical influences and fuels the genre-crossing LBC sound. From the jolting wordplay on Broken to the wistful melody of Sunday Afternoon (featuring underground reggae icon Half Pint), the duo's impressive growth as songwriters is evident on Commitment. I think our secret is the real collaboration in our writing, says Adam. It's a real 50/50 partnership. Stubhy might write more lyrics and melodies, but I balance it by adding guitars and fleshing out the songs. For example, he came to me with the verse and chorus for Hey Driver and I attacked it from there.
Hey Driver is a m*****f***ing road song if ever there was one. That song came to me out of a short story I was writing, laughs Stubhy. I had a case of writer's block so I took a line from the story and put it to a melody I'd written. It reflects how I was feeling last year wondering what I would do if I could just hit the road? No responsibilities, just pack up my back pack and hit the ground running. LBC got some help on the track from their friends in bands like Lit, Yellowcard, Long Beach Dub All-Stars, and Over It. I thought the song needed really tight gang vocals, recalls Adam. So we gathered a bunch of guys from bands around L.A. and they came in to lend a hand.
Both Stubhy and Adam allude to the fact that Commitment can be viewed as a journal of the hardships, trials and small victories that most bands endure just to keep their heads above water. It's tough, notes Adam. If you don't have that mega success right away, a lot of people drop out on you.
But this has never been a band to give up when the road got rough. This DIY spirit sparked the inception of Lucky Boys Confusion in 1997 and the subsequent release of their EP What Gets Me High. The thematic collection Growing Out of It followed in 1998, and the young band's grassroots approach of constant touring and low-budget living began to pay off as fans flocked to their electrifying live shows. Selling CD's out of backpacks and cars and sleeping on friends' floors as they toured the Midwest, LBC earned the respect of a fan base that is intensely loyal to this day. I'm always amazed to see these kids turning up to see us play live, says Stubhy. It still thrills me that I write a song and it connects with someone enough that they will go out and spend their hard-earned dollars on a Lucky Boys Confusion CD. You never get over that.
The songs on 2001's Throwing the Game were inspiring enough to catch the ear of Sublime's Michael Miguel Happoldt, who signed on earlier this year to produce Commitment. We demoed some songs and he was really excited about 'Mr. Wilmington,' says Adam. We can't say enough good things about Miguel. We were so happy when he agreed to produce the album. It was a great experience from start to finish.
It was Miguel's balance of constructive criticism and unconditional love that earned Stubhy's respect. He was like our big brother, the singer attests. Always there for us but interjecting only when he had something important to add. He worked the dynamic of our songwriting and captured the band's vibe as a whole.
The evidence, of course, is in the product: Commitment is rough but infectious, unblinking yet determined, and achingly, starkly honest. This sentiment may hold a clue as to why Lucky Boys Confusion commands the kind of hardcore fan support that other, perhaps more well-known groups would die for. It's the five of us against the world, laughs Stubhy. Us and our fans. No matter how broke we have been, or how frustrated, we have always believed in ourselves. We'll never f***ing give up.