Spotlight: What got you into playing music?
Laban: My mother bought a piano at an estate sale for $50 when I was in third grade. She brought it home and tried playing it for a week and then it just sat there unused with a red book on it that said, “How To Play Piano.” So, I read the book and tried to pick things up. I still have the piano and it’s one of few instruments that I have a good relationship with.
Spotlight: You’re like the punk rock version of Elvis Costello. That said, I want to know who and/or what actually influences your writing/singing/playing.
Laban: I am most influenced by sincere compositions either in rock, pop or R&B, but lately I’ve been listening to a whole lot of Black Sabbath and Red Fang. I also listen to a lot of female songwriters across a lot of genres.
Spotlight: Besides music, you seem to like to fish a lot. Is fishing a more calming release than hammering away at power chords? Any funny fishing stories?
Laban: I fish to honor my father. Fishing is the only thing that has ever completely satisfied my curiosity when it comes to nature. Story? When I was a small boy I was fishing in the Salmon Falls River that ran behind my childhood home in Rochester. I hooked a big lamprey eel but I didn’t know it until I yanked its whole body out of the water. The eel hit my bare leg and wrapped around it. I screamed and started running dragging the eel and my pole several feet before the eel rolled off onto the ground. I found the biggest rock I could find and beat the thing to death with the hook still in its mouth while I cried hysterically.
Well, I think that’s a funny story anyway.
Spotlight: You’re a relatively new “proud poppa.” How does parenthood change your perspective on things, artistically or otherwise?
Laban: My daughter Ernestine is three now. She has completely changed my perspective on music. I don’t write autobiographical songs anymore. I wrote those for years and years … very serious tunes about my own problems or social problems or whatever. After Ernie entered the picture, I write more using people I see or meet as characters and dress them up in situations I dream up. Of course, on the other end of that is Sam Hill (the metal band) where we tackle topics such as ice giants, serpents and stuff like that. It makes me feel like I’m a teenager again. I feel incredibly lucky that way. I don’t feel old.
Spotlight: Father John Misty. I hear you’re a massive fan. How’d he catch your ear? What’s he doing right?
Laban: Eric Ott turned me on to him and we went to see him in Boston the other year. He opened up the night by playing drums for the opening band without introducing himself. I thought that was pretty great and then he came on and killed it. He kind of has the whole package: Great lyrics, sincere songs and he is a funny performer. His first record I would put on my top five favorite records of all time list and the latest one is almost as good. He is a strong representative of our current 25- to 35-year-old generation and is saying things in his songs that are part of the casual national conversation, such as the over-prescribing of medications, student loans, drug use, unequal distribution of wealth, as well as poetic love. I think this has endeared him to a lot of people. Couldn’t recommend him enough. Especially to those dopes who say music isn’t any good anymore. Man, I hate that. What a bunch of lazies.