It’s been a long journey for Lucky Jukebox Brigade. Six years after traveling the country in search of musical opportunity, lead singer Deanna DeLuke has found herself fronting a band that has successfully released two independent albums and toured nationally.
Now, Lucky Jukebox Brigade has created the record they have wanted to craft for a long time, the Savage Fantastic EP. Set for release February 26, Savage Fantastic teams Lucky Jukebox Brigade up with producer Mike Watts for a self-defining project that shows the band at their most complete.
Deanna DeLuke took time out of her busy schedule to discuss the EP, the bands that have inspired her, and cats.
At one point in the band, you had 11 people. Now it’s a much more manageable five members. What was it that caused the change in the band’s formation?
It was gradual. I think in the beginning, what got us to 11 people was me being just so excited to have started a band and to have found so many musicians that wanted to be a part of it and I was kind of like “The more the merrier! Oh, you play musical saw? Come join us.”
Everyone was welcome, but it ended up leaving our sound a little cluttered. It just sounded like a mess which was fun in a lot of ways. It definitely had a lot of energy to it, but we found that we can have the same energy in a more cohesive way with fewer people and also that each person and instrument could shine more without quite as much. A sort of less is more kind of thing came out of it.
It was a gradual thing. It’s not like one day we kicked everyone out or anything. Some people just sort of moved on. It wasn’t the right fit for them. Another thing is we’re very serious and not everyone had the same mentality or the same commitment. That sort of thing, whether it was mutual or not, that definitely fazed people out over the years too.
So the main benefit of the smaller group, then, is that it’s a little bit easier for the song writing to stay away from being cluttered?
I would say so. I think we just sort of figured out who shared the same vision in the band in terms of wanting to take it as far as we possibly can, commitment to touring, to the other personal investments that go into it. Ultimately I think it’s in service to the songs to give the songs more clarity.
In between the first album Pretty Well Damned to “Little Fangs” and “Bertyl” from the EP, there is a big shift in style. What was it that lead to that shift?
There were a good four years between Pretty Well Damned and “Little Fangs” from Savage Fantastic EP. I think some of it was the lineup change because different personalities that were on Pretty Well Damned are no longer in the band, but also I think just natural growth as people. I basically have always just written whatever songs come into my head until I think that they’re worth working on with the band and I never had a conscious plan to shift the songs to sound one or another. It just sort of went along with the whole “the more the merrier” vibe from the beginning, that crazy wild gypsy band sound, the anything goes mentality, then over the years just, I think, wanting to be more focused both in terms of the music and in terms of where the band is going and what the band is capable of.
And I noticed there seemed to be a strong pop punk influence that wasn’t as present during Pretty Well Damned. Where did that come from? Was that from growing up listening to that style of music?
Definitely for me. Growing up listening to that style of music… That’s just completely what I grew up on. Bands like Saves the Day and Taking Back Sunday…
Ah…that’s my language.
That’s the best language! And going to Warped Tour in the summer… I used to make my mom drive me to Warped Tour in New Jersey. That’s what really got me into playing music. That’s what got me to pick up a guitar is just listening to bands like that. Brand New, Coheed and Cambria, those are all old favorites of mine that I still listen to all the time. So I think that influence wasn’t really present in the beginning of the band, I think because I didn’t know how to write like that and now somehow just sort of figured out that these are sort of my musical roots and now they’re coming through more in the song writing.
Also, I think, our current drummer Michael DeMarco has a metal and punk background which brings a lot of that energy forward. Really all of us have roots in bands like that. Weezer as well. Definitely some heavier bands like Everytime I Die. We’re all huge fans of them. We all have different musical tastes, but there’s some really core overlap there that makes our sound what it is.
Okay, I’m going to resist my urge to talk about Saves the Day for the rest of the interview.
Oh no, don’t resist your urge! (laughs)
You said that working with Mike Watts gave you guys the opportunity to find yourselves as a band. What was it that he did that helped define, not just Savage Fantastic, but the band as a whole?
His goal is to make the songs sound the best they can. He’s all about servicing each song and if you listen to the bands he has worked with over the years he can just do that across the board. He is just a genius. I can’t say enough good things about him.
I think for us, it was that he could hear exactly what we were trying to do with each song and in production made that happen. If there was anything we were doing that was hurting the song, like maybe a part that was not played right, he would suggest something better. For some of the vocal harmonies on the new tracks, I had big ideas, but he would sort of start humming something and it would be perfect. It was like, “How do you just pull that out of thin air? And I’ve been working on this song for a year.” His instincts are insane.
I feel like he’s reading our minds, but not reading our current minds. Like, reading our minds at their best. If we were all thinking the best possible thoughts we could think, he would be reading those thoughts somehow.
What is the song that you are most excited for people to hear from Savage Fantastic?
Definitely “Little Fangs.” We just finished a video for it which won’t be out quite yet, but we’re working on editing for that. I wrote that song really frantically before we went into the studio. I just had this feeling. It just kind of came into my head and I thought “Okay, we’re in the studio in a week. It would be insane to try to write this song right now,” but it felt like it just had to be there, had to be a part of it.
The song is about the feeling that something is missing and just desperately trying to get that back, whatever it is. It could be if you’ve lost a person that was close to you or are leaving a place behind that you love, or anything. It can be individual, but that energy got channeled into the way I was writing the song and I just ended up so happy with how it came out and I’m excited for people to hear it.
So is that the song that you would say best defines the EP?
It’s hard to say because I really love the way the songs fit together. There are two out right now, “Little Fangs” and “Bertyl”, and there are three that will be coming out. I think we have one new single about to come out hopefully in the near future, and then the EP comes out on February 26. I’m really excited for everyone to hear the EP as a whole because I think each song has its own character, but I think one other thing Mike Watts really helped us do was give the songs a common sort of unity that maybe another producer would not have been able to give them.
If you had to pick a major theme to describe Savage Fantastic, what would it be?
I think the feeling of “Little Fangs”, of something’s missing, desperate to get it back, that sense of longing, that goes throughout all of the songs. I guess if I had to say one common theme, it would be that: just longing in sort of a desperate way, for better or worse, wanting something and relentlessly going after it even if it ends up destroying you.
As a band, you have made use of a lot more instruments than a lot of bands. Chris (Weatherly) plays trumpet, euphonium, synth, keys, and flute and Jimmy (Affatigato) is not just a guitarist, but a clarinetist and flautist. How do you think that having that sort of instrumental flexibility sets you apart from other bands?
That’s one of my favorite things about our life as a five piece because we can achieve as much as we did as an 11-piece just with five people and a lot of that has to do with the two of them. They can play pretty much anything. They can play really anything you hand them, so that gives us the opportunity to experiment a lot. Everytime we write a new song, there are so many ways we can go with it. It could have horns, it could be very synth-poppy, it could have flute, it could have all of that in various spots. It just makes every song a really blank canvas and we could go all sorts of directions with it, which is exciting.
Yeah, Chris is the ultimate utility musician. He just does everything!
Yeah, he also has a beautiful voice. I don’t know what it’s like in his brain, but I just know it’s pretty awesome.
In a recent interview you did, you were very candid about the troubles that DIY bands like you guys have encountered in promoting your music. For a band going this route, how do you manage to break through the logjam of music that’s online and get heard?
I guess persistence. It’s really hard. There are so many bands. Some of my favorite bands are indie bands, unsigned, should be signed, should be headlining festivals, should be getting so much more exposure. I think the challenge is there are so many great bands out there, which is fabulous, but it makes it difficult.
I don’t know. I don’t think we’ve really figured that out yet. I think we’re still trying to break through and just trying to write songs that we love. Trying to write the best songs possible. Of course, working with Big Picture Media has been a massive game changer for us. Having the right people in your corner really makes a difference.
I think trying to be active on social media. We’re big on Instagram lately, Twitter, Facebook. Trying to be candid, I think, helps people stand out. One of my favorite artists is Amanda Palmer and she just posts whatever’s on her mind. She doesn’t care about what people are going to say. Half of the time you read through her comment section, you have a million people telling her they love her, and just as many people telling her to fuck off. And she doesn’t care. I think a big part is being who you are, being open, not trying to present an image that you think people will like, but just being you and seeing what happens.
Whose decision was it to have a cat on the Savage Fantastic cover?
It was kind of the cat’s decision, I guess?
I have two cats, that’s one of them, that’s Brooklyn. I am just deeply obsessed with them. They’re the loves of my life and I take a lot of pictures of them. I recently cleaned off my phone camera and there were 1300 pictures, most of my cats.
We have a group chat on Facebook where we figure band practice, and I was just posting some pictures of the cat. So Jimmy, in addition to the saxophone and guitar and a million other instruments, is also really good with Photoshop. He started messing around with some pictures of my cat and ended up making what is now the EP cover. I think he was half-joking at the time, but of course I was like “This is the best thing I have ever seen. This has to happen.” And everyone was into so it’s become a theme. And that theme will continue. Each song has a single art ready to go featuring our super model.
Well, if you run out of those 1600 pictures, let me know. My cat is ready to pose.
Yeah, we accept all auditions. Definitely.
After the release of Savage Fantastic, what do you guys have planned?
We want to tour as much as possible. Hopefully we’ll have a good festival season over the summer. We haven’t announced any summer dates yet, but that’s pretty much what we’re looking. Just playing as much as possible everywhere we can. Of course writing more songs. We’re always writing. We can’t not write songs. We’ll definitely be writing hopefully another EP or album to go back to Mike Watts sometime in the near future because we really can’t stay away. Just trying to get ourselves out everywhere we can.
Savage Fantastic will be released on February 26. You can find out more at LuckyJukeboxBrigade.com.