Kiley : The Hollywood Connection
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: October 15, 2002
w/ Arlo, Kind of Like Spitting
Saturday, Oct. 19
13th & Martha
More Rilo? Read the Sept. 22, 2004,
Lazy-i interview with Jason Boesel.
Kiley's Jenny Lewis has a sweet, fractured voice that sounds friendly,
inquisitive and genuinely interested even in the face of inane questions
about her past.
grilled in E! True Hollywood Story fashion about her showbiz
past, Lewis, who fronts the newest Saddle Creek Records' band with
fellow ex-child actor Blake Sennett (of Nickelodeon's 'Salute Your
Shorts' fame), couldn't be happier to comply.
"It's a part of
who I am," she said via cell phone from inside a van headed
to San Francisco where the band was slated to play a gig that night.
"I'm not proud of my work as a child actor, but I'm open to
talk about it."
The former actress counts
roles in movies like the Shelley Long vehicle "Troop Beverly
Hills" and the bad-girl epic "Foxfire" (which featured
future Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie) alongside appearances on TV
fodder such as "Growing Pains," "Rosanne," and
the short-lived 1986 sitcom "Life With Lucy."
The Lucy questions resulted
in snickers. "No one's asked me about working with Lucy before,"
Lewis said about the sitcom where she played Lucille Ball's granddaughter.
Yes, Lucy was a bit rough around the edges, and yes, she constantly
smoked cigarettes on the set. "She would pull her face back
with tape, sort of like a cheap face-lift." Ah, now that's
just the kind of Hollywood-insider gossip readers crave.
the end, I confessed to having never seen Lewis on the big or little
screen. "You're not missing much," she said. These days,
Lewis wants to be known as a singer/songwriter, not as a burgeoning
starlet. She began writing music with Sennett eight years ago, eventually
forming a band that played around the Southern California area.
Their first CD was the
critically acclaimed Take Offs and Landings, released in
September 2001 by Seattle's Barsuk Records. Featuring Lewis, Sennett,
bassist Pierre de Reeder and drummer Dave Rock (who has since been
replaced by Jason Boesel), the home-made recording fit nicely next
to music by label mates Death Cab for Cutie, who often shared the
stage with the band.
It wasn't until they
were out touring Take Offs
that the Los Angeles natives
began a relationship with Saddle Creek Records.
"We met Tim Kasher
(Cursive, The Good Life) at a show in San Francisco's Great American
Music Hall," Lewis said. "We were headed to Iowa for a
gig and he invited us to join their caravan as they traveled cross-country."
During the sojourn, Kasher
and company gave Rilo Kiley a tour of Lincoln's Presto! Studios,
the recording home of Saddle Creek Records' artists under the direction
of Mike and A.J. Mogis.
The Saddle Creek sound
wasn't a mystery to Lewis. "We had bought a copy of Bright
Eyes' Fevers and Mirrors a year before, so we were already
fans of the music," Lewis said. "We decided to record
our next CD at Presto! and work with Saddle Creek because of the
creative freedom we knew they'd offer."
The product is The
Execution of All Things, Rilo Kiley's just-released Saddle Creek
debut, produced, mixed and recorded by Mike Mogis and featuring
guest appearances by a handful of Saddle Creek regulars including
Kasher and Cursive band mate cellist Gretta Cohn, The Good Life's
Ryan Fox, and Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and Jiha Lee. Not to mention
Mogis' multi-instrumental touches on pedal steel, vibraphone, banjo
It was the first time
the band had worked with a producer, let alone recorded in a formal
studio setting. "We had an incredible time," Lewis said.
"I think it went smoothly because we did so much preparation
before we entered the studio. I remember staying up all night recording
synth and guitar parts."
The CD's collection of
hook-filled pop songs stands out like a signal flair among Saddle
Creeks' catalog of stark-gray, introspective acts such as Kasher's
and Oberst's projects, Azure Ray and Mayday -- artists who value
confessions over hooks.
would pull her face back with tape, sort of like a cheap face-lift."
amazing thing about Omaha is that you've got some girls there
with some real playing chops."
a performer, Lewis comes from the Jenny Toomey / Aimee Mann school
of perky, personal singer/songwriters whose sweet, mature voices
emote honesty without shortchanging the rock. Rilo Kiley songs are
confident-yet-cynical pop tunes draped oh-so-slightly in melancholy
The CD's title
track, with its precise back-beat drums, rattling guitars, ringing
solos and Lewis' comfortable, throaty soprano, is the perfect indie
pop song that could single-handedly save commercial radio, if commercial
radio wanted to be saved. It's the ultimate first track to any good
Just as catchy is the
CD opener, "The
Good That Won't Come Out," a cathartic bouncer that allows
Lewis to soar above the bass, chiming chords and Mogis' serene pedal-steel,
singing a Generation Y mantra about futility:
Let's get together
and talk about the modern age
All of our friends were gathered there with their pets just talking
About how we're all so upset about the disappearing ground
As we watch it melt.
Sure, it sounds as gloomy
as any other Creek song; the difference is that this one begs you
to sing along.
The tour that brings
Rilo Kiley to Omaha's Sokol Underground Saturday, Oct. 19, is the
band's sixth in the past year. "It's definitely gotten better
the more we've gone out and played," Lewis said. "The
first time out there were maybe three kids there. The next time
20 showed up. It just continues to build."
Recently, Lewis stood
stage-side during a Bright Eyes concert in San Francisco. The event
-- both onstage and off -- was inspiring. "Another amazing
thing about Omaha is that you've got some girls there with some
real playing chops," she said. "I went into the ladies'
room before the show and there was Jiha warming up on flute. Watching
the girls on stage that night made me feel like I should go out
and learn piano."
When Rilo Kiley plays
the Nov. 2 College Music Journal showcase in New York alongside
Bright Eyes, Cursive, Now It's Overhead, Azure Ray, Desaparecidos
and The Good Life, Lewis said it'll be like a big group hug, with
performers taking turns backing each other on stage.
"I know Mike (Mogis)
will play with us and Jiha will play the flute on a song,"
she said. "A lot of those people will play. It'll be pretty
remarkable. I'm getting excited thinking about it. I feel really
grateful to all of these awesome people and musicians."
Published in The Omaha Weekly Oct. 16, 2002. Copyright © 2002 Tim
McMahan. All rights reserved. Top photo by Sasha Eisenman.