One look at the van's odometer and you realize just how hard L.P. and her band work. They drive that van from one side of the country to the other; over and over again. They practically live out of it, and just might from time to time. For a touring band, a good van means everything. And L.P. certainly pushes their van to the limit. Just as she does with her music.
The van recently broke down about ten miles outside of Denver and forced them to miss a show in Indiana. "We've driven this van about 85,000 miles in a year," she explained. "There was some kind of a wheel or hub thing. We couldn't steer so we had to get off of the highway. Then we thought that the transmission was acting a little funky. It's still under warranty for the first 100,000 miles. It will probably go right at 101,000."
Things might have been a little different for L.P. if she hadn't been screwed by her first record company. As with many artists, the record company tried changing the rules of the contract at the last minute. Unlike many artists who are simply happy at having a deal, L.P. didn't give in to their demands.
"Right before the record was about to come out... I mean, records had been pressed and the tour was booked... They wanted my publishing and they wanted me to sign on for another two records. And I was getting wind that they weren't even really going to spend enough to get this one off of the ground. So, I wasn't going to give them my fuckin' publishing for nothing, or for very little money, and then give them two more records.
"They didn't shelf the record, but they put it out with nothing behind it," she explained.
Since that time L.P. has been doing it on her own. She released the brilliant record, "Suburban Sprawl & Alcohol" last summer on an indie label and has been touring hard in support of it. Every place she plays she blows the crowd away with the band's intense live show. Her singing is not just powerful but dramatic. She doesn't beg to be heard, she demands that you listen. After one song you're wondering "why the hell isn't this band big?"
Her singing is so powerful it's no surprise to find out that she grew up singing opera. Nowadays she focuses on rock and roll, but uses vocal exercises that are based on opera techniques.
"They've got it down to a science," says L.P. "They've got exercises that help me so I know exactly what to do to get my voice into shape that day. The opera kind of gave me the background and the setup and the control."
Control is definitely needed because the band plays around 200 dates a year. Since she goes so far out with each song, she needs the exercises to keep her voice intact for the entire tour. She admits to testing the limits every night. It's like having a corvette and never leaving second gear, L.P. knows she has a gift and wants to use it as much as possible.
"Almost in every song I can't help myself, I have to go to the wall," she says. "Sometimes I'm like I've got to hold off, but I can't help myself. It just feels really good and the crowd gets into it."
The band recently played the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. L.P. had been there before a few times with the band Cracker (whom L.P. tours with occasionally) but this was the first time for the band.
"It was great!" said L.P. "We did three shows at Coyote Ugly. It was totally rocking! All of the girls dance on the bar there. The first two nights were our nights more; the third night there were about four bachelor parties taking place and the girls were insanely amazing. That night the girls won. I felt more people were watching them than us!"
With a zillion bands in town for SXSW, it's not hard to run into a famous musician or two. L.P. had her own encounter; unfortunately she had no idea who she was talking to. It turns out it was Ian Hunter. Not knowing what he looked like, L.P. asked if he played with Ian Hunter. He said, "No, I am Ian Hunter."
From festivals to club shows, the band is committed to having as many people hear the last record as possible although it can get a little tiresome playing the same songs each night.
"As a writer, you're like if I don't play a new song these people are going to throw shit at me!" said L.P. "But they're just getting into the record and if you love a record you don't care how many times you see it live."
On the band's website, L.P. talks about how she never gets tired of hearing people say "how come you guys aren't big?" but those words can begin to wear on you.
"I feel a little crazy sometimes. The things that people will say to you on the road... I have a little suitcase in my head where all that stuff goes and I've just got to lock it up because its swimming around in there. I'm always like, "why aren't we big?" But there's so many great bands out there and there is no rhyme or reason; you just have to keep doing it for the love of what you're doing. I believe that if you just keep going, good shit will happen to you."
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.