The title of Lucy Loves Schroeder's album says it all: Lucy is a Band. Lucy is not the name of the woman who sings and plays guitar on the majority of the songs. Schroeder is not the bass player, the drummer, Lucy's boyfriend or, like the Peanuts characters they're named after, a musician Lucy is infatuated with. Instead, Lucy Loves Schroeder is a trio that writes songs together, plays shows together, records together, shares inside jokes together, gets drunk together and crowds into a van and goes on tour together. Lucy is a Band is also Lucy Loves Schroeder's take on the Blondie live album title Blondie is the Name of a Band, since both of them mean, "Hey, stop looking at the chick and pay attention to the music."
In the case of Lucy Loves Schroeder, the chick is singer-guitarist Sara Radle, and she's joined onstage by bassist-singer Andrew Binovi and drummer Rob Schumacher. And the music combines the fast tempos, simple chord structures and snarls of punk rock with hooky riffs, Radle's sometimes crooning, sweet voice and talk of love, love turned bad and spending the night alone in what the band likes to call pop-punk. They've been compared to The Muffs and That Dog, but in a genre so small, it's easy to draw comparisons just because a girl is at the mike.
And within the local music scene, where there are fewer female-fronted bands than there are rap-metal bands, Lucy Loves Schroeder is a bit of a novelty. But that's not to say the trio wants to use it as a gimmick. "We're not a band that relies on using women for kitsch value or for just the sex aspect," Binovi says. "That's not to say there isn't that there, but we're not a band that has double entendre lyrics. We're not a band that wears leather bras onstage or shit like that. We're not that band. And we're never going to be that band."
Lucy Loves Schroeder performs with Jimmy Eat World, Midtown and Valve
It also doesn't mean Radle wants to avoid all the obvious girl associations either. Lucy Loves Schroeder volunteered to play Women Rockin' 4 Women, an annual music festival of local, female-fronted bands raising money for local charities helping women in abusive relationships. But, good intentions aside, the band members were let down by the groups they shared a stage with. "We've played that Women Rockin' 4 Women thing a couple of times," Radle says. "It's a benefit for a women's shelter, which is why I wanted to play it when they asked us. And, at first, I thought it was really cool that there were enough female-fronted bands in Dallas to be able to put together a festival like this. But then when we saw the bands, we were disappointed because a lot of them relied on very scantily clad women." There were the other girl-band stereotypes, too, she says, with those token chick bass players and the front woman who is really just a puppet for the band's male mastermind.
But playing beside bands more interested in push-up bras than power chords isn't the only drag of being a female-fronted band. Radle says Lucy Loves Schroeder has endured rumors and accusations since she and Binovi moved to Dallas from San Antonio, recruited Schumacher and started playing small shows around town. Some people assumed the young band only got on bills with national acts because of who Radle was dating at the time. Words were exchanged on message boards and in clubs. It carried over to Fred Savage Fanclub, Radle's solo recording project turned live band that released an album on Denton's She's Gone Records at the end of 2000. Though the situation got better the more often they played, a second wave struck 18 months ago when Radle began dating Josh Venable, host of The Adventure Club and now KDGE-FM's assistant music director.
"When Josh and I started dating, he was already playing Lucy Loves Schroeder, and he was already playing Fred Savage Fanclub on his show," Radle says. "And then we started hanging out, and then we started dating. And when we started dating, I said, 'Hey, maybe you should stop playing Lucy Loves Schroeder and Fred Savage Fanclub.' And he was like, 'Why?' And it was like, well, people have a habit of talking about me, and I've heard so many rumors about me that couldn't be further from the truth. I don't want to have to deal with it. And people know we're dating now and you're playing us on the show. I don't want people to think you're playing us for the wrong reasons even though you played us before."
The week Radle and Venable started dating, Lucy Loves Schroeder played the Barley House, and gossip began to spread. Strangers approached Radle not to talk about the band, but to congratulate her on her new beau. So, when she, Binovi and Schumacher took the stage, Radle followed her usual, "We're Lucy Loves Schroeder and we're going to rock your balls" with "and we don't care who you're dating." Indeed the album cover and the buttons the band hands out say "Lucy is a Band" for a reason. This isn't a star and her rhythm section. This isn't The Sara Radle Experience.
In fact, those paying attention will notice Radle doesn't even write or sing all the songs herself. For every handful she does, Binovi does one of his own, adding, he says, a dynamic some other bands lack. "If you look at a lot of local bands, there's always 35 minutes of the same guy singing," he says. "That can get kind of old after a while. So I've always been the Dee Dee [Ramone] to Sara's Joey [Ramone]." Binovi wrote and sings two of the 13 tracks on Lucy is a Band (which also contains a cover of The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me"), including "What's the Story," his ode to and admission of a crush on WB33 entertainment reporter Victoria Snee. (She found it funny, not creepy, by the way.) "Sara's a pretty prolific songwriter, and I'm not," Binovi says. "So, there are a lot of reasons why I only do two songs on the record. One is that I can only write songs that fast, so, for every four or five that Sara writes, I can only come up with one. I couldn't write a song a day to save my life."
The partnership between Radle and Binovi goes back to high school when the all-girls school Radle attended produced a play with the all-boys school Binovi went to. Both ended up in the band that played music before and after the play and during intermission. Later, Radle showed Binovi some of her songs, and they formed the band with the first of several drummers, taking the band's name from the Charles Schultz characters that were painted in the room where they practiced in the San Antonio community center Radle's parents run. After running through two drummers and self-releasing It's a Hamster Christmas, Charlie Brown, they decided to move to Dallas. "When [the second drummer] left the band, we knew we were going to have to find a new drummer, and we had already talked about moving somewhere," Radle says. "There were a lot of clubs closing, and there wasn't really a lot of room for advancement. So, we decided we would just look for a new drummer in whatever town we decided to move to. And we decided Dallas because my brother moved up here before we did. I was up here visiting him one day and he took me to Deep Ellum. And I saw there were actually clubs, and people actually went out to shows." Their hometown friends in Bedwetter (John Dufilho and Jason Garner of The Deathray Davies and Colin Jones) had also relocated to Dallas months before.
Meanwhile, Schumacher, an Army brat playing in punk and hardcore bands in Cincinnati, was deciding not to return to Ohio. "I moved down here and I saw there was such a big scene around here that I decided to stay, and I didn't tell my band members I was staying," he says. "They found out after about three months when I didn't come back from Christmas vacation. It was May or so when I answered the ad [Radle and Binovi placed in the Observer] and met up with these guys."
Completing the lineup gave Lucy Loves Schroeder the opportunity to edit some excess songs from the band's repertoire and solidify its sound. "Getting a new drummer gave us the opportunity to say, 'OK, what songs are we going to teach this new drummer?'" Binovi says. "It was great because we realized there were songs that we had grown out of or were tired of. And it was, 'Well, should we even bother?' Because when a drummer joins a band, if you're like, 'Well, here's 35 songs for you to learn,' then he's headed toward the door. So we trimmed down to like 15 or so. And we only play like maybe half of those now. It's really ironic that we have less songs we play now like five or six years into the band."
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Radle continues, "I think that since then we've come a long way individually as musicians besides as a band. And, I think, honestly Rob had a lot to do with that. Just because we never really had a strong drummer that really fit with the kind of songs we write. And Rob really contributed to that and had a lot to do with the direction we headed in."
Not long after the trio began playing, Grade Nine Records approached the band and offered to release a 7-inch single, which resulted in the somewhat appropriately named Seven-Inch Jellyfish. Then, the group landed a spot on the second volume of the Buzz-Oven series of compilations, alongside Baboon and Chomsky. "They pick a big band, a medium-sized band and then there's the baby band, which was us," Binovi says. "I just remember going to the first meeting and they were like, 'Be careful how many you give out because we only printed 5,000 of these and they go pretty quickly.' And I remember saying, '5,000? We printed only 500 of the 7-inches.' So just the fact that we were on something that had been printed 5,000 times was something to be thankful for." The streak continued when a friend in Kid Chaos introduced them to someone at his label, Washington, D.C-based Beatville Records. After seeing Lucy Loves Schroeder, label boss Mark Dickenson recruited the band to join a roster that also includes [DARYL] and the pAper chAse. Lucy is a Band was released on Beatville in September with the five-song EP Dragon Lady preceding it a month earlier.
Though Lucy is a Band has not even been on the shelves six months, Lucy Loves Schroeder is ready to move on. They have nine songs written for the next album, which they hope to record and release (again on Beatville) within the year. A 7-inch of cover songs is also on the band's wish list, along with a West Coast tour with another band or maybe its own summer tour of the Midwest. But before that, Radle says, they want to focus on building a larger local following by playing almost every show they're offered, from this week's opening slot for Jimmy Eat World to next Thursday's headlining gig at Club Clearview to the all-ages punk rock shows that the band loves.
This practice of playing shows other bands would turn down sometimes earns Lucy Loves Schroeder the criticism of its peers. But Binovi says, "Things don't just fall into your lap. You have to work for it. And the only way we know how to do that is to get out there and play shows and get on the road and play shows outside of Dallas. You can be the greatest band in your garage, but if you really want to do something, then you either have to have people come to your garage or get out of there."