Bad decisions. We all make them. We all blame them. They define a lot of situations in life. But when it comes to getting your rocks off, sometimes you've got to be bad to be good.
Bad Decisions is also the title of The Last Vegas' new album. It's the first full-length record the band has recorded in their native Chicago, so, despite their punned moniker, they do not hail from Sin City. Their music, however, is what you'd get if you tossed some '70s Aerosmith and '80s Guns N' Roses in a tumbler, shook it hard, and poured it on the rocks. At once instantly familiar, yet infused with their own unique take on rock music. Accessible yet arena-sized at once, The Last Vegas aren't your dad's or your big brother's rock 'n' roll band. They're yours.
In fact, vocalist Chad Cherry referred to the bands sound as something entirely new - Skynyrd Punk, calling to mind the classic rock stylings of a band like Lynyrd Skynyrd mixed with a raw aggressive edge. "There's active rock, classic rock, sleaze, glam, Warped Tour rock, metal and so many genres, but we are a straight up, loud, ass kicking rock 'n' roll band" Cherry added.
The Last Vegas, who formed in 2005, were thrust into an enviable position when Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx took interest after seeing them play in Los Angeles. Sixx, taking the band under his wing, released the 2009 album "Whatever Gets You Off" on his label while also adding them to the two month Motley tour that followed. "It was great working with a master of rock 'n' roll, he has similar tastes and style to ours," said Cherry.
That experience certainly enriched the band, but moving forward and upward is always crucial for survival. The band wanted to continue to evolve while doing their own thing. They pulled back the reigns this time out and decided to stay away from the LA modern rock production treadmill, opting to work with Chicago local Johnny K, who has helmed albums by Megadeth, Disturbed, 3 Doors Down, and Airbourne.
In regards to the recording process, "We were in charge of the whole deal, instead of working with a bunch of other people," Cherry said. "It was our baby with this one." This time out, some of the tunes are "a little more raw, a little more groovy and more Last Vegas than the previous album," according to Cherry. "That's not to say that the other record wasn't 1oo percent us, but this is a little bit different. We had more freedom and more time to explore." Even with more time and space, the songs retain their signature hugeness and edge. Guitarist Adam Arling draws the line from A to B for the band, "While working in Los Angeles was a great experience for the band, this album needed to be more organic. It was more natural and old-fashioned. We were able to sit around and play with lyrics, plug a device into the wrong jack, blow-up amps, flip the chorus with the verses, just mess stuff up and see what comes out the other end. No samples, loops, backing this, that, whatever a lot of bands do nowadays. Just five guys rocking. We did that sh*t like 1978." Drummer Nate Arling felt the band got a boost from the hands-off approach that Johnny K took. "He gave his critiques and said 'Get to work guys, see you tomorrow.' He was not looking over our shoulder the whole time. He knew the songs kicked ass and the riffs were awesome. He helped make good songs great."
All five members come from a background of punk rock and pre-Internet touring, when handing out photocopied fliers was how you let music fans know you had a show coming up. "We've been in bands for so long, we appreciate the DIY ethics" said guitarist Adam Arling. "We wanted to boil the tunes down and get the message across, using fuzzed-up guitars and drums punching you in the face. How do you make it sexy as well as crushing? We tried to create some kind of sonic street fight. That's what we wanted."
The band members all reside in a large loft where you can skateboard and/or record 24 hours a day thanks to the studio equipment. While they all often scatter, when together they are constantly writing songs, fighting or making bad decisions, sometimes all at the same time. According to their singer, it's like the bands own little psychotic artist commune. Drummer Nate Arling chimed in about the democratic nature of The Last Vegas in the songwriting sphere. "Everyone is a songwriter, it's not just one person writing," he said. "Being able to live and hang together helps to foster that creative, collective spirit."
Cherry spoke about the title track saying, "When we were writing it, coming up with the idea of being in a band, trying to make it work, it seems like you always have everything against you at all times. You are on the road, there are record labels or producers or lawyers or a whole lot of things that made me not want to get into music, and that becomes a part of it. When you do have a good time, you might not make the best decisions. Are you going to have another drink? Are you really going to sleep with her? You shouldn't drive down that one way street in the wrong direction, spend all your money in one night and not have any for the rest of the month...."
But sometimes, you do just that. Life is short, your time on earth is finite and not guaranteed. Making Bad Decisions isn't about mistakes, it's about living it up to the highest potential.
Aside from the title track, other standout songs on the album include "Evil Eyes," which the band worked on with good friend Roy Z, who has worked with rock greats like Judas Priest, Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) and Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Black Country Communion). "It's a real hard riffin' groover, like '70s Aerosmith," Cherry explained, "We're infatuated with the '70s, and needed a creep song." The desire for a "stalker song" traces back to Cherry's status as a horror buff. He writes Devil Inside, a column for Lip Service, honing in on all things chilling and creep-tacular. That interest also inspired bassist Danny Smash, who co-wrote the lyrics with Richard Ramirez, aka The Night Stalker who terrorized Southern California in mind. "We needed a night creeper song and it's everyone's favorite since it's got a slinky vibe." Smash joked that the band was going for "Aerosmith meets Bee Gees but it turned out like The Last Vegas."
"Don't Take It So Hard" is another gem. It was written at the beach along Chicago's lakefront. Cherry calls it "a real American rock song, like 'Sweet Child o' Mine.' It tells a story." Then there's "She's My Confusion," which is poppier than one might expect from the band, but still 100% TLV. But even their ballads are heavy in comparison. Cherry put it in perspective, saying "to me pop is a band like Cheap Trick. This is a Cheap Trick meets a Weezer song. A dance song, a Cheap Trick song and a nod to Alice Cooper's 'Clones (We're All)'."
The vocals of the band's Ron Davies' cover, "It Ain't Easy", were tracked at Blues Heaven Studios which is where all of the Chess Records acts recorded -you know, legends like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, and Willie Dixon (along with a little non-Chess Records act known as The Rolling Stones), which helps brings a distinct Chicago flavor and history to the record.
Overall, The Last Vegas and their Bad Decisions embody the classic American rock sound. Influenced by the blues, metal, and rock from the '60s through the '90s, with even a little early '00s garage rock a la Turbonegro and the Hellacopters thrown in, the end result is something unique and wholly their own. The Last Vegas aren't your dad's or your big brother's rock 'n' roll band. They're yours. They are just blue collar American dudes with an iron clad and indisputable work ethic, unfuckwithable song writing skills and an appreciation for rock that will not only fill your ears or the room, but an arena.
So go ahead, make some Bad Decisions. They could be just what you needed.
Courtesy: The Last Vegas
You can see The Last Vegas tonight at The Pyramid Scheme. For more information: www.pyramidschemebar.com