Scott Lucas, singer/guitarist for the two-piece alt-rock band Local H, couldn’t wait for the group’s third album Pack Up The Cats to turn 20 in 2018. Long before the landmark anniversary, he had big plans to hit the road and play the album in its entirety.
It’s a special record, though only modestly successful at the time. Hot off their second album As Good As Dead, with its grunge-rock hit “Bound For The Floor,” their label Island Records gave them complete creative control and anything they needed. They wanted to make a tongue-in-cheek concept album about the rise and fall of a rock star.
“I was a big Pink Floyd kid,” Lucas says. “The thing about concept records is, for a long time, if you were going to do one, it had to be sci-fi based. I never wanted to do anything like that. We tried to go a different way with it.”
The record barely cracked the charts, despite rave critical reviews. While Local H has managed to maintain their position as a touring mid-level rock ‘n’ roll band, there hasn’t exactly been a resurgence in interest in Pack Up The Cats, despite the fact that concept-based heavy rock albums are no longer an anomaly. Green Day’s American Idiot did a lot to normalize it—six years after Pack Up The Cats.
“That is the exact record we set out to make. Whether or not it was successful, that’s beside the point,” Lucas says. “We had all the resources we needed. We were left alone to do what we wanted. No one was trying to make us write another ‘Bound for the Floor.’”
In addition to celebrating Pack Up The Cats with a 2018 tour and album reissue, they did the same thing in 2016 for the As Good As Dead record. These album anniversaries dominated much of their past five years—their last new album was 2015’s Hey, Killer. After diving deep into their heyday years, the group got inspired to make a new LP that would be exciting and timely. The new record Lifers releases in April.
The record meant so much to them, they took a year-and-a-half off from touring to make this album, not an easy task for a band that makes the bulk of its income from shows.
“There was definitely a sense of purpose, like, ‘We’ve got something here,’” Lucas says. “It wasn’t an easy record to write.”
True to form, the album is a concept record. Sort of—Lucas can’t decide. So perhaps it occupies a middle ground between elaborate concept album and standard 10-song rock LP.
“I wanted it to feel like a concept record, but not be a concept record,” Lucas says. “A big reference was The White Album. There are certain songs that feel like overtly political. You sort of scratch the surface, and they’re not. ‘Helter Skelter,’ you almost feel like it’s reflecting the late 60s, but it’s really not.”
It was important to Lucas that the record reflect this era: the polarization, the divisive politics, the chaos. But that also means Trump, and he didn’t it want it to be about Trump.
“We’re just inundated with Trump every day. I don’t want to give him any more air than he deserves,” Lucas says. “It’s that kind of thing. He seeks attention. Not everything in our lives has to revolve around that guy. Fuck that guy.”
But the record somehow is also about people, like them, that have devoted their lives to art, even if they never became superstars. The lifers, if you will. They roped in several lifers to collaborate on the record, like Steve Albini, Juliana Hatfield, John McCauley (Deer Tick), and John Haggerty (Naked Raygun)
“That’s kind of the concept of this record. Making this record with these people that we look up to and that have made music of their lives. That is definitely a theme to this record,” Scott says. “We just kept asking friends of ours to be on the record. It was one of those ideas that just popped up.”
Local H performs at 8pm on Monday, March 9, at Felton Music Hall, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. $20/adv, $25/door. 704-7113.
UPDATED March 10, 2020: This article was updated to correct the title of the band’s album Pack Up The Cats.