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Local H

Local H

Best known for their unorthodox two-man lineup, hard rock act Local H have made a career out of straddling the fine line between indie and classic rock, cleverly framing their sardonic lyrics with a generous helping of power chords and feedback. The band came of age and enjoyed their greatest commercial success during the era when alternative rock was dominated by grunge, but while their buzzy but elemental hard rock moves fit in with that sound, Scott Lucas' songwriting was smarter than the competition, with many of his albums cohering into larger narratives as his melodies and guitar work explored challenging and dissonant textures. Local H enjoyed their critical and commercial breakthrough with 1996's As Good as Dead (which included the singles "Bound for the Floor" and "Eddie Vedder"), but 1998's Pack Up the Cats was an even stronger follow-up that ended up being released at exactly the wrong time as a corporate merger killed the label's promotion of the album. Stepping into the ranks of the indie labels, Local H continued to create bold, challenging, and powerfully physical music on albums like 2004's Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles?, 2012's Hallelujah! I'm a Bum, and 2015's Hey Killer.

Local H's story began in Zion, Illinois, as high school friends Scott Lucas (guitar) and Matt Garcia (bass) formed a band called Rude Awakening. By 1987, the group was a quartet with fellow high school buddies John Sparkman on guitar and Joe Daniels on drums. In 1990, the band evolved into the first edition of Local H, but in 1991 Sparkman left the group, and they continued on as a trio. Local H was starting to attract the attention of record labels when Garcia dropped out of the band in 1993. Having trouble finding a bass player and eager to start playing shows, with the help of friend and guitar tech Tobey Flescher, Lucas devised a combination guitar and bass, with a bass pickup tracking the two low strings and running their signal to a separate bass amp. With trial and error, Lucas and Flescher came up with a workable setup that gave them a strong low end along with Lucas' guitar, and the two-piece Local H was up and running in September 1993. An A&R man from Island Records was sold on their music and their novel approach, and Local H were signed to the label, making their debut with 1995's Ham Fisted, a rather unoriginal disc that had some detractors tagging them as Nirvana wannabes.

Its follow-up, 1996's much improved As Good as Dead, was another story, however, considerably expanding Local H's sonic palette and firmly establishing their identity as Midwestern ironists supreme. Led by well-crafted power pop radio singles like "Bound for the Floor" and "Eddie Vedder," the album was eventually certified gold and helped earn the Local H their alt-rock cred, while simultaneously validating the duo's contradictory ties to classic hard rock. Though less focused and not quite as immediate, 1998's still solid Pack Up the Cats seemed set to maintain the group's rising momentum. But record company woes (Island's parent company, Polygram, was in the process of being absorbed by Universal Music) effectively clipped the band at the knees, the album became lost in the shuffle, and Local H went on a near three-year hiatus. In the interim, Daniels left the group and was replaced by former Triple Fast Action drummer (and Bun E. Carlos drum tech) Brian St. Clair.

Lucas and St. Clair returned in 2000 with a new album and a new label. Here Comes the Zoo was released by Palm Pictures, an offshoot of the former Island Records, and it featured more of the Midwestern angst and cutting satire that had always defined Lucas hard rock, but added the busier drumming style of St. Clair. Incessant touring followed, and in 2003, the duo returned once again with the angry and aggressive No Fun EP, released by the Chicago punk label Thick Records after Local H fell out with Palm. The band's fifth long-player, Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles?, arrived in Spring 2004, and was another loose concept album about coming to terms with what most would regard as failure. Local H's hard-hitting live show was documented for the ages on 2005's Local H Comes Alive (which included a new studio track, a beefed-up cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic"), and three years later, the group teamed with Shout! Factory to release 12 Angry Months, another concept piece, this time about a relationship gone sour. In 2010, Lucas and St. Clair indulged their fondness for idiosyncratic covers with the EP Local H's Awesome Mix Tape, Vol. 1, featuring eight tunes from the likes of TV on the Radio, Pink Floyd, Concrete Blonde, and the Misfits; the EP was released through the band's own label, G&P Records.

In 2012, Local H delivered another concept piece, Hallelujah! I'm a Bum!, about the politics of daily life during a cold winter in Chicago. While touring in support of the album, Lucas was mugged after a show in Moscow in February 2013; the incident left him without his phone, wallet, or passport, and with damaged vocal cords that forced him to cancel several shows. Several months later, Local H were back on the road, but in October 2013, Brian St. Clair played his final shows with the band, amicably parting with Lucas to devote more time to his tour production business. St. Clair's final recordings with Local H, a second Awesome Mixtape of covers, dropped in December 2014. Lucas wasted little time, announcing in November 2013 that Ryan Harding, who had played with Brüder and Ghost Towns of the West, was the new drummer. The new lineup soon hit the road, and in April 2014, the group released their first recording with Harding, a single featuring a hard-rocking cover of Lorde's "Team." In November 2014, Local H launched a crowdfunding campaign through Pledge Music to finance the recording of their next album. The plan was a success, raising 176 percent of the band's original goal, and the album, Hey Killer, was released in April 2015.

In 2016, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of As Good as Dead (which was given a deluxe reissue on vinyl that year), Local H staged a tour in which Lucas and Harding played an opening set of recent material, Joe Daniels took over on drums to play As Good as Dead in full, and both drummers joined Lucas for a grand finale. In 2017, Metallica launched what they called the "Hit the Stage" contest, in which groups would compete for an opening spot on a five-date stadium tour headlined by the metal icons. Local H threw their hat into the ring and ended up winning, with the Lucas and Harding edition of the band playing to some of the biggest audiences of the group's career. 2017 also saw Local H touring Europe with Helmet, and recordings from the dates were issued in 2018 as Live in Europe. In April 2020, Local H delivered their first studio album in five years, Lifers, which was recorded by Steve Albini and Andy Gerber and mixed by J. Robbins. ~ Eduardo Rivadavia & Mark Deming

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