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Les Savy Fav-ulous

By Jessica Suarez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday April 24, 2003

Tim Harrington is one sexy motherfucker. OK, from that picture you see next to this article, he may look a little odd. And balding. And bearded. And one magazine did say he looked more like a high school gym teacher than say, the lead singer of a band.

But for those in the know, Harrington represents rock's real great white hope (and it's not, just so you know, any of those other, better color-coordinated, more finely facially structured bands you may be thinking of).

As the lead singer for Brooklyn's Les Savy Fav, Harrington shot the band's live shows into near-legendary status with his confrontational, playful, and downright sexy stage presence. An example: Harrington once unwrapped Hersey's Kisses and passed them to audience members during a show. By mouth. Sexy, right? We thought so.

Harrington answered some questions for the Wildcat before Les Savy Fav's show last night at Club Congress.

Wildcat: Do you generally prefer all ages shows?

Harrington: I like playing in bars. I like all ages shows too, because obviously, those were all the shows I went to when I couldn't go to bar shows. But there's something kind of intrinsically trashy about our band that sometimes works better in a seedy environment.

Wildcat: I saw on the Web site that you had a fan art submission project.

Harrington: The situation with that is that it was something I updated just before we left and my computer died. It's for Les Savy v2.0, which has to be reconstructed. Literally, about 18 hours before we left, it died. I do graphic design stuff, so I just lost so much stuff.

Wildcat: You guys went to the Rhode Island School of Design, what did you study?

Harrington: Film and video. When I'm not doing this band I actually do a lot of graphic design and computer work, so the fact that Web site is so bad is pretty funny.

Wildcat: So is that kind of your other job?

Harrington: Yeah, actually while we're sitting in the van, everybody's working. I'm doing the album cover for the band Enon!, Seth (Jabour, guitarist) is drawing the inside of a Volkswagen for a Volkswagen manual. We have a mission control going on in the van at all times.

Wildcat: Since you all went to the same school, and you all had your major specialties, does that work apply to the band at all or do you keep that all separate? Do you ever think about doing video work for the band?

Harrington: We're always doing graphic design stuff for ourselves. Harrison's (Haynes, the drummer) a painter, we do band posters for ourselves. So yeah, we're always trying to do video, unfortunately we can never agree on what we want.

Wildcat: If you guys had video onstage, there would be so much going on onstage. There would be you, and the band, and then other things to watch.

Harrington: That's one of the things that's funny on the tour right now, because we're on tour with the Faint, and they do awesome things with video, and all their stuff on stage. And then the main event of our stage show will be like, a piece of rope that we found behind a PA speaker. Our stage shows are so radically different.

Wildcat: From reviews I get this impression that people think you're a very chaotic, last minute sort of band. But it seems like, from listening to the album, that everything is actually really planned. So do you get offended when people think you've just thrown everything together?

Harrington: We usually do just throw some stuff together before all of our shows. (laughs) I think the way the band works is we work really hard on writing our songs and playing and performing them. And all that just disappears when we perform live · but it's because we've got this underlayer of stuff that's just focused and controlled. So yeah, in terms of performing live, we change the songs, because we've become so solid and we have this transparent layer of control that we can just disregard. We were never interested in being precious.

Wildcat: There was a Web page ( I saw that said "Steal this Indie Rock look." It had, like four girls, then it had you.

Harrington: Yes! Are you kidding me?

Wildcat: No, I'm not. And it had a picture of you, dressed like the professor from Gilligan's Island, and another picture of you, wearing nothing, just kind of holding a towel around yourself.

Harrington: Oh, I think those are both from the same show. It wasn't the Professor, it was Mr. Howell. The rich one. Not the smart one. Always the rich one, never the smart one.

Wildcat: It's funny that it has a picture of you where you aren't really wearing much clothing. But I like the towel thing, it is kind of a Îlook.' If people stole it, it would be kind of exciting.

Harrington: Oh, I think those are both from the same show. It wasn't the Professor, it was Mr. Howell. The rich one. Not the smart one. Always the rich one, never the smart one.

Wildcat: If someone came up to you and said, "I want to bite your style," what would you say? Do you really have a "look?"

Harrington: I don't know. When we go on tour, usually halfway through the tour I really get bored, I go to thrift stores and just find stuff to wear. The only thing that I think we do is try to dress as something really specific. Sometimes you can't put your finger on what it is, but you look at it and you're like, Îthat's exactly something.' In San Francisco the other day, I had these sort of flow-y, linen-y khaki pants, a linen-y button down shirt, a brown vest with a kind of African print on it, a tan baseball cap and tan, round, sort of John Lennon glasses. I wanted it (the look) to be kind of those people who do personal empowerment speeches, that come to the office and get everyone psyched up to sell themselves. Like the guy who runs Apple computers. Steve Jobs. But it also looked like someone who was also a very environmentally conscious, open-minded person, like the most annoying version of that. So I played the show and I'm dressed this way. There are tons of new wavers, and kids with pink Mohawks, and people with all these really crazy outfits on, and mine probably got the most reactions from people. It was the most extreme, in a lot of ways. I think it was just because it was kind of exacting. People sort of saw it as one look, like dressing up as 1978 punk. If you're going to rip something off, rip something off from the vast array of character types there are.

Wildcat: On the album it seems like for each of the songs, you take on a different character. Since we just talked about your outfits, is changing characters something that you apply to the live show?

Harrington: I have never gone, "I tried to dress up like someone from one of the songs," but I'm interested in characters, personalities. I've never really liked, or wanted to make songs that were those really weird, personal, scenarios, where you're like, (singing) "When we first were lovers, I knew we would be together." I've never thought about writing songs like that, I guess. It's fake. You're like, implying that you, personally, are doing it, is kind of a fixation on the cult of the natural you. There's this idea of dramatic realism- it's like what most mainstream movies have, it pulls your heartstrings because you empathize with the characters. It's like in one of our songs, "Disco Drive," where the lyrics are, "don't trust the poets / they want to get paid / they're plying their trade / to the art of getting laid," and that's sort of my sensibility of ·I don't like singing in first person, I like singing in characters, I like singing in first person, in stories· there's still communication, there's still ideas, but there's not this implication that I'm on the winning or losing end of that story.

Wildcat: When you do songs just about yourself, that limits you, or makes it so that you always have to answer for that particular song.

Harrington: It's answering for it, but it's also that I don't think it's necessarily any truer. You can talk yourself into almost any emotion, one of ten different emotions when you're writing a song, whichever one you decide to indulge yourself with, whether its how sad you are or how much you rule, or in between. No matter how many people or how many fictional scenarios the songs are about, it's still me, my choice of subject matter is the gateway to my personality. If someone want to try to get into that or know about that. Personally, I was never one to analyze band lyrics. I never go, "God, I wonder what that guy was doing when he wrote that." I never care about the personal life. Do you ever worry that people will be so caught up in the live show that they won't pay attention to your lyrics. It's important to me that they (lyrics) make sense, and that each song has a really tight logic, and isn't a bunch of pretty sounding words. And yeah, a lot of people don't think about that, and they sort of sweat and get hot. But I want that to be strong as well. That's fine too, I want everything to have lots of layers.

Wildcat: Have you ever done something on stage where, the next morning, or even days or weeks later, you said, "I can't believe I did that," or "What was I thinking?"

Harrington: We had a really weird set the other night actually, when we played in Los Angeles. We played two sets. Two nights. The first night was Easter Sunday. We decorated the stage and had tons of purple and yellow streamers and we had a toy singing stuffed animal open the set with a little tiny spotlight. We had all this candy we gave away. And it was really cool and super fun. The second night is when this thing happened that was really weird.

Les Savy Fav's third album, Go Forth, is available at

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