Ah, there’s always a sweet story behind the music. But before we get to the scoop, here are the topics: Hardcore bands wearing Obama T-shirts, Britney Spears’ amusing comeback, the ’70s, the ’80s (we skip the ’90s), pizza.
Frankie Hill (vocals, guitar, sax) says, “We want to eat pizza. Every single night, pizza.” Recently, he wrote a song on the back of a pizza box. Apparently it came out well, although greasy.
I ask about the band name. Frankie announces, “Me and Bernie (his brother) fight crime at night.”
Frankie looks tough, so I leave it alone. He has black hair, a pierced lip. He wears a sweatshirt with skulls, two large diamond earrings and a white Cincinnati baseball hat. If you didn’t see his smile, he’d be intimidating. Instead, he’s edgy, but kind, warm, open. Maybe this trickster does wear a cape.
So the band name really comes from a story that Frankie began writing in high school. An epic novel of sorts. All TLT songs focus around Frankie’s writing. Think of Queen, The Who and other bands that busted out classic conceptdriven albums. Sure worked for them.
Although they’re still in the kitchen mixing it up when it comes to recording, what grabs me about TLT is their stirring live show. Combining Frankie’s Pop Punk energy with ’80s guitar and pianodriven Rock, they consistently nail their live sound. Not long ago, The Last Troubadour won the "Emergenza Battle of the Bands.”
Pouring massive amounts of sugar into his coffee, Frankie says, “We can win a crowd — we can put on a pretty good live show.”
And they do. TLT picks it up on stage, churning out songs in a mega-danceable, curious, slick style that’ll make you cock your head, tuning in. With cited influences including David Hasselhoff, Emo kids and your mom, TLT embraces “a goulash of musical artists,” drummer Bernie Hill says.
It’s obvious that brothers Frankie and Bernie are tight. Only 18 months apart, they live together, eat together, sleep … no, but you get drift. The two were formerly in the band 60% Minority, named so because they’re half-Asian. Then it morphed into The Last Troubadour two years ago.
As a kid, Frankie was a Jazz sax player:
“It was the old story: You fall for a girl and start writing songs,” he says. “Being a saxophone player, you don’t get a lot of attention from the ladies.”
So the young, lovestruck cat sucked it up and learned guitar over Christmas break one year in high school and the rest is history.
From the looks of him, you wouldn’t think he’d mention Elton John and Billy Joel, but he does.
“We’ve always been a keyboard-driven Rock band.” Frankie shrugs. “I also listen to weird, eccentric stuff. Right now, I’m on a modern kick.”
True to his words, Frankie moves his head to the Techno music playing in the background. Only 19, Bernie has dark features, high cheekbones and dimples. An exotic looking fellow, Bernie is wide-eyed and compelling.
“I have faith in Frankie’s music abilities and songwriting,” he says.
Playing the trumpet since he was 10, Bernie picked up drums at 13 and he dabbles in a li’l bit of everything.
Frankie says, “Bernie’s our all-around-go-to-guy.”
Justin Cavanaugh, who has the unmistakable large knuckles of a piano player; joined the band last year. On keys at 7, he has SCPA on his résumé. Mentioning Steely Dan, “the veteran” (at 29) guzzles espresso and it doesn’t make him shake. Holding a funny grin, Justin says he can hang with some Jazz, Blues, Hip Hop and R&B when he’s in the mood.
Keys, yes, but with Don Paquette on bass and Jeremy Oder on lead guitar, TLT has a raging ’80s influence. No fear of guitar shredding here.
Frankie’s vocals breathe Punk, but the band also throws in anthem-like love songs with dramatic choruses. Live, the tempo is faster, making transitions smoother. Perhaps this has to do with Bernie’s drumming, a recent change in lineup; which gives the songs a more natural intensity without relying solely on lyrics and guitar, kicking it up a notch. When they gel on this from the recording angle, they’ll have something to write home about.
Currently seeking a manager, The Last Troubadour are working with local studio OLS Productions on a six-song EP called The Last Troubadour and the Days of Old, like a book title.
Justin sips. “It’d be nice to get signed to a label that’d give us enough leeway to do what we want to do,” he says.
Bernie agrees. “We’re just trying to advance and grow with our musical knowledge as we grow with the band.”
“Being a concept band like this, we definitely want to do albums. Many albums,” Frankie says.
And surely eat pizza, fight crime and save the lives of innocent women while they’re at it.
For more on THE LAST TROUBADOUR, check myspace.com/thelasttroubadourband.