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By alexander laurence

The Cure was one of the first great bands that I really got into. I bought their second album, Seventeen Seconds, and soon after bought every piece of vinyl by them I could find. The Cure started when Lol Tolhurst and Robert Smith met in the early 1960s in suburban London. This meeting would define an all new era in music. The Cure went on to sell over thirty million albums. Many new bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, Coldplay, The Rapture and Hot Hot Heat have cited The Cure as a major influence.

Even though Lol was a big part of the initial creation of The Cure, and co-wrote some of the hits like "Let's Go To Bed," "The Walk," and "The Caterpillar," he left the band in 1989. During the 1990s, Lol moved to California and started a family. After a ten year hiatus, Lol has decided to head back into the studio with his new exciting project: Levinhurst.

Levinhurst is Lol Tolhurst on keyboards and drum machines, Cindy Levinson on vocals, and Dayton Borders on guitar and keyboards. The album, Perfect Life (March 2004), has been called "a subtly crafted fusion of retro and modern electronica." Levinhurst have much in common with new electronic bands like Adult, Ladytron, and Client. I got to speak to Lol Tolhurst, Cindy Levinson, and Dayton Borders right before their first show at The Echo.


AL: When did you start the new band Levinhurst?

Lol: For the past ten years I have been bringing up my son. About three years ago the initial idea for the band started. Eighteen months ago we started doing it really seriously.

AL: Did you know what the band was going to sound like?

Lol: Yeah. It was like when we started out as The Cure. I picked out what I didn't want to do. There were some things that we didn't want to be like. What was left is what we played. We really liked the new electronic stuff that was coming out. We wanted to use that energy. We took a step forward. We used more melody and song structure. What we got is a hybrid of electronic sounds.

AL: Were you following new music at the time?

Lol: Oh yeah. I have always followed music.

AL: There are bands like The Rapture and Yeah Yeah Yeahs….

Lol: They sound just like The Cure.

AL: When I heard the Levinhurst album, I was thinking of bands like Ladytron and Client. Have you heard them?

Lol: Yeah. I have been listening to them.

AL: Do you see Levinhurst as a performing band or a studio project? Is this club music?

Lol: It's a hybrid thing. It's not a rock band and it's not a dance band. It's somewhere in between. We will be playing a lot of live shows this year.

AL: How did you find people to play with like Cindy and Dayton?

Lol: Through friends, which is always the best way to find people musician-wise. Same thing was true of The Cure. The Cure was a band made up of friends, so we didn't have to say anything.

AL: How do you go about writing the new songs?

Lol: It changes all the time. Cindy and I write the lyrics. A lot of the songs start with lost little grooves, little ideas, or maybe a lyric. There is never any set way of writing it. It's a process of attrition really. We go through a lot of things and some things move me. The song has to move me emotionally, for me to be committed to a song and put it down.

AL: What do you play in the live show?

Lol: I play keyboards and a drum machine. Dayton plays keyboards and guitars. We mix and match. I play some real drums on the album. Not much. There are a lot of electronic sounds and samples.

AL: Did you try to contact a bigger label and see what they thought?

Lol: Bigger labels suck basically. Nowadays it seems really stupid to go to a big record label. They don't have the time or the inclination to see something through. It's better at this stage for us to do it all ourselves. I have had experiences with all the big labels before.

AL: Did you sue Robert Smith recently about royalties?

Lol: Yeah. We did. We went to court recently. I have known Robert since we were very small. He's the person I have known the longest in my whole life. He's like family. So you have a disagreement with the people in your family, and things come out. That is how it is with us. But a few years ago we met up again. I wrote a letter to him. I told him that I was sorry about what I did. He wrote back and said "it's all water under the bridge and I am coming to LA in February. Let's be friends and let's hang out again." He's played a couple of gigs and we ware pals again. It's good.

AL: Robert still calls himself The Cure. On the cover of Bloodflowers there was just a picture of him. On the recent Join The Dots there is a picture of him on the cover although you played on a lot of that collection. What do you think of that?

Lol: Have you seen the booklet in Join The Dots? There are a lot of pictures. To me there have been three versions of The Cure. There was the core version, which was myself, Robert, and Simon. Then there was the incredibly successful version, which included Porl and Boris. Now it's Robert and a few other people. It's a different thing now.

AL: What is your favorite part of doing music?

Lol: Playing live is great because it is immediate. If it is good, you'll have a great night. If it is bad, you'll have another show tomorrow, and it will be better. Writing something and seeing something come to fruition is very fulfilling.

AL: What songs are you playing on this tour?

Lol: We are playing most of the songs from the album and one Cure songs. That's it. We wrote about forty songs since we have been together. They are mostly bits and pieces and unfinished.

AL: What are some bands that you like now?

Lol: I like a lot of German bands like Monolake.

AL: German techno has harder beats.

Lol: Right.


AL: You have lived in California for a while. When did you give up on England?

Lol: I have lived here in California for over ten years. I lived in France for a year or so. In Paris. I am not sure that I gave up on England. My family has always traveled all over the world. My brother lives in Australia. My nephew lives in Germany. Everyone lives all over. It's natural to travel and live somewhere different. Especially when I came here. I wanted to be a stranger in a strange land.

AL: The Cure was always more successful in America. You were always doing big tours here starting in the mid-1980s.

Lol: That's right. The thing about England is that the music industry likes to love you, and champion you, but once you are at the top, they will be likely to tear you down. It's very much a quicker turnover for music and culture. After a while we decided that we didn't care and we wanted to go somewhere else. That's why we came here.

AL: Did you produce some records?

Lol: Two French bands and one English band.

AL: How did you appearance in the 311 video come about?

Lol: Our manager, Jay Frank, is a friend with 311's manager. They were doing "Love Song." So he said, "Sure, come do a cameo." It will be kind of funny. It was. They are nice guys.

AL: Are you going to do any acting in the future? You have this Michael Caine/Oliver Reed vibe.

Lol: (laughter) Not a lot of people know that. Have you seen the Michael Caine acting video? He says, "When you are staring at the camera you must not blink." It goes on for a while like that. Maybe I will do some more acting.

AL: What should people expect when they come see Levinhurst?

Lol: My past is like a double-edged sword. In some ways it opens doors for me, and for us as a band, but in some ways, it doesn't open up anyone's mind. I would like people to come with an open mind and not expect a poor man's Cure. It's not really The Cure. But it's another vision of what could have been. It's very current.

AL: What other hobbies do you have?

Lol: I am a fan of soccer. It's about the only hobby I have. I like Chelsea. I like my son's team. I also like the LA Galaxy when they are good. I also do yoga.

AL: Are you reading any books?

Lol: I like reading a lot. I am taking with me on tour one of the longest trilogies. I am reading Gormenghast. I have read it a few times. I like to take Ulysses with me.

AL: What is your favorite film?

Lol: My favorite film of all time is Psycho. I don't watch TV that much.

AL: You are going to South By Southwest this year?

Lol: Yeah. It's funny. A band that supported The Cure in 1979, the first time we played in America, is supporting Levinhurst in SXSW. They are called Mission of Burma. I haven't seen those guys in twenty years.

AL: What do you write about when you write lyrics?

Cindy: It's all about my life experiences. It's the sum of all that.

AL: Do you write lyrics based on music?

Dayton: There are loops and riffs and ideas. It's a vibe that morphs into a feeling. Lol is very prolific making these space age rhythms that inspire us.

Cindy: Sometimes a song will start with a drumbeat or sometimes a chord. How we did this album: Lol laid down the beds for the songs, then Lol, Dayton and I wrote the songs together. Dayton wrote a lot of the melodies. The songs took on their own life.

AL: Lol said that there were a lot more songs.

Dayton: Lol has the final say. There are plenty of songs still on the shelf that may one day get used and become songs. He had a concept for this album and we used only songs that fit into that concept. It's his story. It's very introspective. Knowing him like I do these songs are like chapters in his life.

AL: The beats are very heavy. While the music and melodies seem more spacey and melancholy.

Cindy: Lol loves to manipulate sound. He has always been fascinated with that.

Dayton: He was one of the first guys to use synths and loops into pop music. It was underground and hip at the time. It became popular. When I hear the early Cure today, I know how he did it from playing with him. A lot of it is texture.

AL: Did you play in other bands before?

Dayton: I have played in a few. I was a prog rocker from way back. Patrick Moraz was my synthesizer teacher. He played with Yes and The Moody Blues. He replaced Rick Wakeman. I haven't spoke to him for years.

AL: Did you like Close To The Edge?

Dayton: Oh yeah! I studied Classical piano as a kid. I played keyboards first then guitar. There were a lot of guitar gods at that time.

AL: You never saw Keith Emerson play then?

Dayton: I loved that. I met him too.

AL: What music do you like?

Cindy: Everyone from Patsy Cline to Led Zeppelin, New Order, The Cure, Bjork, and Radiohead. I like Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

AL: What was the last show that you went to?

Cindy: X. We saw Bowie too.

Dayton: Neil Young. We saw Peter Gabriel.

AL: Did Lol go to any of these shows?

Cindy: Yeah. His thing is "I am used to being on the stage." Or he'll say: "This band opened for us." Generally, if he is not really into the band, he won't go. He went to Radiohead and Bjork with me. I like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the White Stripes.

AL: What about the time around the making of Pornography? Were there a lot of psychedelic drugs involved?

Lol: You have to ask the others about that. I have been clean and sober for fifteen years. That was a long time ago and we were very young. We experimented without a lot of things. Pornography is my favorite album that we ever did.

AL: Have you seen Interpol?

Cindy: Yeah. I love that band. We saw the Inland Invasion. Those bands were coming up to Lol Tolhurst and saying, "Oh, he's my idol." Carlos D. stole the show. He came out with a gun holster. Onstage he is amazing. He had a Hitler haircut. He backed it up. He rocked. There are periods of music where things explode and there are a lot of great bands.

AL: What is your reaction to bands like Radiohead and Bjork?

Lol: I only go to bands that I like. My reaction to Radiohead is they weren't as good as the time before. Bjork was good. It's different for me. I tend to be too analytical rather than sitting back and enjoying it.

Website: www.levinhurst.com



--Alexander Laurence




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