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Louis XIV: Here Comes The Sun King

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There’s a natural progression to the way a courtship is supposed to happen between man and woman.

You’ve got the small talk that builds a comfort level. There’s the first date where you’re off to dinner and a movie. You meet parents, move in with one another, have some pregnancy scares, and think about marriage.

San Diego band Louis XIV doesn’t have matrimony or monogamy in its vocabulary and all of the other steps would be considered too drab and slow-moving to be any good to it. And the four members aren’t wrong when considering all of the time that’s wasted in doing things the old-fashioned way. They aren’t going after those sexy, prude librarians and actuaries. They’re trying to nail those saucy, teases who know they’re showing too much breast and thigh and want to be lied to and loved up, in that order.

Why sweet talk women when you can win them just as easily by inciting them with crass talk of even crasser behavior? Why put any sort of effort into upholding decency when a good and dirty working verb could get you to the same place without sacrificing any face? You can be all that you want to be and all that you are in the comfort of your own pathetically raunchy fantasyland head, where there’s an endless supply of naughty, topless blondes brandishing fully-loaded cans of Redi-Whip and sharing the same amount of lewd and skewed perversity.

Where Louis XIV start is with the sack. Pillow talk would be a sweaty rollover and a panting, “Ready for another go?” Every Jason Hill lyric on the group’s Atlantic debut, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, is completely forward and rife with titillations. There are no mixed signals or crossed wires, just straight-ahead, animalistic behavior. If Hill read this month’s copy of Esquire and thought about trying America’s most popular pick-up line of, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” he’d probably get to “don’t” and then say, “Aww, fuck it; let’s screw, carrot juice.”

“We speak bluntly. We aren’t like, ‘Honey, I want to sugar and spice you with roses.’ Nobody actually talks like that,” guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Brian Karscig said while on a Canadian tour with The Futureheads and Hot Hot Heat last month. “It’s meant as a form of flattery. I don’t think women of the Midwest will get it. It’s our mood. [Words] just come out the way they do.”

The two-year-old band of lifelong friends has created quite the stir among the thin-skinned and anal. One Portland newspaper ran a piece on the band in advance of its performance in the city telling all that it was a pack of glam rock woman-haters that needed to be stopped at all costs. Seriously. It’s not like the band’s garnering the kind of heated opposition as the antichrist superstar Marilyn Manson did in the mid-’90s, but it’s enough to weird out Karscig and make him wonder about people.

“Woman haters? Us? We love women,” he said. “I think girls are more into it than guys are. You won’t see many guys at our shows. I just think girls like to be flattered.”

Louis XIV, the historical figure bent on lavishness and spectacle, was also a lover of the ladies. The band had the idea to write a concept album about a boy who thought he was Louis XIV, which led to a song of that name and eventually it led to the naming of the group itself. Hill, Karscig, and drummer Mark Maigaard have played in “millions” of bands together for the past 13 years. Their last was a Beachwood Sparks/Beach Boys–esque outfit called Convoy and it eventually got so that Hill wanted nothing to do with making that kind of music anymore.

“When I was 15, I dressed a certain way. You don’t wear the same shirt for 15 years,” Karscig said, explaining the band’s evolution from a band that would have fit on a Wilco bill to a band that could get the Wilco gig, but would just try to seduce the wives of the headliners and steal all the rider alcohol. “I’m sure The Beatles went through the same thing from ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ to ‘I Am the Walrus.’ This started as just a side project for us. Eventually, Louis XIV just got more popular.”

Hill turned himself into a less mummified and shuffling Ozzy Osbourne, done up with mascara and imposing dark hair, and began to sing the unadulterated conversations made for a locker room or men’s club. He gets lusty all over the place and the band backs him with a manic garage rock sound that The Thermals aped from The Kinks and so on. There’s Karscig in the back with the nasally accompanying backups that lend a quirky Elephant 6 Collective touch.

“I don’t really know how to talk about this all yet,” Karscig admitted. “It’s kind of weird coming up with explanations for our music because it was never meant for anyone else; it was meant for us. And now everyone’s passing some kind of judgment on it. It’s just what it is.”

Before they were signed last summer, demo copies of a self-titled disc—recorded in a friend’s flat in Paris—made their way around radio station playlists. They were getting large numbers of spins on the West Coast and were invited out for a short stint with The Killers. While they traveled America with the Las Vegas sensations, sales of the record exploded.

“Everyone in the world wanted that Killers tour,” Karscig said. “We hit it off really well. They gave us the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t think most of us in the band even want to ask them why they took us out. Brandon [Flowers, The Killers’ lead singer] did tell me, ‘The second I heard that song [“Louis XIV”], I knew I loved your band.’”

That’s karma that bodes well for Louis XIV, the ambassadors of instant gratification.

“Everybody likes excess in one way or another,” Karscig said. “We’ve been hibernating geeks for a couple years, but we’re always up for a good party.”
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