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Interview: Leland Sundries 

New York state of cool

New York City band Leland Sundries wears its heart on its sleeve most unapologetically.

Whether it's wielding influences from the city they inhabit--Jim Carroll Band and the Velvet Underground--or giving a nod to non-Gotham superheroes like The Replacements, Leland Sundries is a band of geographic reference and irreverent humor. It looks like New York, it laughs like New York. The band skates the razor between garage rock, roots rock, and country delivered with a punkish swagger. It ain't sloppy, its genuine.

Frontman Nick Loss-Eaton has the inside track on this whole star-maker machine as a publicist for artists like Alejandro Escovedo, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, Tom Jones, Bruce Springsteen, and Loudon Wainwright III, to list a precious few. He does a good job at pimpin' Leland Sundries, too. He's currently shedding light on the band's latest release "Music for Outcasts."

We asked the man a few silly questions and he shot back some poignant answers. An edited version of the transcript follows.

CITY: Do you write lyrics for your music, or music for your lyrics?

Nick Loss-Eaton: It's a combination. The chorus to "The Tide" and "Song for the Girl with the Replacements Tattoo" came with both music and lyrics. Other songs, like "Radiator Sabotage," had a guitar part and then lyrics and then a melody. I wanted to focus on melody for "Music for Outcasts." The upcoming single "If You're Gonna Drive, I'm Gonna Drink," out in October, also had a fairly full-fledged chorus and I wrote the verse lyrics before I had the chords.

What do you write about?

I write some autobiographical songs, some semi-autobiographical songs, some narrative songs, some joke songs, and some abstract word-collage songs.

Who are the characters in your songs?

I tend to write about people who don't fit in whatever situation they find themselves: a stripper who can't afford to live in the neighborhood in which she works; a guy who spent years pining after a girl and then his own behavior drove her away; someone riding a bus after taking a few too many pills; a guy trying to keep his sanity amidst incredible loneliness in an oil boom.Sometimes it's me trying to figure out where I fit.

What song on your newest album best represents your sound and approach and why?

That's a hard question, actually. We span a gap between Americana, garage rock, and indie rock, and most of our songs tend to lean one way or another. Our forthcoming October singles exemplify that spread: "If You're Gonna Drive, I'm Gonna Drink" is a full-on, honky-tonk number that turns into a rock & roll jam; "Lone Prairie" is an old cowboy song that we play as a punk song.

To what advantage is being a publicist for other bands?

The chief advantage is being able to work with a band over time and see how their music works and learn new ways of making music. It's really inspiring in that way, as artists with whom I work become friends and influences. I've also become friends with some artists with whom I've worked and that's led us to open shows for Chuck Prophet, Todd Snider, and Eilen Jewell.

Am I right to say you have a little classic New York--i.e. the Velvet Underground, Television--in the new album?

Definitely "Music for Outcasts" is a New York album. We tried to conjure that vibe in the studio and make this album a bit more of a rock record and a bit more modern NYC than the past EPs and singles. We love the New York Dolls as well.

What's your favorite guitar chord and why?

It's a Dm+2 that Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan used in very different contexts, Paul in a twee song and Dylan in a cowboy song. Tabbed out, it's: x03230.

Do you care if your audience dances?

We love it when the audience dances. On the last tour, on a stop in Burlington, Vermont, a one-armed man danced and then swung from a chandelier at 1 a.m. while it was snowing, and it made our night.

What comes hard to you with this band? What do you work at the most?

I've worked hard on my vocals the last few years.

What comes easy?

The funny songs seem to come quickly: "Roller Derby Queen;" "Givin' Up Redheads;" "If You're Gonna Drive, I'm Gonna Drink;" "Bad Hair Day."

What's on the horizon for Leland Sundries?

We will have a new EP early next year along with a new video.

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