About to Tour With Black Lips, Beirut's Gritty Party Animals Lazzy Lung Breathe Easy
Words by Shirine Saad
Within less than two years, Beirut’s Lazzy Lung has won over Middle-Eastern fans with their hyperactive rock, high-strung lyrics and vibrant live performances. Last year the band won a handful of awards and went to Capitol Records to work on a promo album for Ray Ban. Now, the foursome is getting psyched for their Middle East Supertour with Atlanta punk rockers The Black Lips , where they will preview songs from their upcoming album Sailor’s Delight. We had a chat with frontman Allan Chaaraoui over beers and cigarettes on a steamy Beirut summer night.
So Allan, you’re an engineer. How did you start playing music?
I was in Ottawa at the time. I started the band and I only used to write instrumentals because I was never big on lyrics and singing and didn’t like the sound of my own voice. Then I got a job opportunity in Jordan and moved there with my laptop and guitar, and that brought out a lot of creativity. Ideas turned into songs and songs turned into records. There’s a reason why the band is called Lazzy Lung. I don’t put too much emphasis on words – they’re there to fill the song.
Then you moved to Beirut.
The thing about Lebanon is that there’s a tight-knit music community. In Canada there’s such a huge music community that it’s harder to stand out. Here the serious role players get to stand out and be credited for their work. When I moved here three years ago I was going around to shows and seeing the bands play. I studied the scene and found out who the role players were, the movers and shakers.
Did any local bands influence you?
The people that record at Tunefork studios are good. I particularly loved the New Government because they had a sound that was really fresh and hip at the time. It was a very western sound. It was always a goal of ours to play with every band that fits with what we do and we succeeded at sharing stages with everyone: The Scrambled Eggs, Farid el Atrash, Zeid and the Wings, Tanya Saleh, Rayess Bek. These exchanges give us a sense of belonging.
Tell me about your first album, Strange Places.
A lot of that was done in Canada – there are lots of references to Canada and that lifestyle. This album is telling a story about a workingman traveling and just dealing with the twirls and tribulations of life, to relationships. It applies to everybody’s life. There are also references to Lebanon. It’s a pretty beautiful place to be because of the weather, the food and the people. It’s so sunny, and you can travel thirty minutes in either direction and be in a completely different city, town or village. There’s always something new and that’s why the first album was called Strange Places.
So who is Lazzy Lung?
We work with different styles. We listen to a lot of different things – Attack in black, The Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Sigur Ros, post rock, ambient metal, rap. We’re heavy on the music but also very energetic and boisterous — there’s a lot of movement, a lot of sweat. We’re renowned as a really good bar band. At the end of the day you’ve got to entertain people so that they leave in awe and wanting more. Recording is one thing but when you get to express yourself and give them a show — this is what drives me. It’s that high, that adrenaline.
Your upcoming album, Sailors’ Delight, draws on Beirut’s decadence.
It’s about the crazy party life of Beirut. Beirut has two sides; you’ll have a fight going on somewhere and people partying. It’s very gritty. It has a lot to do with decadence and not giving a fuck about the political situation, your financial situation. It’s about the weekend, just like a sailor at sea who’s working hard and cannot wait to come back to solid land and drink himself silly. We were consciously trying to make something more upbeat, more dancy, more raw and abrasive like the city can be. There’s also a dark undertone because we don’t know what’s gonna happen tomorrow.
Last year you won Rolling Stone Middle East’s Battle of the Bands and took a trip to Capitol Records. How did that go?
We basically entered into this competition for a month and we were number one on charts for half of the time. Judges from EMI and Capitol Records voted us as the best group. First it was just supposed to be us visiting Capitol. They managed to pull some strings and get us studio time for a promo for Ray Ban. 2011 was a great year for us; we were also voted musician of the year by Esquire Middle East.
And now, you’re touring with The Black Lips! You must be psyched.
What I love about the band is their music and live performance. Their tunes are extremely catchy. And they don’t see themselves as musicians, they see themselves as performers. It’s more about having fun and dancing and feeling music and spontaneity, rather than something planned out controlled and repetitive. Every show is a wild card.