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Laguardia Is Getting Ready For Take Off

Laguardia is a band on the edge. They are about to break, but still haven’t achieved large-scale success. This is where the title of their first album, Welcome to the Middle comes from. Currently they are touring with Denali, trying to drum up support for their new single “Holy Ghost.”

I spoke with lead singer Joshua Ostrander while he was on the road to the band’s next show. It was an hour before the show, and they had still not reached the destination city of Champaign. Illinois.

Kaffeine Buzz: How’s it going?

Joshua Ostrander: It’s going great, but we’re running late as always.

KB: Well, thanks for doing the interview, have you gotten tired of these things yet?

JO: Nah, it’s fun to do them, especially when people know the record or at least are familiar with it.

KB: Well, I’m sure that you get a lot of the same questions so I’ll try not to rock the boat and ask you anything too interesting.

JO: (Laughs) Thanks dude.

KB: To prove my point I’ll start with this one. I know you guys get compared to Radiohead a lot and I guess that’s not a slap in the face, but would you consider it to be an apt comparison?

JO: When the record first came out, and we started getting reviewed a lot, it was almost unbearable because it was constantly that comparison. Then I was talking to my publicist and he was like, “This is a great thing.” And he was right, because we’re being compared to a career band, a band that has evolved and done great things. We’ve been compared to Radiohead at different points in their career, and this is a great thing. There was no intention to rip that off, but there are parts of the record that obviously show we love Radiohead and bands like that. We love U2 for instance, but I mean we made no conscious effort to replicate that.

KB: Forgetting what all the reviews say, who would you say has most influenced your sound?

JO: Some of my influences, I don’t know if they show themselves on the record. I love Rufus Wainwright. I just think he’s brilliant, but this band is influenced by classic rock in general. That is what we listen to on the road. We rarely listen to new music, and if we do, we are extremely picky about it. We love a lot of bands that we have played with, like, Bobby Barrett Jr., we just fell in love with his stuff. We played with the Shins, and we just think that they are brilliant. There’s a lot of great music out there, but there’s also a lot of stuff that’s really bad.

KB: That’s for sure. I definitely get the classic rock vibe coming through the music.

JO: I just love the way that they constructed songs.

KB: I’ve also seen in reviews where they refer to you as an alternative band, do you think that really means anything anymore?

JO: Well, I wish it didn’t because we are only getting played on alternative stations. For instance in Philly there are three rock stations and one of them labels themselves as alternative, so that’s the only market we are hitting in Philly. It’s frustrating, because this single, “Holy Ghost”, its just fucking rock, and it could easily be played on other stations. I see the point, alternative, but alternative to what? It’s just rock and roll; I wish there weren’t these little categories and subsections. We could be getting a lot more airplay and hitting more markets, that we are not right now, because we have that label.

KB: I’ve noticed that there are a lot of bands out there right now, that really don’t fall under any category, so maybe you should coin a new term.

JO: Yeah, if I come up with something good, I’ll definitely let you know. But this band can rock out and then bring it down. We move from zero to sixty in no time flat, and that’s something I really love about this band, the dynamics. I don’t like that term (alternative), but we gain a lot of fans that way. I walked into Tower the other day and they had a sign that said if you like Radiohead and The Smashing Pumpkins, then check out Laguardia. I was like, ‘Ugh.’ But at the same time, we’re just starting out and we need that kind of stuff; we need to get people involved in the music. I wish that it didn’t have to be, ‘Well, this band is like this band.’ I wish that it could be that this is just a great rock band, and you should check them out. When you’re first starting out you need some sort of comparison, and it took me a while to come around to that, but I understand that it’s just what has to happen.

KB: Well, maybe one day they will be saying that a new band sounds like Laguardia.

JO: That would be great (Laughs).

KB: So I’m completely incapable of anything remotely resembling songwriting, and all of my poetry begins with “Roses are Red…” How would you say that you approach writing a song, and what inspires you to do it?

JO: Well, I wrote eight of the songs on the record, and there are only one or two of the tunes that I wrote all of the way through. For the most part I would just come up with the first chorus, then I would bring it to the rest of the band. The band just has such a good feel for what’s good, and what doesn’t work. We would work out the arrangement from there, the bridge and whatever parts go on the backup. As for lyrics, all my lyrics are about personal stuff, love life, and lack-there-of.

KB: So now you are touring in support of your new single “Holy Ghost”, how is that doing?

JO: Yeah, it came out about two weeks ago, and it’s doing pretty good. Hopefully it’s one of those singles that will slowly build its way up, like guerrilla warfare tactics. There’s a show in Philly called ‘Top Seven at Eight’ which is the top seven most requested songs, and yesterday we entered the top seven at number two. I think we’re number three Seattle, and there’s certain markets in Boston and San Francisco that really seem to be eating it up. Every day something good is coming in. You never really think it’s going to work, and then it starts building. It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to get that phone call every day that says ‘This is what happened today.’

KB: So what made you choose “Holy Ghost” as your single?

JO: It was weird because we pretty much got signed on “Duct Tape” and we were sure that it was going to be the single. When we went to record [Welcome to the Middle] we knew it was going to be the single, so we spent a lot of time on “Duct Tape”. I wrote “Holy Ghost” on January second of last year and the drummer [Greg Lyons] and I went into our home studio and we recorded it. We recorded the album two or three months later and it was the last song to make it on the record. Something just happened in the studio. I re-wrote the chorus the day before we recorded it and it just came out sick. We started playing it out live, and it was just the song that everyone was reacting to in the crowd. The label then said that maybe they would go with “Holy Ghost”, and the band was completely behind that. It is really cool, because “Duct Tape” is an older tune, where as “Holy Ghost” is a really new tune and we are excited to be playing it every night, and you can tell when you see the live show. It’s coming across really good and the crowd is loving it. Hopefully the radio will continue to pick it up.

KB: So how’s the tour with Denali going so far?

JO: It’s going good. We’ve only had four dates with them so far, and we’ve had to do some serious driving. We’re really good at making friends with the bands that we tour with. They are really good live though. It’s fun because we’ve played so many tours and with so many bands that have nothing to do with the music that we play. This is a really good match though.

KB: I haven’t had a chance to see Denali yet, is Maura Davis as sexy as her voice?

JO: She’s really cute, yeah. When she gets off of stage, she’s bombarded with fans. It’s crazy. She’s got an amazing voice; it’s unbelievable.

KB: I know it’s only been a short time, but how would you compare this tour with the one that you just did with The Fire Theft?

JO: The Fire Theft tour was unreal, that band kicked my ass every night. We were out with them for three or four weeks and we just hit it off really well. Like I said, we get along with every band we play with, and by the end of this tour, I’ll be singing the praises of Denali. The Fire Theft tour was really great because it was our first big tour, playing in front of two or three hundred people a night. It was a great community of blowing smoke up each other’s asses, and Jeremy can sing like a motherfucker. I’m constantly touring with people that can sing circles with me, but at the same time it’s good for me.

KB: You’ve spent a lot of time on the road lately. are you ready to sit back on your ass and let the checks roll in?

JO: (Laughs) Yeah, there’s not too many checks coming in at this point. I haven’t even gotten my first royalty check because we’ve taken so much time filling out the paperwork and shit. This band’s really lazy when it comes to shit like that, but I’m looking forward to my first twenty-cent check coming in the mail. But when we have time off we really suck it up and just have fun. We don’t see each other either. When you spend nine or ten months in a van, spending time apart is key. I don’t want to see these guys, and they don’t want to see me. You eat, sleep, and shit together, but luckily I’m surrounded by the greatest bunch of guys.

KB: Now is it true that bassist Michael Morpurgo isn’t on tour with you?

JO: Mike is not on tour, his mom just passed away on Thanksgiving Day. It was really tough. Mike’s also got a kid, and when we had a residency tour, we had to play every night of the week in a different town, which is like four different markets. A residency tour means that every Monday we would play Philly. Every Tuesday we would play New York, every Wednesday Boston, every Thursday was D.C, and we just kept moving. Mike would have to go home to Philly after every show. We knew that with the kid that Mike probably wouldn’t be able to do the tour with Denali, so we enlisted this amazing musician by the name of Jason Mehler. He’s filling in like a pro. He’s a great guy, very funny, and extremely uplifting, which is what we need at this point. We all suffered a loss when Mike’s mom passed away, so to be out on the road and not completely indulged in that is a good thing. It was really sad, and we all feel for Mike, but I think it’s just this tour he’s going to be sitting out. We’ll probably start back up in March or April with it.

KB: I’m sorry to hear about that. I’ll try to lighten the mood just a little bit. Have the groupies gotten any better now that you’re signed to a major label and have a record out?

JO: Eh, no…I don’t know what’s up with that. There’s no groupies. It’s all bullshit. We have a couple of fans, but they’re all nineteen year-old boys (Laughs). So I wish that’s what got me off, but it’s not. It’s cool going to cities and playing shows where people know all the words and are singing along. That’s pretty fucking crazy. I love being on the road, especially with this band. Even if we don’t have any money, we still make the best of any situation.

KB: I’m pretty sure that you guys are about to hit it big. Is there any dirt you can give me before the tabloids get a hold of it? Feel free to sell out your band mates at this point.

JO: (Laughs) Dude, I’ve got nothing, I wish I did, I’m sorry. We were thinking about setting up something where Jason Mehler went into jail for a week just to get some press. He said that he would do it, but only if it was a good part of town. He doesn’t want to spend time in some god-forsaken prison. (Laughs) Maybe if we could get him into some white-collar prison.

KB: Have you ever played Denver before?

JO: Yeah, we were there with Eyes Adrift and Brian Jonestown Massacre. I think we played there with Fire Theft, but I can’t remember right now. We love Denver, our drummer’s brother lives in Denver, so we love going there.

Laguardia will be playing at the Climax Lounge in Denver on Tuesday, February 17. I’ll try to avoid labels and say that if you want to see a band that just plain rocks, come check them out.


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