If you’re a fan of music, there’s a good chance you’ll have a few bands whose music has kept you company throughout your formative years and helped shape your world consciousness without you even knowing. For me, The Beastie Boys and Luscious Jackson took turns being that band. At first glance, the two bands may not seem to have a whole lot in common, but for a young Jewish girl who put the “urban” in “suburban,” they symbolized endless possibilities and a life-long affinity for New York City.
One commonality that is a lesser-known fact, is the presence of drummer Kate Schellenbach in both bands. You see, before Adrock, Mike D and MCA were rhymin’ and stealin’, The Beastie Boys were a young hardcore punk band with Kate as the lone female at the helm of their drum kit. (There were a few other notable lineup differences at the time as well. Adrock didn’t come to the band until later.) Some years later, after Schellenbach was out of the Beasties and had helped form Luscious Jackson, she became the first out lesbian musician I had known of. As far as I was concerned, she was living my dream and the band’s eclectic fusion of rap, jazz, rock and hip-hop is what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Years have gone by and a lot has changed since the band’s last proper album, Electric Honey, was released in 1999. The three remaining members — Kate, Jill Cunniff and Gabby Glaser — started families. Kate and her partner took their family across the country to L.A. where she started a new career as a segment producer for TV talk shows. But, with times changing and the emergence of new technology, 2012 has opened the doors for reuniting three of the musicians whose heavy bass lines and relaxed Bohemian grooves threw some much needed cold water on the fiery angst of my teenage years.
I got to speak to Kate Schellenbach about the band’s PledgeMusic project, recording on different coasts and what it was like working with our website’s namesake, Ellen DeGeneres.
AfterEllen.com: First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
Kate Schellenbach: Well thank you for writing about Luscious Jackson.
AE: Well, actually, I am not exaggerating when I say that you, in particular, are probably one of the first idols I can remember having.
KS: Really? Thank you!
AE: Yeah I mean, I go back to your Beastie Boys days, and Luscious Jackson’s first album, In Search of Manny — there are so many different instances in my life that I can point to and say that your music has been a part of it. Instead of taking notes in college — I’m not that proud of this — but instead of taking notes I would just sit and write the lyrics to “Naked Eye” over and over again. The only time that I ever ditched soccer practice was to go see your show in Chicago at the Metro my senior year of high school.
KS: Oh my God, that’s great. That’s really cool and it’s one of the things that’s been so nice about reconnecting with fans — like on Facebook and everything, because we hear a lot of stories like that from people who have grown up with us and are kind of, I don’t know, nostalgic for that time. So it’s been kind of a nice side effect of all this.
AE: Looking back on everything, when I think of Luscious Jackson, your music always made me feel like New York was the place to be. I can remember listening to “City Song” while picturing myself moving to SoHo one day. So much has changed though in your life and the band’s life and just New York in particular since your last non-child oriented album, and I’m not sure where Jill and Gabby live —
KS: Jill and Gabby both still live in New York fairly close to each other and I moved out to L.A. in, I think, 2003. I never thought I’d end up out here. I’m like a fifth generation New Yorker so I never thought I’d end up out here. It’s a trip. Jill and Gabby are still die-hard New Yorkers. My mom still lives there so I visit obviously and do some Luscious business. But yeah, it’s changed a lot. Every time I go back it’s just kind of weird. You’re used to what you grew up with: your restaurants and your favorite stores and now it’s just more and more generic chain stores and that kind of thing. We grew up in a really amazing time, the girls from Luscious and the guys from Beastie Boys, because we all met as teenagers, going out to clubs and there was a big mish-mosh of music that was really influential on us like rap and punk and the mixture of the two. And it has really informed our music in different ways. So we feel really blessed to have grown up in a time when we could sneak into clubs as 15 year-olds and dance around to The Slits.