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JANUARY 27, 2011 10:12PM

The Lickitty Splitz

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An Underground River Interview with

Leonard Giovo, Manager of The Lickitty Splitz

By Zelmo Mutz

Special Assignment Reporter

 

[I met up with The Lickitty Splitz manager in the town of Bothell, Washington, in the Park at Bothell Landing at the amphitheatre]  Leonard, for the record: you are the manager of The Lickitty Splitz, but you are also the father of two of the band members: Alanna and Kate?”

Yes.

And their mother is the well-known romance novelist Marie Lovall?

Yeah.

Tell us about Alanna and Kate.

Alanna and Kate were fraternal twins, but they called themselves “sorority twins”.  That gave them the name of their first band when they were 10-years old, the folk duo “Sorority”.  They wrote their own songs together from the start.  They used to give free concerts right here at this amphitheater for park goers.  I have a trunk of old mpg’s of them playing together.  They were always together.

Where did they get their musical inclinations?

Well, I was always in a band.  When I was married to Marie, I was touring in a rowdy band called “Blo Chunks”.  That should indicate what our commercial potential really was [laughs].  I was gone a lot of the time, though.  Kate took piano lessons for years.  She quit after her mother left us.  That was a heart-rending scene because Old Miss Brundage adored Kate and had all kinds of hopes that she would become classical pianists.  I can still smell Miss Brundage’s crowded old Victorian apartment, the walls covered with antique framed pictures, busts of the classical composers on the piano, lace covers on all the tables and furniture.  It absolutely broke her heart when Kate quit.  The girls were really hurt when their mom left, and so Kate was kind of cruel to Miss Brundage.

What about Alanna?

She was always impatient.  She wouldn’t sit still for formal lessons.  She taught herself guitar, and she learned what she wanted to from Kate.

What music influenced them?

They would listen to classic stuff like The Blow Guns and The Skanks for the energy, and they listened to bands like Pink Motel and Finger Pie, for example, to learn how to get the most out of only a few musicians. 

You said you were gone a lot.  How did touring with your band affect your family?

Well, Marie finally left me… left us, when the girls were seventeen.  Marie and I had become like half a person together.  Something had cursed us.  We just started having nothing but bad luck.  And even when I was there physically, I was gone mentally; working on new tunes, arrangements, gimmicks, stuff.  You know: desperately trying to make it.

How did you first meet Marie?

She had a blog on an online writer’s colony.  I liked her stuff, so I would post comments.  Eventually we arranged to meet and we hit it off.  We got married even though everyone told us to “establish our careers first”.  Oh, well.  They were right.

Do you still communicate?

Yeah.  All the asshole men in her novels are based on me [lights up a big black cigar].

Are you a cigar aficionado?

Well, my old, VERY OLD childhood friend is “Katmann Cross” [He grins mischievously], the famous cigar critic.  He sends me great cigars.  He thinks I have an unsophisticated palate, because I used to smoke $5 drug store cigars.  [Blows an enormous billow of white smoke] Let’s take a walk.

[We begin to stroll along the old logging slough (pronounced “SLEW”), a winding waterway where loggers used to float their cut timber]  This is a beautiful little town.

Perfect place to raise a family, right?  Except “no matter where you go, there you are”, so it was no guarantee.  I still like it here, though.

What was it like raising two girls on your own?

I was clueless.  My sister would give me advice, but they were like wild animals without their mother.  I couldn’t control them.  I didn’t know how.  Until I became the manager of the band, they ruled me.

What changed?

Well, I knew clearly what was required of them as a band.  And they respected that.

What was it like in the early days?

I mortgaged our house for their expenses, I was the Road Manager, I drove the van, I was the Roadie, I was the Sound Man out in the audience.  I even used my laptop keyboard to add orchestration live, but I never got onstage with them; it would have been too weird.  It would have ruined their “ambience” [laughs].

How did you learn about managing a band?

From my own band experience I learned what not to do.  Plus, we were family, so there was a big element of trust that got us through a lot of the growing pains.

How did you get gigs in the early days?

Well, I networked a lot of old contacts plus the girl’s had already put the band up on Facebook.  I posted performances, showing the audience responses.  That saved the hassle of an audition most of the time.

What was the band’s lineup at that time?

Alanna played guitar, Kate played keyboards and keyboard bass.  They went through several drummers before they drafted their cousin Jen, who was really “out there” and played synthesized percussion.

Where were some of those early gigs?

Well, they were popular at the women’s prison in Olympia [he grimaces], they played some wild gigs at the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island [shakes his head].  But before The Lickitty Splitz, that is, before their mother left, Alanna and Kate gigged a lot at the big modern First Baptist church, calling themselves “Chastity”.  Alanna would joke and pronounce their name “Chase Titty”.  They wrote a bunch of religious songs.  Kate liked the writing challenge, but Alanna would say that they were “song whores” who would write for whoever paid.  They got “Pastor Bob” to finance an album of religious songs called Divine Design.  And I assure you that they dressed nothing like The Lickitty Splitz. 

Were you religious?

Marie was religious.  I just thought that they should at least be exposed to religion.  Sooner or later in life, you need to turn to something besides other people or the government.

How did Alanna and Kate write songs?

Kate writes the simple well-crafted pop songs.  Alanna does the concept stuff; but they both help each other, both write good melodies, and they always incorporate their beautiful harmonies.  After their mom left, they started writing songs like “Get a Room”, “Lollypopper”, and “Raw Dog”.  They just morphed into The Lickitty Splitz.

What were rehearsals like?

Alanna is the theatrical one.  But she didn’t want a choreographer for the band because she said “The Lickitty Splitz will never do Vegas”.  But she practices her onstage “moves”.  She thought that the Splitz could just watch each other out of the corner of their eyes and just follow the “moves” of whoever was spotlighted at the time.

Yet, aren’t all three of the Lickitty Splitz friends with The Tar Babies?

Yes.  But they like the Tar Babies choreography.  It is not cliché.  The Tar Babies have that radical influence of black soul, hip-hop, and modern ghetto, so they are a totally different band.

And The Lickitty Splitz insisted on touring with The Tar Babies?

Yes.  In the early days, they would meet each other on tour and they all agreed that whoever was making it would insist on the other as the opening act.  They leap-frogged like that for several years.  Today they are still mutual fans.

What is your role in the studio now?

Well, the three girls and I have to agree on everything.  I insist on final Producer authority.  But I also keep my creative chops by acting as Arranger.  I keep it simple.  For example, on Dummy Warhead’s Greatest Hits, for the “orchestration” on most of the songs I just doubled the girl’s parts.

As the father of two girls on the road, how do you deal with the usual temptations of “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll”?

Regarding drugs, I was scared-straight after Marie left me.  My band fell apart.  I was not going to go there with my daughters’ band.  And I played Bouncer and Body Guard to the girls as well as I could.  It forced me to get in shape.  I don’t want to know about “the sex” [he laughs], but the girls were always sneaking boys backstage, into the hotel rooms, into the studio.

What about your own temptations?

I had too many obligations just keeping The Lickitty Splitz moving forward.  For years I felt like I couldn’t sleep.

And you didn’t remarry?

No.  Why would anyone get married if they weren’t going to have children?  And I am not going to have any more children, thank you.  Besides, I don’t think any woman would have been accepted by the girls.  And I don’t think any woman could have withstood their dislike.

I have to ask this: what about the rumors of you and Jen, the percussionist?

Fame can be creepy like that.  Success really is a two-edged sword.

Sorry, but you didn’t really answer the question.

[He answers in a President Bill Clinton imitation voice] “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”.

That is a strange choice for a denial.  Some people say…

Alright!  No.  N-O.  I know those kinds of questions sell magazines [narrowing his eyes].  And, we all know what can happen to “some people”.

Since you have alluded to it, I have to ask about Alanna and…

Don’t even speak his name [His face knots and tears come to his eyes].  When Alanna got … [he can not say “raped”]…attacked by that piece of shit, I lost my mind.  When Alanna found out she was pregnant, she wrote “Jelly Bean”, but Kate had to produce that session.  I just couldn’t be there.  By the time Alanna wrote “Olla Podrida” about the abortion, I could barely handle it enough to be there.

But, her assailant [Addison Todd] was soon after that found murdered and mutilated.  You became a suspect.

I was glad he was killed.  I wish I had done it.  All I could think was how this piece of shit hurt my daughter, and now he was going to destroy The Lickitty Splitz.

And there was that awful scene in front of the police station.

Yeah.  His mother was screaming at me “He was my son!” and I yelled back “Now he’s garbage!” right in front of the TV news cameras.  I was still out of my mind.  And I’m still glad he’s dead.

When you were released, what did the police say to you?

The piece of shit was involved with a lot of bad people.  It could have been anyone.  It could have been some outraged fans of The Lickitty Splitz.  I don’t know.  I don’t care.  Except I’d like to thank them.

Well, on a happier note, what does the future hold for The Lickitty Splitz?

We all took time off after that.  The girls have been working on the new album for over a year now.  It’s time for me to saddle up and ride herd again.  I’ve heard the demos of the new stuff.  It’s amazing how they progress.  I’ve got some ideas for arrangements, but, you know how it is.  Someone’s got to say “let’s do it, NOW!”  The hard part is that initial “energy of activation” hump, just getting going again after all this crap.

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Zelmo Mutz blog:  http://open.salon.com/blog/out_on_a_limb

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If I ever get another dog I will name him/her Lickitty Splitz
and then I'll have to sing a song everytime I whistled.
How can your palate be unsophisticated? You listened and learned.
From liquor store stogies to the finest Nicaraguan vitolas. No one else would put up with, "Which end do I light?"
joder, there is some serious hustle in this family. Olla podrida...I like how you reference that, aunque es muy triste...
When is their next gig? I definitely want to catch it!
R