Keeping indie weird

by Ryan Snyder

Keeping indie weird


Lee Grutman had a few options to pick from when collaborating with his bandmates on a name for their four-piece absurdist indie-wave outfit.

They could have very well settled on Kansas City Trucking Co., or even El Paso Wrecking Corp. Yet, a word of fair warning is in order for anyone seeking information on the Charlotte-based band LA Tool & Die: there may be some rather unintended and unwelcome results when typing the name into a search engine. Their moniker was drawn from an infamous 1970s gay porn film of the same name and if it’s not already obvious, one part of a trilogy that’s completed by the two aforementioned titles. “It’s one of those with the big burly men with the thick mustaches and cut off shorts,” Grutman explained. “We thought it would be so funny that if we called our band this, people would look for it online and end up finding something completely different.” A bunch of comedians they are, but it doesn’t take too many listens to get in on the joke. When the members (no pun intended) of LA Tool & Die aren’t pranking casual info seekers, they are playfully poking fun at the scene that they so dearly love. It’s blatantly obvious in lines like “Jesus saved me at the record show/ said indie rock is the way to go. With folded arms and vacant stares/ shoegazing kiddies that just don’t care” from “Jesus Saved Me at the Record Show” and it’s evident from Grutman’s employment of unicorn hand puppets at their live sets.

“We’re just weird like that,” he said, before adding half-jokingly. “Unicorns are really big right now and everyone loves those as the trappings of indie rock.” As the guitar player and vocalist for LA Tool & Die, Grutman says that the band’s curious nature is a product of his own bizarre sense of humor, along with that of keyboardist and UNCG music student Travis Hodgdon. As one of the founding members, Grutman says that Hodgdon is also the driving creative force behind the band. “He’s also kind of like the lead guitarist in our arrangement,” Grutman said. “We just want to be musically interesting and have a good time and he’s a big part of that.” Yet not even Jesus could have saved the band after a tumultuous first year in existence. They released their debut album, Fashion for the Evildoer, in 2004, which swiftly settled at No. 94 on the College Music Journal album charts. Afterwards, Grutman stated that the band promptly decided that they all hated each other and never wanted to play together again. It was at that point that Grutman thought he was finished with music altogether. “When we broke up, I thought I was out of music and I started selling all my gear,” he said. “Sometime in 2007, we all had a big cryfest, reconciled and put the band back together. Then next thing I knew was that I was buying all my gear back.” Picking up right where they left off, the band was once again going strong and in 2008, they released a new record, The Last Thorn of Summer, along with a 7-inch. The band’s first video, a farcical romp entitled “Don’t Touch My Mustache” with guest appearances by the LA Tool & Die Unicorns, was just recently picked up by a number of music sites. A new EP is expected later this year, though no official release date or title has been decided upon.

They also garnered some unexpected exposure earlier this year, when a fabricated feud between them and friends Casper & the Cookies ensued after a towel that was left at Grutman’s home became a reluctant hostage. Ransom notes were exchanged, MySpace videos were posted in retaliation, the blogosphere picked it up and eventually the towel became the common-law property of Grutman. All in a day’s work for LA Tool & Die.

LA Tool & Die will perform at the Green Bean on Friday at 9 pm.