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Luscious Jackson on reuniting

By Abbey Goodman, Special to CNN
updated 10:45 AM EDT, Tue March 27, 2012
Luscious Jackson, shown here performing in Chicago, Illinois on July 15, 1994, are back with new music.
Luscious Jackson, shown here performing in Chicago, Illinois on July 15, 1994, are back with new music.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Luscious Jackson have recently reunited for a new album
  • They decided to put out their new material with the help of their fans through PledgeMusic
  • Their new single "Are You Ready?" is out now

(CNN) -- In 1992, the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label introduced the world to Luscious Jackson, the New York rock-punk-funk-hip-hop-disco-electro-indie band made up of singer/bassist Jill Cunniff, singer/guitarist Gabby Glaser, drummer Kate Schellenbach, and keyboardist Vivian Trimble.

They released four albums and their biggest song to date, "Naked Eye," hit the Top 40 chart. They appeared in quintessential '90s pop culture like the "Clueless" soundtrack, the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV series and even their own Gap ad before amicably disbanding in 2000 because Cunniff wanted to have children and didn't think that the life of a touring musician would be conducive to that.

Today, Cunniff, Glaser and Schellenbach are mothers and recently reunited for a new Luscious Jackson album. Instead of going the traditional label route, they decided to put out their new material with the help of their fans through PledgeMusic.

Their new single "Are You Ready?" is out now and they're currently hard at work on the full album, giving little sneak peeks along the way. This week they tweeted that they're recording a new song called "Twi Lite." "Like that '70s disco song 'here in the twilight.' Not the vampires."

CNN spoke to Cunniff and Glaser about reuniting in a changing musical landscape, why their kids hate when they sing and the best advice the Beastie Boys ever gave them.

CNN: It's been an exciting couple of years for fans of '90s music with a bunch of those band reuniting. Was that a factor in putting out new Luscious Jackson music?

Jill Cunniff: I hope there's nostalgia, that's great, but it has nothing to do with what we're doing. It's just because the time is exactly right to do it. Five years ago, there wasn't this type of social network connection, connectivity. I think now people really miss that spirit of another time. People were really sad to hear we broke up and I guess now those people realizing that we're reuniting and they're writing about how happy they are. It's great.

CNN: How has it been to get yourselves back out there?

Cunniff: It's so hard to build yourself into a national brand of any kind. We're fortunate that we have a name so we can go back there. With Pledge, artists are realizing they can create their own fan base and reconnect with them. That's exciting. Getting the mailing list back from the label, getting the Facebook, getting the Twitter. Then it becomes an Ani DiFranco thing, where you're calling the shots. That's what we hope we'll ultimately be. We get to put out our music ourselves, run it ourselves, tour as we wish. It's a really great feeling.

CNN: Do you have an album title yet?

Cunniff: Not yet. I think the core of the album needs to be made and then we'll understand what it is. I think "Are You Ready?" is a really good example of what it's going to be like. It'll have a range, but a fun, up-tempo, youth vibe. I think we're both feeling that fun's really important. We're older now so the lyrics are different. There probably won't be cursing. I was listening to the old stuff and there was a lot of cursing. I'm not feeling like curses in my lyrics right now. But I don't feel like an old person. It's definitely not like, oh, we're adult contemporary now.

CNN: Luscious Jackson albums are known for their eclectic mix of genres and references, is that what fans can expect with the new album?

Cunniff: Now we're not using samples because it's too expensive and no one does, but there's core people that we are and that's what we bring. Our mission was to infuse (the music) with a lot of influences. We were like, how could we add that cool funk riff in? Why not put in this reggae guitar? So that's where it comes from, but I don't think we'll go crazy with anything drastically new.

Gabby Glaser: Death metal!

CNN: Will there be any collaborations on the new album?

Cunniff: Cibo Matto is back together, that could be really cute. They were always around with us. A lot of people are still doing music, Ben Lee, the Grand Royal people. We could collaborate with anybody. I saw Mike (D. of the Beastie Boys) recently, so maybe down the road. You're hitting us at the beginning stages.

CNN: What music currently inspires you?

Cunniff: I love the Erykah Badu and J Dilla tracks and they're not that far to me from what we've always done. They're some of the best tracks I've heard in the last umpteen years. J Dilla passed away, but when I hear that stuff, I'm like, aaaaah! You know how you get when you're really inspired? That's how I get when I heard those tracks, and the singing is great too. Nneka, Ladyhawke, Amy Winehouse, Adele. I like Fleet Foxes. I listen to a lot of pop with my kids, like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Those are probably my favorite female pop artists, but I wouldn't say I'll bring that into the new album. I like to dance around the house, just myself, and I'll put that on. I've done that since I was a teenager.

Glaser: Liquid Liquid and ESG, those were huge influences in my life.

Cunniff: Huge, huge. I was watching ESG with my daughters and they were like, how could you like this? I don't get this. Kids don't understand if it doesn't have a pop hook on it.

Glaser: When they're really little, you can play them a great Kinks song. Then they want to like whatever anyone else likes.

CNN: Do your kids listen to your music?

Cunniff: Mine have started to listen to our music, and they heard it when they were younger. They hate me singing, so it's kind of a problem.

Glaser: All kids hate their parents singing.

Cunniff: Because it takes the attention off of them, that's what I think.

CNN: How has the band had to adapt to the changing music industry?

Cunniff: I don't think anyone understands the music business right now. Having been in it for 10 years, everyone sits around and talks about what it is. No one knows. That's the damn truth. We had some cool people promoting us. I look back and can't believe how savvy they were marketing us. The stuff that we did was really hip and cool and underground.

They didn't pressure us to do anything particularly commercial. We dressed how we wanted. That was the biggest limit was, don't do something wack. By wack, we all knew what that meant: something incredibly cheesy. I love cheesy music myself, like Lisa Lisa, but I'm talking about that mainstream commercial cheese and the sexy dancing and all that crap. We were never told to anything like that. I imagine now, you'd be pressured to be wack left and right.

Glaser: Now we're really, really sexy, so we're going to pull it out now.

Cunniff: We're going to be in our leotards by the end of this. No pants. Pants-free. That's going to be the name of the album!

CNN: What is your favorite Luscious Jackson album?

Cunniff: I like all our old albums. I don't feel like we had that crappy album.

Glaser: They were all of the time.

Cunniff: The only thing we did was make a video and almost kill ourselves roller derbying. I showed my kids the video and they were like, your outfits are horrible. I was like, those are roller derby outfits! I wasn't trying to look like a glamazon. Somebody just put a roller derby outfit on me; sorry I don't look like Rihanna in the video. That video was crazy. At one point the director was sitting there with his head in hands, like, what have I done? And then these roller derby women come out and they smacked everyone around. They smacked Vivian down. She got an injury in her neck.

Glaser: You play music and you record the video, but you don't want to be so incredibly challenged physically.

Cunniff: (Director) Tamra Davis was incredible. She really got our vibe. She did "Daughters of the Kaos," "City Song" and "Ladyfingers." We did a ton of videos with other people, but those were probably our favorite. The "Daughters of the Kaos" video, we totally looked like hookers. We thought we looked like "Charlie's Angels."

Glaser: No. Hookers.

CNN: Luscious Jackson was introduced through Grand Royal and the Beastie Boys so that was great, automatic validation, but do you ever resent being asked about them when talking about your music?

Cunniff: Not at all. Not at all. As the years go by, I become more appreciative of what they did and how it was done, what they tried to do with Grand Royal. It was a noble effort to bring out new artists that were interesting and create a community of music that was creative. There's not that many people doing that. They never really were part of our music; they were more like mentors in the professional world of music.

CNN: What was the best advice they ever gave you?

Cunniff: Don't be wack. That's it.

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