When it comes to writing and playing music The Black Lemons have done a few things, and are clearly ready to do a lot more. Between the three of them, they have played gigs ranging from rooms not much bigger than a closet, to opening for acts such as The Who, and Cheap Trick. They’ve played rock and roll, country, roots, folk, blues, soul, funk, metal, from punk, to bubble gum, somebody in this band has been there, and brought back souvenirs. This band puts all of that experience into play.
Whatever the genre, the pop ethos demands that the song be compelling. This idea has been the guiding light that principal songwriter Stephen Simon follows. There’s always some element that pulls you into the song and won’t let you go. If variety is the spice of life, The Black Lemons must live in a spice rack. While the Lemons certainly play pop music, it is pop in the broadest sense of the word.
Guitarist, Jay Lawrence came onboard through the power of Craigslist in 2009, when Stephen started putting the band together. Players came and went, but Jay came and stayed. After running through so many musicians, Stephen and Jay decided they would write and record an album, then find up the members afterwards.
Their first record, Thundershirts For Everyone, features lyrics that hit on a variety of cultural touchstones, feminism, conformity, death, addiction, but all wrapped in irresistible pop tunes. The range of the album is surprising. Somehow, The Lemons manage to sit the hard driving punk song, Keep Me Down, next to the McCartneyesque, La, as if the two were babes that shared a crib. These aesthetic choices are the hallmark of The Black Lemons. This band has collected a lot of postcards on their rock and roll journeys, and together they find exactly the right address to send each one to.
With the first album finished, there was another round of musical chairs, and when the dust settled sitting behind the drum kit was Philadelphia native, Scot Sax. Scott has enjoyed quite a bit of success as a singer songwriter, and guitarist, fronting two bands with major label deals, and winning a Grammy for songwriting. Now, he wanted to beat a tub covered in sheep skin with a stick for The Black Lemons.
Early versions of the lemons saw Stephen playing keys or guitar, but when yet another musician left the band, The Lemons decided to keep it simple. Stephen moved over to bass and a power pop trio was born. The songs are compelling and the musicians know when to cut a path through the thicket and when to just get in the middle of the road.
Lemons fans say they hear all kinds of influences in The Black Lemons music, from Steely Dan to Tom Petty. The Lemons themselves point to David Bowie and the Beatles as primary influences. Stephen says, “Write it and record it like David Bowie, play it live like Iggy Pop.” The Bowie influence is front and center on their latest release, the EP You’re Never Gonna Have Enough Money, which features a number of songs with four on the floor rhythms and a wider, more spacious sound than Thundershirts.
Whether you’re into punk, pop, or just about anything else, The Black Lemons have a postcard with your name on it.