Spawned from the Lower East Side in the '80s when they used to hit punk shows with the members of the Beastie Boys—who later signed them to their Grand Royal record label—Luscious Jackson formed in 1991 and burst onto the scene with a street smart sound showcased on classic tracks like "Naked Eye", "Here" and an ode to their hometown "City Song." After a 14 year hiatus, Jill Cunniff, Gabby Glaser and Kate Schellenbach are back and sounding better than ever with a new album titled "Magic Hour" being released on November 5th and a December 7th show at Webster Hall. Cunniff recently took a few minutes to chat with us about the new album, the joys of walking around NYC and the passing of Adam "MCA" Yauch.

What was the catalyst to the reunion? We were talking about it, basically we started talking about doing some more kid's music because Gabby was sort of playing the music we’d done, some music she’d done a few years ago, and she came back to me and said let’s do some more, the kids are loving this. She was playing it in Carroll Park in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn and so that’s sort of how it started and we were just getting along really well. This pledge music drive [Ed. note: how the album was financed] came into our lives through a friend and we started to talk about it, we decided to do a whole album of new material, not kid’s music, and that’s how it started. We also have the kid’s CD coming out November 12, so we’ve got two releases ready to go.

You’ve got two tour dates set, one here at Webster Hall and one in Philly. Any plans for a larger tour outside of that in the future? Yeah we will be giving more dates but at the moment we are just concentrating on doing publicity and getting back out there so that was our choice to wait until the Spring to do some more dates. It won’t be a huge tour, we might fly out to a few regions, we all have commitments now, not like the old days, so we can’t hit the road like we used to. We have to work it in with our other commitments.

In terms of the songwriting and composing process, how different was it this time around with the new album as opposed to your last album 14 years ago? It was ’99, so that was like over a million years ago, but it also feels like yesterday and especially when we got in the studio and it all came back really fast and the vibe was there. It actually reminded me of the first record we did, which was called In Search of Manny, and it was this very spontaneous free flowing kind of like explosion of creativity, and that’s how it really felt. I think that’s because that was before we had any type of record labels involved and now we don’t have one either. We had amazing experiences during the ‘90s making albums but it was a much more high-pressure environment in terms of, you have a contract, you have to deliver this, that, and the other.

But at this point we were totally free and it was really fun. And also I do the engineering and the recording now, whereas we used to hire people for that. I think that changed the creative process and made it a little more direct. There’s nothing else. There’s some people we collaborated with but a lot of it is just us. So those two things changed the vibe. I felt it was very serious, like, we were making records in the ‘90s, and we were having a good time, but I always felt like oh my god we have to deliver certain things and this time we didn’t really feel that pressure and that was really nice.

Do all three of you currently live in NYC? We do. Well, actually, Kate’s in LA so that’s another reason we have to do these very specific dates. She works as a TV producer so she’d have to come in very specifically for shows and whatever.

With two out of the three of you living in New York, what if any role does the city play in your songwriting process? Gabby and I are lifelong New Yorkers and we’ve always loved thinking about things and walking through the City. It’s huge for me and I know it is for her too. In fact there is a song that she wrote called “City Song” that’s really about taking a walk in the City. So I walked like crazy during this whole album, and you know, listening to music and walking through the City is probably one of my top 5 activities, so that plays a huge role. And also the influences we had growing up here are still very evident in our sound and we pull from a lot of eras and types of music. That is completely because of the way we grew up around everything and I really love that about New York. That’s kind of why we don’t leave. Every side of Prospect Park has a different culture and everyone is mixed together and that’s what I love.

It’s interesting that you bring that up because I’m curious what your feelings are on the NYC music scene now versus in the late '80s/early '90s? Did you ever think Brooklyn would be the center of the indie rock universe? Well I didn’t hang out in Brooklyn back then, I was totally a Manhattan girl and I was a Lower East Sider, I grew up there. And you had the East Village in the 90’s with Gabby growing up on St. Mark’s Place, so that was our home region. But I think as Manhattan became very commercialized a lot of people came to Brooklyn and thought, “Ahhh!” When I first came to—well I’m not going to say where I live because that would be too much personal information—but parts of Brooklyn feel like old New York. What I mean by old New York is free of banks and drug stores being everywhere. There were all these tiny little businesses and you still find them in the East Village.

But as anyone who lives here knows, there’s a lack of the small, funky, cool little businesses that were so amazing about New York. Those are kind of getting swallowed up and now people are trying to bring them back. It is really sad to go to a neighborhood and see bank, drug store, bank, drug store. So Brooklyn feels to me like the old New York, parts of it, and I like all the stuff going on here. I like small businesses, the artisanal stuff; I like it, I’m happy to be here.

You guys hung out with the Beastie Boys back in the day and were on their label. How did the passing of MCA affect you personally and as a group? We were really sad obviously. We didn’t have any idea how bad it was, he was very private and it was pretty devastating. We have a song on the album, which I wrote the lyrics for, about him, called "We Go Back," so that song is about loss in general. I mean it is about him, but it could be about any kind of loss, just the loss of a person. When you’re young with someone you never think about your mortality, so that sort of was something I thought about, when we were all running about in the city together as teenagers and going out to clubs and doing that whole downtown thing. We were just high on life and that’s why when he died, I was like 'he’s a piece of that young time.' I don’t associate that time with death, so it was very shocking and for all of us it was just those blues for a while, thinking how could this happen. So I don’t think any of us have really fully processed it.

In terms of something a little brighter, the band is doing a Letterman appearance on November 18th, are you guys excited for that? Yes, so excited. A great thing was we sent out our press release and they just came right back, and were like, “We love this song.” It was such a validation, I guess, it’s such a nice thing, because we are self-releasing through our own label. So it makes you see that there are individual people in all these places and if they like something, they’re going to put it on. It’s not just this huge, “Oh you have to go major labels to get this and that,” you know? So that’s really nice, and we’ve played there a lot of times I feel like, so there’s all the history there. We’re playing "Show Us What You Got," which was our first song we put out.

Our publisher here at Gothamist—who grew up in Park Slope—is very fond of speaking of nostalgia in pejorative terms, but if you could look back on your catalog what might be your favorite song or what song you are most proud of writing? Well I’m probably most proud of writing "Naked Eye" because it was something that again just flowed out and I liked the way that it worked in terms of the public. I’ve been songwriting for a long time inside the band so I’m kind of into the technical stuff, the songwritery stuff. So for me that’s probably my favorite. I just like the way the harmony and the melodies work and the verses are more rhythmic and the chorus is really melodic. I don’t know what Gabby’s favorite one was, but of Gabby’s lyrics my favorite was "City Song," which is the song I mentioned earlier about walking in New York, and that was a pretty iconic moment for us.

So what does the future hold in store for Luscious Jackson? We don’t know, we’d love to make more records. This is a big exciting thing, we did this album over the last year with the pledge music drive, we found ways to release ourselves through Tunecore and other different media. The industry has changed and it’s become doable, so that leaves a lot of opportunity for a very open future. You know, you used to have to jump through hoops, people had to sign you to something to even distribute your music. That really blocked a lot of people and now that’s basically gone.

Obviously we’re very open-minded and we want to do some shows, we want to get out there and reintroduce ourselves to our fans and new people. I feel like we hear the music in the hipster spots, so I think there’s sort of the younger crowd learning about us now, so that’s really exciting. We feel connected to a lot of music that’s out right now, so that’s great. It’s like the blend we were going for back then, a lot of people are doing that blending now, it’s more accepted.

What kinds of band do you feel connected to? I feel connected to Santigold, I feel connected to Haim, sometimes MIA, Icona Pop. Those are some good ones, just in terms of sound and some of the vibes.