Before twentysomething Glaswegian art rock quartets were bestowed all the credit for generating the highest level of audience excitement and participation since the mosh pit craze of the early nineties, Ted Leo taught the indie kids how to dance. Churning out high energy punk-pop, the ever-enthusiastic and hardworking Leo tours relentlessly (even during massive blackouts and severe thunderstorms), and has been described as the Chevy trucks of indie rock. He lives and breathes rock 'n' roll... Gothamist witnessed him putting every available dollar bill into the jukebox at his very own listening party back in August. We have also been helplessly, spastically rocking out to the latest album, Shake the Sheets, which shakes the streets next Tuesday, October 19.

tl.jpgFirst, some questions about Home Sweet Home:

What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?

Well, I actually grew up in Jersey, right outside of New York, and both of my parents worked near home, meaning there was no commuter vibe in my house, so my first conscious memory of being truly connected to New York, I think, was the '77 black out. When the power came back on, I remember watching the news and starting to understand the concept of "metropolitan area," and how connected we all are. Coverage of the looting actually scared the hell out of me.

What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?

Man, that's tough... I think my most disappointing day in NYC was going to see the Gorilla Biscuits' record release show at a Sunday matinée at CB's in '88 or '89. It wasn't the band's fault -- if anything, they were at least singing against this sort of thing, but an ultra-violent thuggish element had really taken over the NYHC and NY Skinhead scene, and there was this kid swinging a hammer around in the pit. I know -- like, "Wha...???" I was completely disenchanted that, with all the "positive" rhetoric of the scene, this is actually what it had become. I had some real halcyon days the following summer, though -- when ABC-NoRio really got into swing with Saturday matinées. We had a really tight-knit and vibrant scene for a while there. It felt like we were really doing something -- were really a part of something special. But I think my absolute favorite memory of NYC is from late August, 2001. At about 4 PM, I ran across a web-site talking about Hugh Masekela (a hero of mine) playing at the WTC that afternoon. I called my brother Danny, who was living in Newark at the time. He shot right over and met me, we took the ferry across the Hudson as the sun was just getting pink on the buildings in front of us (already making this a hell of a day), got off at the other side, but couldn't find where the show was happening. We walked all over, but couldn't see or hear anything. So we found a little bar near the edge of the park with an outdoor seating area, clinked our glasses of Jameson's (today, with rocks), and started to sip, when we heard his trumpet start to ring out through the trees. We stopped sipping, slammed, ran in the direction of the music, and watched this 70 year old man rock in the shadows of the Twin Towers, in awe. That was a pretty good day.


What is your favorite place to drink in NYC? What's the best night of the week to go out in the city?

It totally depends on what mood I'm in -- there's always a good hang with friends at Hi-Fi (11th and A), I really like the parlour vibe at The Dove (4th and Thompson), um... let's see... Sake cocktails are always appreciated, thus Double Happiness (Williamsburg) is good... Uncle Joe's (Jersey City) is the best on my side of the Hudson. As far as days go... I guess any day except Friday is generally good. If I tend to remember it's Friday, I tend to not want to hang out in a bar. I'm sure we all know why...

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?

My favorite thing is the crowds and the friends -- it always feels like a home-coming event, even if we play twice a month (probably because we're always on tour, so even if we DO play NYC twice a month, chances are we've been to Canada or Texas in between, so it actually IS a home-coming). Two differences between Manhattan and Brooklyn are, 1.) Brooklyn peeps will come to Manhattan, but it seems like Manhattan peeps won't (generally) come to Brooklyn; and 2.) parking a van near the club is easier in Brooklyn.

Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?

JI think it does, but I'm not sure how. My brother Danny, as mentioned above, once referred to something as "Northeastern guitar," and I liked that -- I think it's accurate, but I couldn't really say why... Something urban, something urbane, something maritime, something multicultural but grounded in European structures... I dunno!

tl_live.jpgNow its time for some fill-in-the-blank action:

"You know you've made it when…."

Not so much when bars start giving you free drinks, as when total strangers start buying them for you.

"It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when…."

Uh... Can't answer! Does not compute!

Now for some quick word association:







Bridge & Tunnel

Phrase itself: annoying -- there are just as many idiotic Manhattan and other borough dwellers at the bars on weekends as there are from Jersey. People the phrase references: admittedly, also annoying.

Times Square

As much as I hate Disney, I have to admit, it's really fun to walk through the "NEW" Times Square because you just don't see that kind of ridiculosity anywhere else in New York. It gives you a lot to think about. Go to the Howard Johnson's happy hour on a week day and just people-watch for a while. It's worth it.

Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws

Confusing / really nice for performers who don't smoke (much) / rot

And a few last questions on the music tip:

Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup?

D. Boon - guitar, vocals
Eric Bell (Them/Thin Lizzy) - lead guitar
Hugh Masekela - trumpet, vocals
Darryl (Bad Brains) - bass
Earl (Bad Brains) - drums
The Boss - guitar, vocals
Jackie Mittoo - organ
Joe Strummer and Paul Weller - together at last as a song writing team

What were the first & last albums you bought on the day they were released?

I actually skipped school to get The Joshua Tree on release day. I think that'd be the first. A couple of years later, I got The Smiths' Strangeways Here we Come on the street date, then the only other one was really recently -- appropriately, Moz's new one, You Are the Quarry.

tlrx_sts.jpgTed Leo / Pharmacists perform as part of the CMJ Music Marathon this Thursday, October 14 at the Knitting Factory, headlining the Lookout! Records showcase (sold out).

Shake the Sheets is available Tuesday, October 19.

You can stream Gothamist's current favortite song, "Me and Mia" from the Lookout! Records website. Additional songs are available at Ted Leo's website, where you can also view the music video for "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" from the album Hearts of Oak.