2005_04_artsrkbint.jpgThe Reputation’s lead singer Elizabeth Elmore is one of those amazing people who can not only boast a law degree and a fabulous indie rock band, but can probably outdrink you and outtalk you. She’s a smartypants wordsmith who references Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry and called a song on her latest album "Cartography," but knows when it’s time to simply rock out. She started off in the indie rock band Sarge, then moved on to form Chicago’s The Reputation, who play punk-tinged, extremely catchy rock music, tour incessantly, and are always up for a good time. Their latest album is To Force a Fate, and they’re playing tonight at Mercury Lounge with Lookout labelmates Mary Timony, Supersystem and Man Man. Buy Elmore a drink and she might even dedicate a song to you, or just sit back and watch her and her bandmates Sean Hulet (guitar), Joel Root (bass) and Steve Horn (drums) tear up the stage.

Let's get this out of the way, where did your band name originate from?
Hmmmm... tried so hard to get away from telling this story (because any more, it probably just perpetuates the rumors), but for you, I will...Basically, when I was in my very early twenties, a certain unsavory subset of the indie/punk rock kids in my community apparently had far, far too much time on their hands and could think of no better way to fill it than to speculate on my sex life and the many imagined nuances of it. It's funny to me now, but at the time, it sucked. So flash forward a couple years. The band is having no luck coming up w/ a name. One night, I'm out at a bar wwith John Davis from Q and not U for his birthday. All of the sudden, in some intoxicant-induced delirium, we decided that "the reputation" would be the funniest band name for me ever. Within a month, I realized that it was probably pretty stupid and would make me answer the question, "why you'd name your band that?" for the rest of my life. And yet, it stuck. So there ya go.

What is your first conscious memory of New York?
I grew up in a town of 2,000 in downstate Illinois but my mom brought me to New York on vacation when I was 15. We were in some clothing store and the sales guy (some pony-tailed 22 year old I inexplicably found alluring) ran his hand up the back of my leg while I was trying on clothes. And then I convinced my mom to take me to a dance club called the limelight that I had seen on MTV. That's all I really remember about the trip.

What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
Favorite's hard because we've had so many fun shows and late nights in NYC. Similarly, least favorite's hard because fun shows and late nights occasionally go horribly awry and are best left undisclosed.

What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York?
Favorite thing is waking up the morning of a NYC show and never knowing where you're going to end the night, or what sprawling group of people will end up in which crazy after hours bar causing trouble. It always feels like an adventure and we have lots of people in NYC we dearly love.

Least favorite thing... oh god, I guess if you have a bad show, it always sucks to have it happen in NYC. Not that that has ever, ever happened to us. Oh, and we're used to hanging out in dive bars in Chicago and never paying more than $1.50 or $2 for a beer. And we drink a lot of beer so NYC is pretty expensive for us.

How do the Chicago and New York music scenes differ?
I think there's obviously a difference in the genres of music the towns are known for - not that we really fit into anything for which Chicago's particularly known. I'd say the Chicago music scene seems a little bit more locationally closeknit in the sense that there are a couple of areas of the city in which most musicians live and a couple bars that are suffocatingly populated by rockers. Also, there seems to be more cross-pollination in the sense that you see musicians from lots of different genres showing up on stage together and on each other's records.

Then again, while we know a lot of NY bands, we don't spend enough time there to really know the scene. To my mind, Chicago's a little more down to earth, Midwestern, and less self-consciously hip. But that may just be the small town girl in me reacting anxiously to people who clearly spend more time shopping in a week than I have in my entire life.

Now its time for some fill-in-the-blank action:

It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when...
You graduate law school? you get offered six figure salaries? You live below poverty level for all of your adult life? Except that all of those things have already happened so hell, apparently I have no clue. Or judgment.

And finally, let’s have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following (if you’ve got no discernable feelings, make something up that wont embarrass you in the morning):

Yankees
Last year's playoffs screwed us on our northeast tour dates (we were in Boston for Game 6 for the love of god). So I was a little bitter. But I also discovered I love baseball so that kind of makes up for it. Except not really.

Mets
Ummm.... they didn't screw up our tour so I like them better?

Britney
Smokin'. Toxic is such a good song. Though man, she's seriously in need of a big sister to set her head straight. I actually had a dream once that I ran into her and we sat down and had a nice long talk.

Bridge & Tunnel
Never been. would like to. Anyone?

The Darkness
Like the music enough, hate the clothes.

Times Square
Makes my brain hurt.

Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
I understand the smoking ban, I really do. And yet I hate it. Ain't never gonna pass in Chicago.

Questions inspired by movies...

If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma (in less than 10 words). (Reality Bites)
Lazy, stoned 20 year olds with nothing better to do

What came first, the music or the misery? (High Fidelity)
Traffic jams in my neighborhood and annoying obnoxious people in my bars when they filmed it.

A few quickies on the music tip:

Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Greg Dulli, Nora O'Connor, Kelly Hogan, Kim Coletta, the drummer from Golden and now Mars Volta (blanking on a name), Ben Folds, J Robbins, Craig Wedren, and maybe one of the guys from Love Jones.

If you released a 7" what would you put on the cover?
Absolutely nothing. I'm entirely non-visual and dealing with artwork makes me want to pull my hair out. And then the band would complain that we had to have _some_ type of artwork but wouldn't actually get any done so I'd end up bugging a friend to come up with something the night before it was due and it'd probably be lame.

What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
No idea.

What craziness (like the moshing at Rothko) can we expect from your set tonight?
I take no responsibility for people moshing at shows and those certainly weren't people we knew. A typical set for us in NYC usually involves too many people bringing me shots on stage to see what idiotic reaction on my part it will produce, what stupid thing I'll say, and then what creative way my bandmates will make fun of me. Then, we'll probably attempt to play the song where I have to do a finger-tapping part and between being drunk and totally cowed that we're playing before Mary Timony, the 12-minute queen of all finger-tapping, I'll screw it up royally and be pissy for as long as it takes for the rest of the alcohol to kick in, at which point I'll forget all about it and run around the bar saying inappropriate things.

Will you be playing any new songs or covers? How do you keep shows fresh after touring with an album for so many months?
Yeah, we've been playing two new songs out on this tour. One's a loud rocker, one's a quieter sorta-rocker. Keeping songs fresh after touring so much? Hell, to be honest, sometimes we don't. There will be nights on tour where I think I actively hate a song. But then you have an off-night and you get so pissed off at yourself that the next night, the anger works in your favor and you try to get back to the place in your head you were at when you wrote it. And every night there's a completely different chemistry between the audience and the band and within the band and the songs themselves. So it can feel fresh every night, even when it shouldn't.

Do you prefer your audiences to be quiet and polite, or screaming and heckling?
I hate quiet and polite audiences (except on the quiet songs -then it's nice). Whenever we're in rock territory, we far prefer loud fans, even the obnoxious ones. Most people who heckle at our shows actually know us and are screwing with us so that's fine. And even if it's a stranger being an asshole, that gives you an opportunity to loudly make fun of them (and who's gonna win that battle? the smart girl with the mic onstage or the dipshit in the crowd?) and then you sorta bond with the crowd that way.

You're now a full-fledged lawyer in addition to being a rock n' roller; how is juggling your two careers going?
Constant state of disorientation. Finished up law school while we recorded the second album, then toured for two months, then took the bar exam (nightmarish) while we kept playing shows, then toured for 2 1/2 months (during which time we had to stop through chicago so we could open for The Donnas and so I could get sworn in before the Illinois Supreme Court in the space of about 13 hours), then England for 2 weeks of shows , then 2 more months of touring and....finally, we're taking 4 months off this summer so that we can write the next record and I can get a solo entertainment law practice up and running.

Little exhausting and hard to find a balance. Right now, I wish I was able to spend more time practicing law but... tour doesn't really lend itself to that and it's not like anyone's going to hire me when I tour 5 or 6 months a year.

What would you say to someone who's never heard of The Reputation to convince them you put on a kick-ass show?
Oh god, I'm horrible at this. Sometimes it's amazing, occasionally it's a trainwreck, but it pretty much never fails to be entertaining.

The Reputation take the stage at 8 p.m. tonight at Mercury Lounge, 217 East Houston Street, followed by Mary Timony, Supersytem and Man Man, all on Lookout Records.