As for the band -- Hill, guitarist Brian Karscig, drummer Mark Maigaard, and bassist Jimmy Armbrust -- well, good thing they're actually good. So good, in fact, that they opened for the Killers before they were signed to a label, convinced Atlantic Records to give them complete artistic control on Secrets, and have been seen at more major festivals than an arepa cart. This summer, they've already hit Lollapalooza, the U.K.'s T in the Park, and Summersonic in Japan. Next month's Rocky Horror Picture Show 30th-anniversary party in L.A. and New Orleans' Voodoo Music Experience are on deck. Not that the band needs any help from trannies or black magic -- in the span of a couple of years, Louis XIV has turned a concept album about a boy who thought he was the 17th-century Sun King into a rock 'n' roll reality of royal proportions.
Despite the band's current "it" status, the seeds of Louis XIV were planted 12 years ago when Hill and Karscig met in grade school. "I was a new kid, and Jason came up to me and said, 'I heard you're a real funny guy -- can you tell me a joke?'" Karscig recalls. "I told him a joke or something, and we started hanging out, got into music together, and have just been best friends ever since."
After seceding from Beach Boys-meet-Jayhawks outfit Convoy and taking Maigaard with them, the three holed themselves up in a Paris flat, came up with the idea for an album based on a kid with a quixotic fixation with a dead French monarch, changed their name accordingly, brought in Armbrust, and cranked out an eponymous, little-recognized debut album.
By 2004, radio stations like San Diego's 91X and L.A.'s KROQ threw "Finding Out True Love is Blind" into rotation, and the horn-dogs track became a hit with listeners. That year, their formal introduction to rock 'n' roll society came via a coveted opening slot on tour with the Killers, proving Louis XIV was ready to steal not just the airwaves but also stages across the country. Critics have used words like electrifying, cheeky, and swaggering to describe a typical Louis XIV performance. Indeed, Google the latter adjective coupled with "Louis XIV" and more than 3,000 hits emerge, only a handful of which are devoted to the actual French monarch. (It's hard to swagger in pantaloons.) Hill has been compared to Jagger when it comes to on-stage pomp and vigor. He delivers the raw, sassy "Illegal Tender" with a theatrically energized British accent and is prone to sneer, drop to the floor, and engage in Michael Jackson-esque hip hikes.
While other stylized rock outfits have garnered flack from critics for spending more time on their image than their music (pretty much any band with "the" in their name falls into this set), Louis XIV has mostly beaten the rap. "We get the whole 'sexed-up glam rocker' category," Karscig says. "We never set out to be a glam-rock band, for sure, and as far as being sexed up, there's really only four songs on the album that have sexuality as a lyrical vehicle. The rest is kinda bluesy songs, a testament to music. I think people hear a song or two and make perceptions of the band that are sometimes flattering or funny but sometimes just really far-fetched and incorrect on what we're all about." On being compared to the Stones, Karscig simply says that everyone has his own perception about what music is. "Some people might call the Stones 'swaggery, sexed-up rockers,' but they're also one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time."
In addition to Jagger and Co., the band has been compared to hyperstylized performers like David Bowie and T. Rex, the latter to the point of exhaustion. Pitchforkmedia.com went so far as to claim that the band was a carbon-copy rip-off of the Brit glam rockers, but Karscig says it's ridiculous to infer that their sound comes from the influence of a single band. As a kid, he says, he would buy records instead of CDs in order to stretch his allowance, which in turn exposed him to more music. "It's like if you were to throw a hundred colors in a bucket, mix it up, and then take out a brush and paint a line on a wall and go, 'That line looks like it was influenced by the color red,'" he opines. "Every song we have has a different kind of feel -- you can hear some influences shine through in addition to what we do on our own."
While some may be quick to compare and pigeonhole, no one can accuse Louis XIV of not being dedicated to its music. Most bands stock the back of their tour buses with PlayStations, flat screens, and any other sensory-overloading diversions they can get; Louis XIV has converted theirs into a mini recording studio. "Bands we tour with will walk back and look at what we have on our bus and just kinda trip out," Karscig says. "We bring a lot of stuff on the road just to have fun, because you can't go out and party it up and drink every single night. We are musicians, so we do like to keep working. We've got every single video game company saying, 'Do you want this electrobox or electrocube or whatever for your bus?' and we're like, absolutely not."
Asian girls, however, are more than welcome.
Louis XIV plays with Nothing Rhymes with Orange and New Roman Times at 8 p.m. Wednesday, August 24, at the Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Call 954-564-1074.