Les Savy Fav (pronounced LaySAH-veeFAHV), the Brooklyn-based rock four-piece, has never been known to settle. Since forming in 1995 at the Rhode Island School of Design, the band members have recorded four full-length albums, one killer EP, a collection of singles and never failed to do whatever the fuck they wanted.
Its new album, “Let’s Be Friends,” is the band’s first proper record since 2001’s “Go Forth” and the first album since its career-spanning singles compilation, 2004’s “Inches.” After a four-year hiatus during which band members pursued various professional pursuits (they’re art school kids, after all), the new album reintroduces the world to a band at the top of its game.
According to guitarist Seth Jabour, the band seems to have found a happy medium between being in a band and maintaining a professional career. After a grueling six-week tour with electro band the Faint in support of “Go Forth,” Jabour said they decided that long tours just weren’t for them.
“There was never any talk like, ‘I don’t think we’re going to be a band anymore’ - we wanted to kind of shift our focus to other things,” he said.
When the band members were deciding how to proceed, according to Jabour, they said if they could play shows when they wanted and still maintain their personal and professional lives, that would be the way to go.
“We’re really fortunate that it has actually worked out,” Jabour said.
The band took a break, but continued to play a few shows here and there, never spending too much time on the road.
During the hiatus, everyone in the band pursued personal endeavors. Drummer Harrison Haynes moved to North Carolina and opened an art gallery, and bassist Syd Butler concentrated more on running Frenchkiss Records, which releases Les Savy Fav’s albums, as well as albums by The Hold Steady, tour mates the Dodos and Houston-based schizorockers the Fatal Flying Guillotines. Singer/wildman Tim Herrington started a design company with his wife. For his part during the time off, Jabour played guitar for now-defunct band Pretty Girls Make Graves, toured the United States and Europe and worked as a freelance graphic designer, doing work for clients like Puma and a science encyclopedia.
For the most part, Jabour keeps his graphic design and his music careers separate.
“The work that I did out of RISD was illustration work, so it was always assignment based,” Jabour said. “But to me, Les Savy Fav was always my creative outlet.”
This spirit of freedom permeates all of the band’s work, with each member contributing in equal measure.
The band members decided to write and record “Let’s Stay Friends” because then they could support it at some really big shows, like Coachella and England’s All Tomorrow’s Parties.
“I think the thing about being in a band was, if it was black and white, if the make it or break it was, ‘you need to put out a record, and then you need to tour 200 days out of the year,’ we wouldn’t have done it,” Jabour said.
But with its more relaxed schedule, the band can have its monster rock cake and eat it whenever it want.
The band also plans on releasing its first live record, an Internet-only album titled “After the Balls Drop.” The album was recorded at a wild show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom last New Year’s Eve. The band didn’t hit the stage till 3 a.m. and played for well over an hour in a set that included, in addition to 11 original songs, half a dozen covers, including tunes by The Pixies, the Misfits and Nirvana.
Les Savy Fav is known for their no-holds barred live performances. “When you see [Harrington] perform in a smaller club, I think there’s just a huge difference,” Jabour said. “When he can really work the crowd, and when he can really explore the whole dimensions of the room and figure out what he’s going to use and play that to his advantage, I think it becomes a little riskier and way more exciting.”
A smaller room, such as with a 600- to 1200-person capacity, is generally going to get a fun show out of the band, Jabour said. “And I think you’re going to see the pure Les Savy Fav experience, which is: Something might go wrong, but who really cares.”
Good thing the Black Cat holds about 700 people. Get ready, D.C.
Correction: In “Savvy rock band balances work, play,” Tim Harrington’s name was misspelled.