British Allstars have attitude but no guitar

May 27, 1999|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Phil Ward knows that the Lo Fidelity Allstars are not a band in the usual sense. "I mean, we're not a rock and roll band," he says. After all, the Allstars' lineup -- which includes Andy Dickinson on bass, Johnny Maschin on drums, Martin Whiteman on keyboards and Ward himself on turntables -- lacks what many would consider essential elements of rock: A singer and a guitarist.

But so what? "To us, rock and roll is all about an attitude," says Ward, over the phone from a tour stop in Tallahassee, Fla. "We like putting on a show. We like ending songs with a wall of noise, and having distortion, things like that.

"We do go quite mad onstage. That's what it's all about."

So far, audiences have been responding in kind. If anything, the Lo Fidelity Allstars have found that American listeners are even more energetic in their appreciation than crowds in their native Britain.

"We were in America for about a month a couple of months ago," says Ward. "It was real die-hard fans who turned up, and they went mad from the start. Whereas the English first tour, people stood there with their arms folded, didn't know what to make of it."

Since that first tour, the Allstars have found themselves on the verge of having an actual hit single, thanks to radio support for the song "Battle Flag." But even though the success of the single has brought the band a bigger audience, it has also left the Allstars facing fans who don't know quite what to make of the group's unorthodox instrumentation.

"Like, when we do 'Battle Flag' live, we haven't got the singer from that, Pigeonhead, singing with us," says Ward. "So we sample his voice, and put his voice through effects, anaving and have him singing through samples. Some people really find that hard to deal with.

"Some people are obviously thinking, 'What's going on now? Where's the electric guitar? And how come there's drum beats playing when the drummer's not hitting his drums?' And stuff like that.

"But some people in fact don't care," he says. "We're constantly shocked at how people start taking to it, because it's not a traditional band setup."

Ward adds that he and the other Allstars have been impressed at how American audiences have warmed to their stage show. "In England, it took ages to get the crowd going. Last night in Jacksonville, they went absolutely mental from the moment we stepped onstage. It's been a bit quicker for people to get into it over here."

Lo-Fidelity Allstars

When: Sunday, 9 p.m.

Where: Fletcher's, 701 S. Bond St.

Tickets: $12

Call: 410-48107328 for tickets, 410-880-8124 for information.

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