Sad About Girls – Wild Creatures

Sad About Girls sounds like a 100 million streams on Spotify band. That’s not the case, but the songs sound so familiar and the quality of what’s on offer so high that it seems only a matter of time before all Nick Lowe and Marshall Crenshaw fans put Wild Creatures, and all the other releases, on repeat endlessly.

Sad About Girls is a New Jersey based power pop band fronted by singer songwriter Tom Lucas.

And this is the story so far.

How did this record come together?

Like all of my music, I recorded everything in my basement studio in New Jersey. I recorded all the sounds and mixed everything by myself. I’ve been recording in the same space since I was a kid. I started to show an interest in music and recording in elementary school, and my parents were really supportive of my pursuing this passion. My dad was older–he was part of The Greatest Generation–but being a college professor kept him young. He loved The Beatles, Jeff Beck, The Pretenders, and other music that “us kids” were into. We used to listen to records together all the time. My parents eventually let me convert their basement into a home recording studio. It started out with wood paneling and shag carpet and gradually improved over the years with better equipment (and better decor)!.

Anyway, I’ve always been interested in the home recording setups of Pete Townshend, Emitt Rhodes, Paul McCartney, etc., and loved reading about them in music magazines like Mix. I would read about their approaches to recording and would do my best to emulate their setups on a budget. I always felt that recording at home gave me the time and space to really figure out how to get sounds, experiment, and work through parts while trying creative methods, without having to watch the clock or have the results lie in someone else’s hands.

Many years ago (back when I had an all-analog setup) I was working on a song, but something wasn’t quite right. I wanted to create an effect to give it a distinctive sound, so I started to improvise. I suppose that one of the benefits of living in your family house is the old relics that are just lying around. Sitting behind the basement steps was an antique toilet that had been disconnected years before we even moved in. So I mic’d it directly into the bowl and ended up getting an interesting, murky reverb that I was going for. I can’t think of too many studios that could give me that sort of time or freedom! I feel really lucky to have this recording space to call my own.

This record is a collection of songs I’ve completed that have been lying around for a long time. I sometimes find it hard to finalize a song and feel comfortable with it really being “done.” I have a way of recording some tracks, adding some more parts, mixing it, and then letting it sit for a while, only to come back and decide it needs a few bells, a woodblock, or a different vocal take. With each new listen, I might decide that the song needs to go in a different direction. But having gone through the isolation of COVID and losing some dear friends to it, I realized just how short life can be–so I needed to start putting my music out there. I had some musician friends come in and help me finish the recordings, which was a great experience and the push that I needed.

My biggest collaborator over the years has been my studio partner, Ed. We have known each other for over 25 years. He is an incredibly talented bassist who has worked with Blood Sweat & Tears, Steve Forbert, and a bunch of other people in the industry. His bass parts are always tasteful, played with finesse, and just what the song needs. Plus, he’s a true professional who never lets ego get in the way of the music. I’m honored to work with him as well as a bunch of other great musicians over the years.

I still have a backlog of music to finish, but with the help of several musicians, we put a nice dent in it.

What was the moment you knew you were on to something?

Oh, when I was 14 or 15 years old, I played in a band called The Defects. We played mostly new wave covers, Squeeze, Crowded House, The Police, and stuff like that, but we’d sneak in an original song or two. And I’ll never forget this, we were at a gig in Dover, New Jersey and we played a song I wrote called “Another Guy.” After the gig, some girl came up to me and asked “Is that song ‘Another Guy’ a new Squeeze song? How come I’ve never heard it before?” That’s when I thought, “Ok, maybe I can write some decent songs.”

Cassettes are back. Which 5 five songs would make your first mixtape?

That’s great news, because I still have a few old tapes knocking around in the closet. Ok, I’ll start with these:

Rock the Boat – Hues Corporation. This takes me back, I used to hear this while riding in the back seat of my parents’ car while visiting relatives in Chicago. It has such an optimistic and infectious groove. It also doesn’t hurt that James Jamerson is on bass guitar.

To Be Someone – The Jam. When I was a teenager, I wanted to be Paul Weller. I loved his sound and did my best to dress like him. I’m not sure if I pulled it off, but I tried! They were my Beatles.

There She Goes Again – Marshall Crenshaw. If there’s one artist that really influenced me, it’s Marshall. His songwriting, singing, and guitar playing were so catchy, melodic, and timeless. His music is what I measured myself against.

We Let the Stars Go – Prefab Sprout. This is such a beautiful song. The lyrics are amazing. Paddy McAloon’s smooth voice is the perfect complement to their pop arrangements. He really is the Cole Porter of Brit Pop.

Hero Takes a Fall – The Bangles.Their record “All Over the Place” is vastly underrated. Their approach to harmonies really was a big influence on me.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I’ve thought about this a lot. I read somewhere that around 20,000 songs are released every day on Spotify. If you think about it in those terms, it feels very daunting to believe your music will ever make an impact. But music for me has been a lifelong adventure. Making music has given me so much. I’ve made so many friends and have so many great memories to cherish because of my music. I’ve always wanted to leave pieces of myself behind, like stuffing little messages into bottles and throwing them out to sea, so to speak. So, success for me is having people outside my little circle discover my messages in bottles and connect with them. It has been great to hear from people–complete strangers from around the world–who reach out to say that they enjoy the music. It’s really wonderful. It’s like rocket fuel to the soul, and I’m very grateful for that.

Suppose you were to introduce your music to new listeners through three songs. Which songs would those be and why?

If you want to get a sense of what we’re about music-wise, you may try these 3 tunes:

  • In the Stars – this is a newer song, but it feels very nostalgic to me. The song feels like it could have been written today or 50 years ago. I played and sang everything except the drums and bass. I was going for a Wrecking Crew vibe. I think I play a glass wine bottle for percussion on one of the verses. I love the vocal interplay. It took me a long time to stack the backing vocals and make them work. It’s not straight harmonies; there’s some sophistication to it which I didn’t realize I had in me, haha.
  • Can’t Break a Heart – It’s kind of my homage to Marshall Crenshaw. I wrote it when I was living in Japan (my mom is Japanese, and stayed with family for several months after my dad died). I love the feel of this track and everyone brought their “A” game to the recording. I think all the best aspects of Sad About Girls are represented here–a catchy chorus, a nice groove, and fun vocals and harmonies. A kind of upbeat song with sad lyrics which is always an interesting contrast. People are bopping along and realizing “Wow these lyrics are kind of a downer, I’m happy and sad at the same time!”
  • 30 years – This is really a straight-up power pop song in the tradition of Big Star, the Smithereens, the dB’s, etc…It’s a fun song to play live. I dig the chimey guitars and how the bass line creates the chord progression. The vocals have a nice Hollies vibe. My friend Erica and I sang a lot of the harmonies on one microphone eye-to-eye. I had a fun time playing the electric piano riff through an old echo pedal I had lying around. It has this grainy lo-fi quality that is basically the hook for the song. Another happy/sad song, which makes sense because we are Sad About Girls.

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