Louie & The Flashbombs – Shiny New Skin

‘In order to start talking about ‘Shiny New Skin,’ I have to go back almost three years.’, says Louie Lucchesi.

In the fall of 2020 (during the COVID lockdown), I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Renal Cell Carcinoma, cancer of the kidney. I started treatment, but by the end of the year, it was starting to get dire. I had lost a lot of weight and was struggling to even get out of bed. In January of ’21, my oncologist changed my treatment, and I began to respond, starting a very slow, very long recovery. And I started to write.

My good friend Mike Benign had been stopping by to see how I was doing and was also bringing me books to read. Deborah Harry’s ‘Face it’ and Chris Franz’s “Remain in Love” among others. One day he asked me if I had been writing, and I told him that I had just started. So we decided to collaborate. I warned him that this was some heavy stuff, and that the first song was called ‘I’m so glad (I didn’t go away).’ I was hedging my bets. And it was a rocker. We now close every show with it.

Our goal was to write enough songs for a record. By July, we had written 15 songs, and I was jokingly referring to it as my ‘Covid, cancer, mortality, and regrets’ record. The problem was that I still couldn’t sing. Apparently, because of my substantial weight loss, my vocal cords had atrophied. I started seeing a voice therapist, and with the help of a phone app, I began doing vocal exercises twice a day. Slowly, I found my voice again. By the fall of ’21, the clubs were starting to open up, and we were asked to do an acoustic set opening for Marshall Crenshaw at Shank Hall. In the middle of the set, the show was stopped, and I was given a proclamation from the mayor’s office, making it Louie Lucchesi Day in Milwaukee. A good omen.

The Flashbombs (myself, Mike Benign, Bo Conlon, Paul Pieman, Matt Meixner, and Al Hildenbrant) started playing live in May of ’22, and after only two shows, we were asked to perform at the legendary Milwaukee music festival Summerfest as a support act for The Cult and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Walking on stage that day was a moment I will never forget. Not because I got to play Summerfest (I’ve played it many times before), but because of how far I had come. I had accomplished something that I didn’t think would ever happen. I was back on stage. By now, we had over 25 songs, and it was time to start planning a record.

We had just written a group of new songs. Among them were “Hard Luck Story,” “Ruling The World” (about Putin), “Celebrity Cred,” and a rocker named “Shiny New Skin.” I decided that these were the songs I wanted to record, and that we would do an EP. I called Jeff Hamilton (Violent Femmes, Beatallica…) who had produced my remake of David Bowie’s ‘This is Not America,’ and he was in. The single, “Hard Luck Story,” was released in January of ’23, with the five-song “Shiny New Skin” EP following this May. We’ve also been nominated for Best New Artist and Artist of the Year for the 2023 Wisconsin Area Music Industry awards (WAMI). The Flashbombs will be performing at the awards show on May 21st at Turner Hall, and we return to Summerfest on July 6th.

Four days after Summerfest (and only six weeks after the release of “Shiny New Skin”), we begin work on our first full-length record. Half of the songs will be from the original group of songs, and the other half will be new. As far as the future goes, who knows? None of this was supposed to happen, and with a new record on the horizon, it’s all good. We now have over 50 songs and counting. Nothing will surprise me.

On many levels, the band has already achieved success. Just writing, playing, and recording is a significant achievement. Of course, a festival tour of Europe would be very welcome.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was that I was told that I sounded like a cross between Lou Reed and Tony Bennett.

When people ask me what kind of music we play, I tell them ‘gray pop.’ What is gray pop? Music by mature artists for a multigenerational audience. That would make me ‘the king of gray pop.’

This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing music. Whether in the studio or live, it doesn’t matter. Even rehearsals are fun. I’ve never worked with a band where all of the members had a common vision. The support I receive from The Flashbombs, both artistically and personally, is very humbling.

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