Labor Party is a trio of veteran hard rock n’ rollers influenced by bands like The Stooges, MC5 and the Dead Boys that reside in the Phoenix metro area. Their music is fast, loud, guitar fueled rock n’ roll with enough power in the backbeat to run the city they’re playing that night. Their experience really comes into play when you see this band live. They seem very much at ease on stage allowing them to put on a highly energized, highly entertaining show as they hurl their music at their audience like boulders on catapults. They have a look in their eyes like all they do is start the engine and where the music is going to take them is anybody’s guess. And that’s what makes Labor Party so undeniably great at what they do.
Interview by J Castro
Who’s all in the band and what do they do to keep the Labor Party rolling?
Buck Ellis - Drums, backing vocals.
Sharon Labor – Bass guitar, backing vocals, poetry.
Frank Labor – Guitar, vocals.
Tell me a bit about your musical careers and how you ended up here in Phoenix, AZ. I know you guys have some other musical projects going on now too.
FRANK: Buck is a Phoenix native believe it or not. He’s got a long history in the phoenix punk scene going back to the early ‘90’s. He has been in bands like: Hunky Dory, Sam the Butcher, Punk Rock Karaoke, The Shifters, and Balls. I started playing in bands back in Pennsylvania in the late ‘70’s. After playing in a few cover bands, I was in a punk band called The Speds. I think every show we did we played to people who were seeing punk for the first time. In the early ‘80’s I was in a Mod band called The Tickets. I met Sharon at that time. She had a band with her cousin Karen Lynn and the late great Lisa Wack, playing some ‘60’s inspired rock n’ roll. By the mid ‘80’s we were working together in a neo-psychedelic band we called 8Five Kalidocolor. We got an offer to go to San Francisco so we left PA and headed west. We stopped in Phoenix to visit my family who had moved out some years before. We noticed there was a really good scene here for original bands so when things fell apart with our San Francisco people we decided to try it here. Our first band here was The Now. I think we stared that around ‘92. Sharon played keys, we had a good friend of mine who was in The Tickets and 8Five Kalidocolor to play bass and my brother played 2nd guitar. After that we formed Hubcap, in the mid 90’s, and once that ran its course we started Labor Party in 2001. We picked up Buck in 2005 and he’s been there ever since. I played lead guitar for Jeff Dahl for a few years from 2005 – 2008. Last year Sharon started a band called Battered Suitcases and we are both in that now.
Frank and Sharon; with all the tragic stuff that happens to couples that are in a band together, how have you two managed to keep it going for so long? Any secrets/strategies you wish to share?
FRANK: We’ve been doing this since we were in our early 20’s so it’s hard to imagine it any other way but it seems to me that it’s better for a couple to go out every weekend together rather than one going to play a show while the other is stuck at home or going somewhere else. You can’t really be mad at your spouse for spending so much time working on a band if you’re in it to. Ha-ha.
SHARON: I think it’s because we truly support one another and appreciate that we share the same interests and dreams, that’s priceless. I always thought it’d be tougher to be with someone who isn’t a musician, we’re a strange breed! Aside from all the romance it helps a lot too that we’re best friends!
Tell me who you consider to be the biggest influence on your music and tell me about the first time you heard this individual’s music and how it changed your life?
FRANK: I have so many big influences each one as important as the other. Far too many to cover here so I’ll just mention one that just popped into my head: Robert Quine.
I think I was around 17 or 18. A radio DJ who was a fan of The Speds took us to his place in a shitty ass neighborhood in the north end. Everything was dark around there. Not just the streets but even inside there were just a few little lights, some of them covered with cloth to purposely keep them from being too bright. It was a strange place with a bunch of people living there, most of them DJ’s or musicians or both. We were all drinking and high which may have played a role in the experience. We all jammed into a tiny bedroom with a high quality, really loud stereo. He played us a bunch of records most of which we were all familiar with but then he put on Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation. The whole song is great but when that Robert Quine guitar solo hit… HOLY FUCK! That shit just blew me away, so fucking nasty and harsh. Absolutely gut wrenching. It sounded like the amp was inside one of those metal trashcans in the alley. I thought this is it! This is what lead guitar is supposed to sound like! I never thought of guitar solos the same after that.
You guys have been in bands and playing music for a while now. What do you think of promoting music through social media? Is it a better, more efficient way to get the word out or just a huge pain in the ass?
FRANK: Well it is a pain in the ass but it so much better than the old days of handing out flyers and going on a long flyer hanging trip. The only flyers I do now are just for the bar where the show will be and sometimes for the area just around the bar, if the neighborhood is right for that. I do look forward to the death of Facebook and I hope that whatever takes its place will be more band friendly. I know there are some better sites for bands out there the only problem is only bands are on them.
I feel that the trick to releasing a live recording is to try and capture a quality recording that still accurately portrays the unique energy signature of a band’s live show. I feel that the Live 6 EP Labor Party put out a few years ago does just that. Can you tell me a bit about that record (where it was recorded etc.)?
FRANK: Thank you! That’s exactly what we were going for. We even left in a few flubs here or there. There’s one song where my mic was knocked over by some guys acting up in the front. The vocal drops out for a couple seconds but we thought it added to the feel so we left it in. There’s a spot where you can hear someone busting on Buck for wearing an American flag shirt. There was no way that wasn’t going on the final cut. We recorded 2 shows for that. One was at Jugheads and the other was about a week or 2 later on the 4th of July at the Chop and Wok. We set up a bunch of mics on the front of the stage facing the audience and one above the crowd about half way back. We were just as concerned about capturing them as we were about us. Andrew Roesch produced it for us and did a great job. Him and our road manager at the time Kody Thames did all the engineering and set up. They did all the hard work we just had fun. It was set to be released as a 10 inch vinyl record. Our record label fucked us over and dropped us right before it was going into production. We had a show in Baltimore with our former label mates The Jukebox Zeros from Philadelphia. They had just left the label because of discrepancies over digital sales. We were on an east coast tour and the label told us we were not allowed to play with them. Of course we did the show. And that was the end of that.
We liked it so much we put it out ourselves. We couldn’t afford to do vinyl so we just did it as a CD.
Tell me about a record that you own and enjoy that you feel Labor Party fans may be surprised you are in possession of?
FRANK: I got a lot of ‘em but the one that seem to surprise people the most is The Allman Brothers – Live at the Fillmore East. They started a genre of music that I am not a fan of but I love Duane Allman.
SHARON: Madeleine Peyroux – Careless Love.
Describe the music scene here in the metro Phoenix/Tempe area now as compared to when you guys first got here?
FRANK: The scene here always flows in waves. It’s up then it’s down. We’ve been lucky enough to ride a couple of those up waves. Things have been slow for the last couple of years but I do think they are picking up.
What types of things usually inspire Labor Party song lyrics? Are there any subjects you guys purposefully avoid and have you ever written a song that in hindsight you regret writing?
FRANK: I write a shit load of songs I regret. The good thing is they don’t make it on to any CD’s. If they never got recorded they never happened. I never know what’s going to inspire me but it seems a good portion of my writing comes from working class struggles. Right now, we’re working on some song inspired by things like street art, the under belly of society, mental break downs and age. The only subject we avoid is politics. Not everyone in the band has the same opinions so it best to just lay off that subject.
What’s coming up in the near future for Labor Party? It’s been a while since the last LP, any new recordings coming out soon?
FRANK: We are pretty close to finishing a new album. Hopefully we will find a label interested and get it released soon. If not we’ll just release it ourselves. We’re hoping to get back on the road in 2015. It’s been a while since we toured and we really miss it.