The members of Locksley have gotten used to answering cheesy questions about their Wisconsin roots. In a recent interview with the New York-based music website earfarm.com they were asked: Do you remember the first time you went to a dairy farm on a field trip? How about the first time you shoveled so much snow you thought you would die?
There's a reason Jesse and Jordan Laz, Kai Kennedy and Sam Bair patiently endure these questions. They know their milk-fed Wisconsin image largely defines Locksley's boy-next-door brand.
Since its members graduated from West High in 2001 (the newest and youngest, Jordan Laz, is an '08 alum), Locksley has sold 50,000 albums and appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien. Their single, "Don't Make Me Wait," was used by Starz network to support its on-demand movie service. This fall they're the headline act for MTV's Choose or Lose Tour.
Hicks? Not exactly. Kennedy, after all, is the stepson of former UW-Madison chancellor John Wiley. Frontman Jesse Laz attended New York University.
"Our Madison band was called the Philosopher Kings," Kennedy told me in a recent phone interview. "We played at West. We played at places like the Electric Earth and the Loft." Kennedy's stepdad comes to see Locksley play whenever the band is in town.
The kind of music Locksley makes is reminiscent of the Beatles. It's '60s pop laced with garage rock influences, and it's as straight-ahead and clean-cut as the band itself.
Locksley rereleased their 2007 debut album to wider distribution last month. They've already begun work recording a second album.
"With our first record, our sound has been compared a lot to the Beatles," said Kennedy. "But there's a punk side that comes out more in the new songs. We still love the Beatles and '60s music, but you'll hear some new sides to us next year."
The Choose or Lose Tour promotes voter registration and issue awareness. This time out, the tour will be highlighting issues faced by young American veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's definitely a great opportunity for us, and we feel privileged to be supporting the cause," says Kennedy.
And that goes to show Wisconsin is more than beer and brats and orange hunting vests. There's a streak of activism in our blood, too.
Welcome home, gentlemen.