Few bands with razor-sharp lyrics and effervescent pop melodies would willingly dub themselves the Lisps, but that's just how this quirky quartet from Brooklyn, N.Y., rolls. After cutting their debut, Country Doctor Museum, in 2008, they created Futurity, a vaudeville-inspired musical about a science-fiction-obsessed Civil War soldier. They'll perform bits of this opus, plus material from their forthcoming album, Are We at the Movies?, Jan. 12 at the High Noon Saloon.
I recently spoke with melodica-wielding singer Sammy Tunis about their name, country radio and their upcoming residency at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center.
Why are you called the Lisps?
Long before we were a band, [singer and guitarist] César [Alvarez] and I were just a couple who sometimes sang songs together. We were having a conversation about how he had had a lisp as a kid, and he was like, "You have a lisp," which I do not. I said, "If we ever start a band, we should be called the Lisps." César claims he said that, but he is mistaken. Anyway, not long after, we did start a band, and that was that.
There's some old-fashioned country in your sound. Did you grow up listening to this genre?
César listened to nothing but jazz growing up, and in my house there was lots of Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Motown. I'm a huge Dolly Parton fan, and we both love Johnny Cash, but we don't listen to much contemporary country unless it's the only radio station we can get on tour. [Once] we kept hearing this amazing song that was like, "My daddy's daddy's daddy's daddy...." And prior to Futurity, we were listening to The Anthology of American Folk Music, which I think influenced the music in a huge way.
What else would you like to tell your Madison fans?
We've never been to Madison as a band, and [in 2011] we're doing a developmental residency at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, so we're just thrilled to get to know people in the near vicinity. Come to the show. Hug us. Don't be shy!