It's a long way from the darkened foyer of a Glasgow youth hostel. That's where Luke Hanigan, singer/guitarist for Sydney alt-rock trio Lo-Tel, made the decision way back in 1995 to follow his rock & roll dream. On the eve of the American release of Lo-Tel's debut album Planet of the Stereos, Hanigan looks back on that one specific moment as the start of Lo-Tel.
"That's when I said - this is what I want to do with my life, and dammit, I'm gonna do it," Hanigan grins. "Maybe foolishly, not knowing whether or not I'm any good. But luckily I've come this far, so..."
"This far," is a considerable distance. With a little good fortune, lots of talent and some damn catchy songs, Lo-Tel have gone from a passionate dream in the mind of a backpacker to one of the most promising realities of Australian music.
Consisting of Hanigan, Dave Lumsdaine (bass) and Darren Brollo (drums), Lo-Tel currently reside in the fabled Olympic city, Sydney. Having already amassed a cult following in Australia thanks to their smooth pop gem, "Teenager of the Year," Lo-Tel are riding the waves of success - and it's only getting bigger. Both radio and video networks flogged "Teenager" on the air, and Lo-Tel was suddenly the name on everyone's lips.
Supported by renewed interest in an earlier radio track, "Genre Casting," "Teenager of the Year," climbed the national single charts, winning the group loads of coverage on TV, in the national street press, and an ARIA nomination for "Best New Artist - Single." Now, Lo-Tel are ready to take the real test: follow up the promise of these earlier tunes with their first full-length album.
"It's a bit of a mixed bag," says Hanigan, who wrote most of the tracks in the band's early days. I think that it's covering everything from some of the more extreme arrangements in a song like "Disconnected" to a couple of songs which are more in keeping with 'Teenager," he says. "A lot of it really was re-recording bigger-budget versions of demos we made ages ago, not a lot of the actual songs have changed, except some arrangements."
Production on the album was done by Jack Joseph Puig (No Doubt, Rolling Stones) and Keith Cleversley (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips).
Hanigan met Lumsdaine through a mutual friend, the pair work-shopping and recording rough demos of Hanigan originals. "I write, then co-produce with Dave," explains Hanigan.
With Darren on drums, the as-yet-untitled trio remained largely (home) studio-based, until a series of coincidences made it crucial for the guys to take their well-honed material to a live audience.
Signing to SONY shortly after, the group hankered down to writing new material and getting their current songs just right. Soon the band found themselves heading to Chicago, a debut album in the works. Back home "Genre Casting" started hitting the Triple J airwaves, and then, thanks to..."Alibrandi", "Teenager of the Year" started climbing the charts.
"The people at Sony and our publishing company were compiling the soundtrack for the film, and originally had another song in a particular scene and for whatever reason it wasn't quite working so they then took our track to the producer, who had a listen and loved it."
And, now there's PLANET OF THE STEREOS. From the blistering pop opener of Aussie hit, "A Pop Song Saved My Life" to the bittersweet strains of "Sweet Janelle," Planet of the Stereos marks the arrival of a band that deserves to take center stage. It's pop, it's rock, and most of all, it's damn good.