"The last time we were out on tour was two or three years ago. We've actually just been recording this album, and watching the children. Always watching the children."
So says Kurt Heasley, point man of Lilys, who took time out of making his kids dinner to sit down with Street and give the straight story on his band's newest album, troubles with the record label, Manifesto Records, and the upcoming show with Of Montreal at the Starlight Ballroom.
In many ways, it is remarkable that Lilys are still making music more than a decade after it originally formed, despite lacking the seminal tour or release for which such bands on the brink often pine. After all, Heasley easily recalls Philadelphia's early '90s music scene, when "G-Love and Special Sauce was one of the big things." The band's revolving door of musicians and lack of presence on the Internet haven't helped matters, and then there are Heasley's children who, although he says are neither a distraction nor a discouragement to touring, nonetheless occupy a significant amount of his time and energy.
But Lilys has faced greater challenges from the outside than on the home front. Despite hovering on the cusp of stardom, or perhaps at least name recognition, following the release of their critically acclaimed 1999 album, Zero Population Growth, Lilys has failed to take off in any prominent direction or circuit. It's a failure that Heasley ties to difficulties with Manifesto Records.
"We had to stop and start the first album four times between 2000 and 2003. And then we went and we toured for it and we toured for it and we toured for it, and the label is taking a wait-and-see attitude, which means no new video, no new single, no nothing," Heasley says, taking a breath before continuing.
"A name-calling match in the fall of 2003 resulted in all sorts of letters and seasoned assistance and all this ... you couldn't imagine more of an indie contract, wall of lawyers, hopeless situation.
"I think we've had about a hundredth of the visibility that was possible after 1999, 1998, around that era. It was a series of events that were, as my father would say, 'snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.'"
Even Lilys' new, optimistically titled album, Everything Wrong is Imaginary, has a bittersweet background: to finance the project, Heasley was forced to sell the compositions of the songs he was recording. Still, Heasley remains optimistic about the album's prospects as well as the future's. Noting that he's not averse to taking his kids on the road, Heasley says, "I think the kids are smart enough to enjoy supporting, not this record, but one in the future."
In the immediate sense, that future is March 2 at the Starlight Ballroom with Of Montreal, a band he has known for seven years. "We met in Harrisburg, Virginia. At Mid-Atlantic Music, which is part of James Madison University. Doddy, Derick, Jamie and I all met then, then about three months later we played together and were pretty much hanging out of their van vomiting by the end of the night."
Maybe he'll keep that one from the kids.
Lilys will play at the Starlight Ballroom on March 2 at 8 p.m.