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Hooked on a feeling 

Dave Mansfield builds on past successes with his new band, the L.A.M.F's

Having worked like a motherfucker up to this point, Dave Mansfield isn't planning to let band breakups, damaged vocal cords or other occupational hazards get in his way. So when his Mansfields bandmates went on indefinite hiatus last year in the wake of their most successful album and tour, the Colorado Springs musician felt anything but complacent.

"We'd been to Europe three times, we had a great agent there, a label, everything just finally snapped into place," says Mansfield, looking every bit the late '70s glam punk in his ABBA T-shirt, black eyeliner and Johnny Thunders haircut. "The plan was to start working on another record right away. But Doug [Mansfield's brother and bandmate] was kind of like, 'I don't really want to play shows.'"

As weeks turned into months, it became apparent that the Mansfields weren't stepping back into the fray anytime soon. "I think he was just burnt out on doing this for so many years without a break," says Dave, referencing the band's decade-plus run. "But I didn't want a break."

Career breaks, on the other hand, had been coming fast and furious. After releasing three albums on their own, the Mansfields signed to Gearhead Records, the West Coast home to such garage-rock luminaries as the Hives and the Lords of Altamont. Cramp Your Style came out in 2008 and found its way onto Little Steven's Underground Garage and L.A.'s Rodney on the ROQ playlists.

So rather than put lifelong ambitions on hold, he opted to form a new group called Dave Mansfield and the L.A.M.F's. Named after a 1977 album by Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, the new band — which features Dave on vocals and synth, Olieshox on bass, C Von Los on guitar, and Sean-a-matronic on drums — is just releasing its own Gearhead debut single, "I Wanna Be on Sire," with "Joan Your Jett" as the B-side.

"I worked pretty hard to get what we had as the Mansfields, the connections and all that kind of stuff," says Dave. "So I thought about it, and I remembered the Rolling Stones got their name from a Muddy Waters song. And I thought, well, if they can do it, then we can be the Like a Mother Fuckers."

To Sire, with love

Clocking in around a minute and a half each, the two new offerings are short, sharp and street-smart. "Joan Your Jett" conveys the post-punk power of early Buzzcocks, while "I Wanna Be on Sire" represents more of a musical departure for Mansfield.

"When I recorded that song, it was with guitars and everything, and it felt like a garage song," says the musician of his ode to the label that ushered in early '80s New Wave. "I mixed it and mixed it, and it just didn't feel the way I wanted it to feel. So I dumped the guitars, hooked up an old synthesizer and, in two or three minutes, just threw something in there, added a little fuzz bass, and that was it. And I thought, 'Perfect, that's as far as I wanna go with it.'"

The resulting ode to Sire founder Seymour Stein lurches along like the mutant offspring of Joey Ramone's sardonic deadpan and the stripped-down electro-clash stylings of vintage Suicide. And unlike, say, Belle & Sebastian's weepy ballad, "Seymour Stein," Mansfield's New Wave homage is unironically apropos to its subject matter, especially when it comes to the sniffing-glue part.

"I just kept imagining Dee Dee Ramone's voice saying, 'Seymour, Seymour, I've been sniffing glue.' 'Cos it just seems like something Dee Dee Ramone would say to Seymour Stein somehow. He would never actually do that, but I can picture him doing it, you know?"

Of course that doesn't explain why both songs contain references to sniffing glue, a coincidence Mansfield says wasn't premeditated. "It kinda dawned on me after, when I was listening to them back-to-back, it's like, 'Holy crap, people are gonna think I'm obsessed with glue-sniffing or something.'"

Happily, that's not the case. "I have sniffed glue, but not as a drug or anything. It's pretty good-smelling stuff."

We want the airwaves

Mansfield first experienced his drug of choice at the age of 5, when he started getting immersed in his parents' collection of Johnny Cash, Elvis, Beatles and Stones albums.

"I listened to 'Satisfaction' probably like a hundred times in a row, just being infatuated with the sound of that guitar," recalls Mansfield, who's begun writing his own rock memoir. "At that age, I didn't even know it was a guitar, but it's just that sound and that feeling. I've always wanted to do this. Always, as far back as I can remember."

As Dave and his brother got older, they added more bands to their musical pantheon, including the Cramps, New York Dolls, Dead Boys, Stray Cats, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Runaways and pretty much anyone else championed by KROQ-FM's Rodney Bingenheimer, the L.A. tastemaker whose weekly Rodney on the ROQ show has broken countless punk, pop and New Wave acts.

So when Cramp Your Style came out, Mansfield sent a copy off to the late-night DJ, tuned in the following week, and was amazed to hear Bingenheimer talking about the band and playing three tracks ("Lipstick Killer," "NYC Rock-N-Roll" and "Who Wants to be a Zombie, Anyways?").

"After that, he consistently played at least two cuts from that record," says Mansfield. "I was just like, wow, that means a lot to me. But you know, I tell people here about it and they're like, "Who is that?"

Bingenheimer will also be playing the new L.A.M.F's tracks in order to help promote the band's upcoming gig at L.A.'s famed Whiskey-A-Go-Go. "So I'll be staying up until 4 in the morning again," says Mansfield, "listening to Rodney."

Coolest record in the world

A few months after KROQ began championing the Mansfields, they got a boost from Bruce Springsteen guitarist Little Steven, who played the band's "Frankenstein Twist" as the week's "Coolest Record in the World" on his syndicated Underground Garage show.

With the ongoing radio exposure, the Mansfields finally began getting decent royalty checks. Still, the musician has little expectation that his NYC-centric approach will win over mainstream radio, or even punk's less open-minded factions.

"A lot of people, they don't look at me — or even at Johnny Thunders or the Dead Boys' Stiv Bators — as being punk rock at all. They think of that typical Sid Vicious thing, and it's like: 'What are you doing? Your hair's too long, or you're wearing makeup,' or whatever it is."

A more serious concern arose when Mansfield's doctor diagnosed him with vocal cord nodules last month. That meant calling off his 10th annual Joey Ramone birthday celebration, which he's hoping to reschedule for fall. "Since it's the 10th year and there's three dead Ramones anyway, I figure I can just do an overall Ramones thing."

Now that his vocal cords have had a chance to rest, the musician is looking forward to playing his new material, as well as some Mansfields favorites and selected covers, for hometown fans.

"I've always kind of thought this was a great place to live," says Mansfield. "I mean, I wouldn't recommend anybody coming here for the nightlife. But I think for a band, it's an amazing place to get your shit together. And because it's hard to impress people here, you just work harder and harder and harder. After it finally started happening, we were playing so hard and so intense that people in Europe were just like, 'What did they do to you there? What happened to you?'

"Because, you know, there's some pretty tough critics here in this town."

bill@csindy.com

  • Dave Mansfield builds on past successes with his new band, the L.A.M.F's

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