Before “Summer Girls” was playing every hour on the hour on your radio, we were lucky enough to sit down with these guys. They are certainly not what their boy band image would have you believe.
We caught up with them in a small bar in Erie, Pennsylvania, playing a local radio show. We met at their hotel and followed them over to the venue. The show started at midnight and it was only 8 p.m.; they had sound check before they sat down with us. LFO, at this time they were still going by Lyte Funkie Ones, began to warm up, but the equipment was struggling. While the sound guy checked the equipment, Brad and Rich played a bit with their mics and used them as mock lightsabers in their imaginary battle for the empire. Sam and I joked around with them at Erie’s expense and waited for what seemed like forever for the sound guy to fix the mic problems. They performed a few tracks that you may not have heard: “If I Can’t Have You”, “Popular”, and “The Way You Like It”.
After all the mic checks were through, we sat down at a table, began the recorder, and this is what transpired.
I was listening to the radio at like two in the morning and I heard this track on the radio
Rich: “If I Can’t Have You”?
Yeah. I actually thought it was a new album from the New Kids, especially when I heard the rap come in and the stuff about Boston. Were they one of your influences?
Rich: I knew those guys pretty good, especially being from Boston, and I think a lot of them because they were so successful. I don’t think anything negative about them, and they are good guys and they made a lot of strides in music, but they didn’t influence me musically, but as being good guys.
Brad: They were probably one of the best performers ever. They sold millions and millions of records. They sold out Dodgers stadium like eight nights in a row. Nobody can do that.
Rich: One year, they sold a billion dollars in merchandise. A billion! They are differently an influence because that’s a place I’d like to be. Or even in that ballpark.
Brad: I can’t really say they influenced our music so much, but we are good friends with Danny Wood and he taught us a lot about what to look out for on the business side of music.
Did you guys come up with the nickname “The Bad Boys of Pop” or did the press come up with that?
Rich: No, someone said that once.
Brad: Someone labeled us as that but I don’t know who it was, and it just stuck.
Rich: I guess we are pop, and when it comes bands like NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys we are edgier, so someone just said we are “The Bad Boys of Pop”.
Brad: We’re not breaking up hotels or anything. At least not in America. (laughs)
Rich: A lot of people pass us off as another Backstreet Boys, but we are nothing like that.
What do you guys listen to when you are just chilling?
Brad: Everything. R&B and rap. I like rock, too. I’m big on everything.
Were you guys established as artists before LFO?
Brad: I was in a group and Rich was doing like amateur stuff. I was doing local stuff at clubs, nothing really big.
How did you guys get together?
Rich: I hooked up with Brizz, who was originally in LFO, through a producer. We had the same musical influences and listened to the same things and we just got together. Then we met Brad. We all just clicked. We all wanted to do the same thing with our music and we got together. And when I was rapping, everyone used to call me the ‘Light Funky One’
Brad: So we just pluralized it.
Rich: Yeah, and when we got together we couldn’t think of a name so it was like, ‘Let’s just call ourselves the Lyte Funkie Ones or LFO.’ It stuck.
What do you think makes you guys unique?
Rich: People are always like ‘What are you guys like?’ And we’re not like anyone. We’re LFO. We’ve been around the world and never found a group like us. The closest thing to us was Bell Biv Devoe. We are trying to make our own waves. Plus, we are really based in hip-hop. That is what we grew up on. I’ve been into rap since UTFO and Houdini, and I’ve been rapping since then. I hate when people ask, ‘Why are you trying to do black music?’ and it’s like, ‘That’s our music too.’
We paused as one of the guys from the local radio station that was sponsoring the show apologized for the shitty equipment. As the guy leaves after apologizing up and down Brad says jokingly, “Next question.” Everyone laughed as we got back to the interview.
Are you guys bringing back the beat boxing?
Rich: Sure we are. (laughs) We got that going on too.
The guy from the radio station comes back once again to apologize and Brad keeps going with the interview.
Rich: Like I said, we’ve been doing this forever, beat boxin’ and freestyling. It is something that we love. We do run into a lot of that crap. Like when we performed at Pleasure Island (Orlando, Florida – USA), we blew up the stage in front of a white crowd. Then we performed at BET soundstage and we ripped it. I know we ripped it, but they didn’t want to give us props.
How was touring Europe?
Rich: It was interesting. The crowds were huge.
Brad: Yeah. Even if they couldn’t understand us, they still were groovin’. And there’d be like one hundred thousand people in the audience and not one fight.
Do you think that people overseas generally support pop music more than America?
Brad: Way more.
Rich: Almost too much. The music is really wack at times.
Brad: You get too much of the same thing.
A lot of groups like Backstreet and NSYNC?
Brad: There are probably more than thirty groups like that.
Rich: Like Backstreet and NSYNC, there ain’t nothing like them in the world, but over there they just take five guys off the street and put them together and they get gold records.
Brad: Overseas, they also know your face before they know your music.
Rich: Yeah. It’s easier to get played on MTV than to get played on the radio.
Brad: Over there, a group is more about a personality than it is about music. Radio is secondary. TV is first.
Rich: The girls are nuts over there too.
Brad: You’ll go back to your hotel and there will be a hundred girls waiting for you at your hotel.
Rich: Like with the Backstreet Boys, they need barricades and military troops to keep the fans away.
Brad: We went on tour with them three times and it was crazy.
Rich: They had police escorts to the shows.
Brad: We know those guys really good, and when we were over there we realized how much more they support music. They support it. They live it.
Rich: They don’t have malls and stuff so there is nothing really for them to do. So they watch TV and go to shows. There are a lot of bands over there that would never blow up over here. There is this group called The Kelly Family over there, I don’t know if you heard of them, but they are huge. There are like seventeen of them.
Brad: They sell out stadiums.
Rich: Hundreds of thousands go to a show. And girls go crazy like they are the Beatles, and they are as ugly as sin. It’s like The Partridge Family, but worse. They live on a boat. And they just pull up anchor and go place to place.
What is it like going from what you were doing before, like amateur stuff, to going overseas and playing to one hundred thousand people?
Rich: From pumping gas to that was pretty good. I mean, being in magazines and on tv, it was pretty great.
How did you stay grounded?
Rich: Didn’t. (Everyone laughs) I lost it for a little while over there.
Brad: I like it a lot over there.
Rich: Me too.
You can drink at a younger age and some countries they have full nudity on regular tv, right?
Rich: Yeah, like sick pornos. One minute, it’s like Mr. Belvedere, and then you are like, ‘Wow, what is that?’ And their magazines are totally different. Like they’ll have fourteen or fifteen year old girls naked in them, teaching ’em how to have sex.
What were you guys like when you saw that?
Rich: We were freaked out.
Brad: Europe is more open.
So you were enjoying the benefits of being celebrities?
Rich: Yeah. When we were over there, we went a little nuts but we’ve calmed down a lot now, and started to focus on the music more.
It seems that your label is going to market you guys with all the sex appeal to the younger girls rather than push musical substance. Does that bother you?
Rich: I know that we are going to have that because that is what we are based in. If they think they can market us because of our looks then we aren’t about that.
Brad: It’s an incredible album and every song is good. We’re not trying to preach and it’s really just good time music. I mean, every group has an image, but we’re more than that.
Rich: If the music is tight then it’s tight.
Brad: We’re not acting. I mean, the way we dress is the way we dress. No one came to us and said, ‘Brad, you’ve got to wear thirty six rings.’
Rich: That is the way he was when I met him. It wasn’t like, ‘I’m gonna be the guy who wears the sweater and you are going to be the leather dude (pointing at Brad).’ It all comes back to the music. If it’s good, then who cares? I won’t say much though, because in Europe we got sucked into taking some pretty weird looking pictures. But then we looked at them and saw that they were ridiculous and tore them up. I remember being on tour with NSYNC and they were in this room getting pictures taken for a magazine, wearing animal outfits, like a kangaroo and Winnie the Pooh with their faces sticking out of them. And we were like, ‘Why are you guys doing this?’ and they were like, ‘They’re making us do it.’ Then they painted themselves gold. And another picture where they were all sitting on this bed with all this satin and just little pillows covering up their privates.
Brad: They were all lying in one bed naked.
Rich: They would never do that over here and they learned something over there. They are really talented guys and deserve to be as huge as they are, but we are different from them. Like people will go, ‘What are you, the Backstreet Boys gone bad?’
Does it bother you that only girls seem to be the ones who really support your music?
Rich: Well, like today, I was in the record store and all of the sudden I heard this guy talking to the guy behind the counter, ‘What are you doing tonight?’ And the other guy was like, ‘Oh yeah? Who’s playing?’ ‘LFO.’ And he started singing the song, and I was standing there and I was like, ‘Yeah. This guy is talking about my group.’ And the guy asked if he was going to go and the guy was like ‘Nah. I’m not gonna go.’ He asked him, ‘Why not?’ And the guy goes, ‘First of all, they suck. Second of all, they’re a bunch of queers.’ I was like, ‘Wait. You just named two of my songs and my group.’ I mean, he didn’t know I was there, but that is how people are.
+ charlie craine and sam conjerti