Rocker Brian Lisik Talks Hotsy Totsy!, Songwriting, Touring, and More

All images courtesy of Michael J. Farley Media Group

With a blustering live album in the can, the erstwhile rocker is prepping for a big year of touring and new music in 2023.


By Andrew Daly
andrew@vinylwriter.com

A rare combination of voracious energy meets reverence for past heroes; if one thing is certain, Brian Lisik and company are worth the price of admission.

And that’s never been more apparent than on Lisik’s latest album – a live effort – Hotsy Totsy! If you’re predisposed to loving garage rock antics set to indie rock progressions, Brian Lisik is for you. If you’re the sort that digests plaintive lyrics and raucous live performances, Lisik is for you.

After a long pause due to COVID, it seems that now more than ever, Lisik is prepared to barnstorm stages across the country, reminding audiences of what they’ve been missing. In the meantime, be sure to pick up Hotsy Totsy! to catch the vibe; that way, when Lisik rolls into your city, you’ll be primed for the storm of indie rock goodness enveloping your senses.

During a rare break in the action, Brian Lisik checked in with VWMusic to run through his trajectory as an artist, the release of Hotsy Totsy!, and what’s next for him in 2023 and beyond.

What was the moment which first sparked your interest in music?

Going way back, it was probably my parents’ record collections. Stuff like ’60s surf music and Chuck Berry – I remember my dad had this TV-mail-order Greatest Hits collection from Chuck Berry, and the lyrical imagery mixed with the drive of the music in stuff like “Maybelline” just resonated more with me beyond “That is a catchy song.” It’s like Pete Townsend once said, “It wasn’t just music; it was survival.”

Who were some of your earliest influences that first shaped your style?

Well, the above-mentioned stuff. Then I got into all things Waylon Jennings – even before The Dukes of Hazzard. Eventually, a lot of power-pop and punk stuff – the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Paranoid Lovesick – probably because it reminded me a lot of Chuck Berry, but also because it seemed like the only honest music out at the time.

How would you say that style has evolved as you’ve moved through your career?

At one time or another, I’ve immersed myself in everything imaginable. I’m kind of obsessive with my musical tastes. But once I started playing in bands – at about 15 or 16 – any ‘evolution’ came from what songs or type of music the band was playing. It became more practical, I suppose. Most recently, I’ve been watching a lot of gear demos on YouTube, and I am really into a German jazz guitar player named Tobias Hoffmann. He is really great, but don’t necessarily expect any German Jazz music from me.

What were some of your earliest gigs where you first cut your teeth?

When I was about 19, I played in a band called B3 at a club called Phase 2, and the opener was called Ground Zero. And I had flunked every math class I ever took in school. It was weird. [Laughs].

All images courtesy of Michael J. Farley Media Group

Let’s dig into your newest project, Hotsy Totsy! Tell us about its inception.

Myself and the band Hard Legs – guitarist Robb Myers and drummer Martyn Flunoy, who also plays with the Bizarros – had a show at the Rialto Theatre in Akron this past March, and Robb said, “They have a recording studio in the club. We should have them record it.” So we did, and about half the set sounded good enough to make into a record. This one is very loud, in comparison and contrast, to our last one.

From a songwriting perspective, how have your collective experiences affected the music?

Hotsy Totsy! being a live album, it is made up mostly of older songs, of course. But what I really like about it – more than I thought I would – is that it’s a good representation of what we are as a band and, I guess, what I am as a songwriter. Of all my albums, this is the one I can tell people, “If you want to know what we are all about, listen to this.”

How about the production mixing side of things? Take me through that process and how the final sounds were honed in.

I brought the tracks to Don Dixon – who has produced bands like R.E.M., the Smithereens, Counting Crows, and, for some reason, us – to mix. He said the recording reminded him of The Who: Live at Leeds, and I said, “So are you saying we sound as good as the Who?” He replied, “Well, that isn’t exactly what I said.” In the end, it sounds really great. Nate Vaill at the Rialto, who recorded the show, and Don are both amazing.

All images courtesy of Michael J. Farley Media Group

What lyrical themes are you delving into, and why are those important to you?

Songwriting has always been therapeutic for me, but I think every songwriter would tell you that. I didn’t necessarily want Hotsy Totsy! to be a collection of our most recognizable songs. Because, for one thing, why bother doing that, right? I just told Don, “Make it so that everyone who didn’t come to this show, when they hear this record, wishes they had been there.”

Do you have any live shows coming up?

We have a few local shows coming up around the release date and through the end of the year. We had a big one at the Auricle in Canton on October 28 with The Got It Got It Need It and Easton Union. And another one back at the Rialto on November 5 with The John B. Free Band – all great groups you should check out. We are planning on hitting the road in a big way in 2023. I miss that a lot!

Last one. What’s next for you in all lanes?

We enjoyed working with Nate so much on this record that we have started to record our next studio album with him at the Rialto. We have basic tracks to four songs in the can right now, and it already rocks.

All images courtesy of Michael J. Farley Media Group

Andrew Daly (@vwmusicrocks) is the Editor-in-Chief for www.vwmusicrocks.com and may be reached at andrew@vinylwriter.com

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