A decade ago, years before American keyboardist Adam Weiner and British drummer/guitarist Dan Finnemore realized their vision of incendiary Piano Rock as Low Cut Connie, Weiner made his Greater Cincinnati solo debut. Booked at the original Southgate House in Newport, Ky., to warm up the crowd for local Honky Tonk/Rockabilly greats StarDevils, Weiner found an audience unimpressed with his offerings.
“I basically got booed off the stage. It’s an experience I will never forget,” Weiner says from his Harlem, N.Y., apartment. “It was a Rockabilly night, I opened and got my hat handed to me. I depressingly wandered downstairs to the bar area, and this little drunken, nerdy guy was playing piano. I’m a piano player, and this guy was on fire.
“That was Ricky Nye (Cincinnati Boogie Woogie Blues giant). I hit it off with Ricky, we got to be buddies and he really restored my faith. He said, ‘You’ve got to get back on your horse.’ I’ve been coming back ever since.”
After just a few visits, Low Cut Connie became a local favorite, its reputation all but cemented with a delirious gig at Japp’s Annex during last year’s MidPoint Music Festival.
“That was a great show and a great bill,” Weiner says. “We were on with The Defibulators, who are a New York band we like. And we’ve been at MOTR at least twice before that, and it’s always been great.”
Low Cut Connie’s recent local/global triumphs are mere hints of an extraordinary year to come. The band is generating nearly universal praise for its blistering cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” from the just-released This is the Town: A Tribute to Nilsson; the extra original lyrics and subsequent video were inspired by the film Goodfellas.
“Kenny Siegal, who produced the album, became pals with Harry’s kids, and he asked if we would be interested, even though they all thought it would be a stretch for us to do a Nilsson song,” Weiner says. “I said, absolutely, 100 percent, and without hesitation I said, ‘Let’s do the song they used during the coke bust scene in Goodfellas.’ It came together quickly and it was a lot of fun and then we made the video.
Hopefully, Ray Liotta doesn’t sue us and realizes it’s an homage.”
In addition, Weiner and Finnemore have completed the as-yet-untitled third Low Cut Connie album for a possible fall release, which will be previewed in April with a single featuring tUnE-yArDs vocalist Merrill Garbus.
“We’re very excited about it,” Weiner says. “We had a bunch of notable cameos. I can’t tell you them all, but I can tell you Big Pussy from The Sopranos is on the album in a pretty interesting way. I’m in the process of begging, pleading and prostituting myself to get [the album] out the way I want it.”
Weiner and Finnemore first crossed paths in England where they were playing a warehouse gig with their respective projects at the time. The pair wound up stranded for four hours on a powerless freight elevator and wiled away the time talking music and drinking. They vowed to stay in touch and hopefully work together someday.
“I was a piano player in bars,” Weiner says. “I’ve lived all over — Memphis, Austin, Montreal. I have a background playing in dive bars, gay bars, old-age homes, ballet classes and taking in different worlds.
“Dan came from this British Punk/Garage Rock scene, touring Europe and South America, doing heavy, shoestring budget Rock & Roll. When you put us together, this thing came out that was better than both of us. Sometimes I think of it like Martin and Lewis; I’m a huge Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin fan. There’s a weird electric chemistry that just kind of works. They didn’t have to work at it, it was just there.”
Low Cut Connie’s debut, 2011’s Get Out the Lotion, resulted after Weiner and Finnemore mucked about on a busman’s holiday from their regular gigs with Ladyfingers and Swampmeat, respectively. Their initial songs were more sketches, but they revealed amazing possibilities for a more focused collaboration.
“We used to open for each other; sometimes we would call it Ladymeat and Swampfingers,” Weiner says. “When we did Get Out the Lotion, we weren’t even a band. We didn’t have a name, we just got together on a weekend and did it. It took off a bit, so we decided to actually sit down and make an album, or spend time and try. That was Call Me Sylvia.”
The rollicking Call Me Sylvia combined the duo’s disparate but related influences, from Weiner’s love of Jerry Lee Lewis and Iggy Pop to Finnemore’s virulent Punk roots.
“Dan and I come from very different worlds and different countries,” Weiner says. “It’s true of a lot of good bands or partnerships, music or otherwise, that those differences created something new. A lot of bands have their formula and learn it really well. We don’t. We’ve never been able to figure out exactly what we do when we get together. It just feels good and it works.”
Numerous factors have kept Low Cut Connie from the studio since Call Me Sylvia, including touring and writing, but the duo returned last year with a vengeance. Utilizing guests like the aforementioned Garbus and members of Sharon Jones’ Dap-Kings and the Budos Band, the new Low Cut Connie material promises to hit new heights with an album made the old-fashioned way.
“Since Call Me Sylvia, it’s been us actually trying to have a career,” Weiner says. “We’ve both quit our teaching jobs and … we’ve been on the road a lot. With this record, we really dug deep; we spent the better part of a year writing, demoing the songs many times, rehearsing, demoing them again. It was all in preparation to go into the studio for 10 days with (Daptone producer/Dap-Kings guitarist) Thomas Brenneck, and we had to knock it out of the park.
“This was really old school, making this new album. Horn players: one take. Vocals: one take. Everything live in the studio. What’s the Bob Dylan line? ‘I’ll know my song well before I start singing.’ It had to be that way.”
LOW CUT CONNIE performs Friday at Over-the-Rhine’s MOTR Pub. More info: motrpub.com