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Laze balance a variety of sounds and styles to create a laid-back, funky groove

By Sonya Hobson · May 17th, 2001 · Locals Only
They rap, they rhyme -- and they have the parental advisory sticker on their CD to prove it.

That doesn't hinder the fans of local band Laze, though. Even with just one CD under its belt, the band still boasts large turnouts at every show. As a matter of fact, Laze's fast-talking frontman, EJ Mac McDonald, says they've never played a show in Cincinnati with fewer than 125 people.

They attribute their success to their claim of being fan-friendly. Pete Wanamaker, the band's keyboardist, says they pride themselves on having something for everyone. Even though the vocals are mostly rapped, they don't necessarily think of themselves as a Rap group. McDonald describes Laze as "laid-back groove Rock with some Hip Hop on top."

If a comparison has to be made, drummer Scott Emerson says he'd say they're more like Sublime than Limp Bizkit.

"We don't use a lot of aggressive sounds," Emerson says. "We use more mellow sounds. We don't use a lot of distortion in the music."

These guys say they really don't like to compare themselves to anyone, though. In fact, bass player Mike Conover says it's very difficult to describe the Laze sound because, unlike so many other bands, they don't try to emulate anyone.

"It's just Laze," he says.

So what's the name Laze all about? During the quest for a band name, McDonald says he became irritated with the other members for slacking in the practice department.

That sparked the idea for the name, but, he says, "Lackadaisical" was much too long. Right next to that entry in the dictionary, though, was "laze." McDonald says he remembered that lead guitarist Chris Wanamaker (Pete's brother) wanted to find a band name with a "z" in it, and so Laze was born.

It's been a year ago this June that Laze celebrated a CD release party for its self-titled, six-song EP. According to Chris Wanamaker, the band did things a little backward by starting out working in the studio and then moving to playing out. They say it worked out well for them, though, and they consider their time in the studio a beneficial experience.

"I'm proud of the effort no matter how basic and simple our thoughts were at the time," says Emerson. "We were like little kids."

In fact, he says, they were so enthused the first time around, they can't wait to get back to the studio sometime this fall.

Listening to these guys talk about their influences and seeing the variations is really quite astounding. For McDonald, a major influence has been Bone Thugs 'n Harmony; for Conover, it's R.E.M.; Emerson's is Rush; for Chris Wanamaker, it's Phish; and for Pete Wanamaker, Pink Floyd. Could you get five more completely different styles of music together?

Even though Laze is an original band, members say they do include some cover songs to keep the crowd's energy level up. At any given Laze show, you might see covers ranging from Dr. Dre's "Nuthin But a 'G' Thang" to Pink Floyd's "The Wall." According to Conover, cover songs have another purpose: "A cover is a good way for people to gauge how good you are and how talented you are, because they know that song."

Another thing that makes Laze different is their diversity from show to show. "We change our show every time," Emerson says. "We blend different songs, sometimes we use comedy or we'll use a song off the television. For example, we did (the theme songs from) WKRP in Cincinnati, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Barney Miller. We don't limit ourselves."

The band says this is especially important in Cincinnati, where at times it can be frustrating to be an original band because the audience often is more interested in covers. At the same time, though, they say they have very loyal fans here.

If you're curious to check out a Laze show but still not convinced, Conover suggests checking out the photos from past shows on their Web site (www.lazemusic.com). Check out the faces of the people in the crowd, he says, and the energy coming from the audience should be reason enough.

LAZE will play Friday at the Blue Note and on June 1 at Top Cat's. Look for news of a summer outdoor festival Laze is helping organize.



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