From The San Francisco Chronicle, 12/22/96, on the occasion of Lawsuit's last concert:
After nine years of legal action that would make Johnnie Cochran jealous, the band Lawsuit has decided to settle out of court." So reads the Web home page of this hard-working, hard-punning, world pop outfit from Davis, whose members are facing mounting evidence that their devoted following would prefer to keep the band on the case.
But on New Year's Eve, Lawsuit will give its final performance at San Francisco's Hotel Utah. Talk about ringing out the old.
"My mom said, 'It's nice to be going out while people are begging you not to, instead of people saying, 'oh you're still around?''" says founding member Paul Sykes. His mother should know a thing or two about the group--three Sykes siblings and a sister-in-law are all part of the band.
Established in 1987 as a ska quartet, Lawsuit ballooned into a 10 piece big band, connecting an idiosyncratic blend of pop styles that spans the globe and several generations. "Nirvana and Sinatra are both there," says Sykes, the band's wisenheimer vocalist.
"What we do has a world-beat edge, with jazz and ska influences, adds percussionist and point man Anthony Costello. "It's kind of all over the place...That's the reason the people who love us love us, and it's the reason the (record) labels can't handle us. It's our strongest and weakest asset. The thing that makes us different is at the root of our demise."
Along the way, the group has amassed an uncommonly loyal and diverse following--"punk rockers, 6 year olds, 25 year olds, yuppies, homeless people and grandparents," according to Sykes. But Lawsuit was never able to match the enthusiasm of its supporters with a similar response from record companies.
"We've solicited every major label," Costello says. "They all love the sound, but they can't fit it into an existing niche."
Fitting the group into an existing niche would be difficult if for no other reason than its ungainly size: With 10 members (bass, drums, two guitars, two percussionists, and a four-piece horn section), Costello acknowledges it's been daunting for labels to consider putting Lawsuit on the road.
"We decided long ago we would go with what we had or we wouldn't go at all," he says. "For us to strip down to a small size would require us to sacrifice the sound we like."
Instead the group remained intact and developed its fan base by touring doggedly, bringing steady business to a network of mid-size Northern California clubs. In the wake of the retirement announcement, a recent headlining gig at Slim's surprised everyone but the faithful when it sold out handily.....
Despite the lighthearted persona he projects in his lyric writing, Sykes admits to having mixed emotions about the breakup of the band.
"I think we stirred things up all over California," he says. Part of me is sad, but part of me is looking forward to playing golf on the weekends."
Information on The Band Lawsuit, along with photos and music to download can be found at the Lawsuit Graveyard.
created 2/19/00 by Bev Sykes