Interviewed by Michial Farmer and Johnny Norwood in October of 1999
Luxury is certainly one of the best-kept secrets in Christian rock music. From their first album, Amazing and Thank You, in 1995, they’ve kept away from the mainstream Christian scene, while being embraced by the underground. For those of you not familiar with the “Luxury sound,” think of the best parts about Weezer, Radiohead and The Smiths combined with the caustic-yet-heartfelt lyrics of a man skeptical of society.
The band has had several tragedies happen to them, the most notable of which being a terrible car accident on the way back from Cornerstone ’96. It was this accident and the dissolution of their deal with Tooth & Nail Records that persuaded the band to call it quits for awhile.
However, in June of 1999, they released their third album, a self-titled one, on Atlanta’s Bulletproof Records. Luxury is their most mature and most fully realized record to date, and certainly one of the best of the year. We met with brothers Lee and Jamey Bozeman--in a small coffeehouse in their hometown of Toccoa, Georgia for a rambling, but thorough, conversation.
Tollbooth - All right, who plays what instrument in the band?
Lee Bozeman - My name is Lee, and I sing, and I play guitar. Jamey plays guitar. Chris plays bass. Glenn plays drums.
Jamey Bozeman - And Matt Hinton is a friend of ours, and he’s the fifth leg of the band, and he plays guitar, and generally kind of helps fill out the sound.
Tollbooth - That was another one of my questions, so you beat me to it. Uh, does Luxury have a particular vision?
Jamey Bozeman - 20/50.
Lee Bozeman - Nearsighted. No, no vision. Just to play decent music in a world full of un-decent music.
Jamey Bozeman - Yeah. Trying to make good music, really.
Tollbooth - What’s your songwriting process? Do you all write the music together?
Lee Bozeman - I write most of the songs. Most everything’s written on acoustic guitar, at home. And I bring it to everybody, and we sort of tinker with it make it loud and obnoxious. For the last album, I did all but one song. For our first two albums, I did most of them. Jamey did a couple. Glenn’s done one. Chris has done a couple.
Jamey Bozeman - It’s kind of crystallized where Lee, because he writes all the lyrics, comes up with the music to work with them. And then when he brings it to us, it’s not a finished product, but it’s pretty close. So we just kind of mess around with time signatures or we play around with how we’re going to make it sound. He never knows, when he brings it, what we’re going to do to it. We usually do something to it. Whether it be something good or not is the question. Usually it starts off as Lee and it ends up as a group effort in the end, with how we’re going to present something.
Tollbooth - Are there any songs you’ve written that you’re particularly proud of?
Lee Bozeman - I really like “Flaming Youth.” I don’t know why. There’s nothing really great about it. It’s just a lot of fun. As far as good songwriting goes, I think that “To You Who Gave Me Hope and Were My Light” off the last album is a pretty well written song. And my wife really likes “Solid Gold.” So those are some of our favorites.
Tollbooth - Okay, you said you went to Toccoa [Falls Bible College]. What kind of reaction did you get from them about the band?
Jamey Bozeman - They kicked us off campus.
Lee Bozeman - They banned us from playing on campus, because we gave free concerts in the recital hall. They didn’t know about it. They didn’t like it.
Jamey Bozeman - We played in half the buildings on campus at one point or another. We just kept playing around.
Lee Bozeman - We played in the Chapel. We played in the Science Building. The maintenance shack.
Tollbooth - I was told to ask you about a “Dancing Permitted” sign.
Lee Bozeman - That was a long time ago. We brought in some Atlanta band called The Matter years and years ago. I made a sign, something to the effect of “Dancing Will Be Permitted,” or encouraged, or something like that. And the administration freaked out on us, so I had to go out and change it to “Merriment will be permitted.”
Jamey Bozeman - We got in a lot of trouble.
Tollbooth - I was also told that you guys either worked or owned a club called “The Dish” in town.
Lee Bozeman - We started The Dish. There wasn’t anything here. There wasn’t any music scene at all. Our bass player really sort of instigated it all. He and his wife and this guy named Dave Hicks and myself sort of put together the administration of it. Jamey worked with sound, and I decorated the place. Chris brought in bands, and we had bands every week. We didn’t make any money. We weren’t even trying to make any money. Just to bring live music to Toccoa was our goal.
Tollbooth - What bands did you get in?
Lee Bozeman - Mostly local stuff.
Jamey Bozeman - That’s when we had The Prayer Chain come through. We had some other ones of note. We had some bands that went on to do bigger things, like a group called Sunbranch, from Thompson, who went on to sign with Grass Records. And the guy, one of the guys in the band has a label called Ghost Meat, and he’s in Athens. And then we had Prayer Chain come through. We had a band called The Drag come through, who got signed to Island later on. We had some really good bands. But a cool thing we developed was kind of a scene between here and Clemson. And we had a nice core group of bands that have kind of managed to stay in contact and to play occasionally together, although, that’s been, what? Eight years now? Seven years? Something like that? We still try to stay in touch with them. Occasionally, we’ll play shows together. It’s pretty cool.
Tollbooth - All right, how did the Tooth & Nail deal come about?
Lee Bozeman - Played at Cornerstone one year. Played on the Impromptu Stage and Brandon saw us, and just asked us to sign with him.
Tollbooth - Why did you end up leaving? If that’s not too brash a question.
Lee Bozeman - Well, we finished our contract with them. Our deal was one album with two options. We did the first album, and they exercised the first option, and we did the second album, and they weren’t going to do a third album for us. We weren’t making any money for them. Not that they thought we were bad, because they thought we should have been one of their biggest bands. But because we didn’t tour, we didn’t do all the stuff that real bands should do, we just didn’t make any money. We didn’t feel like we should stay with the label anyway.
Jamey Bozeman - Yeah, we sort of split up in the process. So just out of a kind of general decline in how things were going, we just basically…It ended up being, what, a year and a half off? Something like that? It initiated as a breakup, this ending.
Lee Bozeman - Well, we had kids and, you know, things happened.
Jamey Bozeman - If we had known at the time, we would have just said, “Well, let’s keep the band together, and let’s just coast for as long as we can,” but at the time, we thought, “Well, we need to end this.” So we did, for awhile.
Tollbooth - So how did you get signed with Bulletproof?
Lee Bozeman - We called them, said “Do you want to do another Luxury record?” They said, “Yes.” We said, “Do you want to give us the money?” They said, “Okay.”
Jamey Bozeman - We initially wanted to go with Velvet Blue Music, because we really like those guys. Jeff Cloud is a great guy. But they really couldn’t afford to do what we needed to do, which was too bad, because that was our first choice.
Lee Bozeman - Not that Bulletproof’s a bad label, but it’s just a different kind of label.
Jamey Bozeman - Totally different. Different arena.
Lee Bozeman - But they’re old friends of ours. They’ve been supporters of ours since the very beginning. So they’re very understanding, and we know them.
Tollbooth - So what makes the new album different from the last two?
Lee Bozeman - It doesn’t suck.
Jamey Bozeman - We’re very proud of it, actually.
Lee Bozeman - It sounds better. We spent a lot of time with it. The first two albums, we had a week to record and to mix them. We took three months, basically on the weekends, to do everything we needed to do, and accomplish the goals we set for ourselves, and for the most part, we did.
Jamey Bozeman - We worked with a guy named Matt Goldman, who acts as a producer, in terms of someone who really is committed to getting good sound down. He would just give us whatever time we needed to get the recording done. He spent more time than any of us did on the recording itself, just being in the studio. That really made a difference in the sound.
Tollbooth - What made you choose the Frank Lloyd Wright motif for the album cover?
Jamey Bozeman - We didn’t choose it at all. I had nothing to do with it.
Lee Bozeman - The label has a guy--this guy Owen. Owen Elias 4000 is his technical name. He does the artwork for them, and they just suggested him. Not against our better judgment, but against our normal practices, we allowed them to do what they wanted to do.
Tollbooth - I heard there were some problems with the distribution of the album.
Jamey Bozeman - Seems like it. We don’t know a whole lot about it.
Lee Bozeman - We know some things, but we probably shouldn’t talk about it. There was a big mess-up with the distribution. But our album isn’t getting to the stores. And it’s not getting to the people who would buy it.
Jamey Bozeman - That’s the key issue.
Tollbooth - Is that why Amy [Bozeman, Lee’s wife] is selling them on eBay?
Lee Bozeman - Part of it.
Jamey Bozeman - The main reason she’s done that is just because of simple access. Because we are very much a sort of do-it-yourself sort of band. We do everything other than the album itself from a very basic point. How can we do this the best way we can, ourselves? So we go out and do something. We have a free website of our own. We use eBay because it’s almost free. Everything’s kept, in a sense, you know, sort of a punk rock ethic. That way, we remain in control. But there will be a time, I think, when we get our own site, and do that instead of having to bow to eBay, doing it the silly way.
Tollbooth - “What does ‘Euphrates With the Golden Hands’ mean, in the song?”
Lee Bozeman - You tell me.
Tollbooth - I just figured it was about American promiscuity.
Lee Bozeman - And what’s that?
Tollbooth - And that, it’s just going a little bit from the little explanation on your webpage, but basically that Americans are starting to worship sex, and they’re starting to throw out God. And they worship America.
Lee Bozeman - Yeah, well, I guess it’s not promiscuity in the sense of, not necessarily just about sex, but in the sense of everything. Their whole life gets promiscuous in a lot of different areas. Certainly about America’s extremism. This ultimate pride we have as Americans, that if someone doesn’t agree with me, that I can make my own god. Basically, “Euphrates With the Golden Hands” is another name, this sort of imaginary, illusory god that I just sort of created. And if this god doesn’t suit you, then we’ll make another Euphrates. You know, whether that’s sex, or God, or whatever. Also, the Euphrates was one of the major rivers in primitive cultures. They had the god of the Euphrates and the Tigris, and all that.
Tollbooth - What was it like writing “Pink Revenge” from a male point of view?
Lee Bozeman - I think I’m fairly in touch with my feminine side. It’s just one of those questions about how do we deal with a person who is so uncertain about their own sexuality. “I feel like a woman.” How do we deal with that? It just deals with that issue. I like to sort of play around with people’s minds sometimes. I think it’d be great to be a woman sometimes. In some ways. In some ways, I wouldn’t.
Jamey Bozeman - No way, man.
Lee Bozeman - I’m not afraid of that. I’m pretty secure in my maleness, and play around with that. All the really great rock and roll guys were always really androgynous. David Bowie, and Morrissey to an extent. Marilyn Manson. You know, this androgyny kind of runs everywhere.
Jamey Bozeman - I think they’ve kind of gotten away from that, lyrically. But I think that a lot of it’s maturing because it was just a period for us. What we were listening to had a lot to do with that kind of thing Bowie, and Mark Bolan. Kind of borderline people who played around with “Am I a boy or am I a girl?” But they really knew what the mystery was. Could you figure it out? That’s probably part of it, too. And that probably made sense for us to start off an album with it. Just us being stupid. The funny thing about that is we never really thought about it but looking at Christian music, especially at that period of time, bands weren’t doing that. We were the only ones who ever really did that. Maybe Mike Knott did some weird stuff like that. Maybe Scattered Few, maybe someone like that.
Tollbooth - So you don’t write these things for shock value?
Lee Bozeman - I probably do sometimes.
Jamey Bozeman - In a way, you want to balance it out. You want to provoke a response, but the idea of us provoking a response but part of it is to make you think. I think we tend to try to make people think, but a lot of times, we’re accused of being “not Christian enough.” But in a lot of ways, we’re going to be a lot better for the general Christian public than a lot of bands out there that they’re listening to.
Tollbooth - Any band that’s going to make you question what you believe is going to come under fire.
Lee Bozeman - Definitely.
Jamey Bozeman - It’s very important too. Not to question it in order to make you doubt and turn away, but to question to make you doubt and then rethink what you’re doing and to strengthen yourself.
Tollbooth - Earlier in the year, Amy mentioned that you might not be able to record under the moniker “Luxury.” What was that all about?
Lee Bozeman - There’s a band called Luxury that was on the Austin Powers soundtrack. But we had the name first. But our label hasn’t pursued that, their label hasn’t pursued that, so apparently there are two Luxury’s out there.
Tollbooth - Have you heard them?
Lee Bozeman - Just that one song. It’s pretty lame.
Jamey Bozeman - But it’s good for us, because a lot of people go, “Hey, Luxury’s on the Austin Powers soundtrack,” without ever hearing the song.
Lee Bozeman - And they buy our album. We’ve never made a dime from Luxury. Well, we made a dime.
Jamey Bozeman - Maybe a few bucks. Literally, maybe only a few dollars. But only recently have we actually been able to go home with money from shows, simply because Luxury’s in the background. We’re actually splitting up what we make. Whereas before, everything we made had to be reinvested in the band to make us go forward, and it was pointless.
Lee Bozeman - The band’s never made us any money. It never will, and that’s fine. We would probably corrupt ourselves if we starting making a living from the music.
Jamey Bozeman - I wouldn’t want to make a living from it.
Lee Bozeman - I would.
Tollbooth - So you guys don’t want to be MxPx.
Lee Bozeman - No.
Tollbooth - You don’t want to be worldwide rock stars.
Jamey Bozeman - If we could be worldwide rock stars without having to tour, without having to cave in to all that crud, I wouldn’t mind that claim.
Lee Bozeman - Yeah, it’s like they could pay us $50,000 to record a record, and not play anything of it. That’s great.
Tollbooth - So you want to be The Beatles.
Jamey Bozeman - That’s it. Actually, yeah. That was fantastic.
Lee Bozeman - That was the way to go.
Jamey Bozeman - Yeah, I’d do that. The important thing for us is the creation. The interesting thing is our ability to stick together. I mean, as far as the band goes, despite those things, we’ve done it. For some reason, we continue to do it, despite ourselves.
Tollbooth - Are the members in any other bands?
Jamey Bozeman - Actually, yeah. Glenn, the drummer, is in a band called The Treehouse Orchestra, which does Chris Isaac-style classic, with, almost a slack pop sensibility to it. It’s pretty cool. It’s a three-piece, just a stand-up bass. Real quiet.
Lee Bozeman - They’ve got a violin player, too. I do, six techno songs. Not really techno. Tortoise-y kind of stuff.
Jamey Bozeman - Sort of Belle and Sebastian. Light, electronic sounding.
Lee Bozeman - It’s all instrumental, though. And Chris is in a band called Fay Ray, and it’s like real experimental, hard…well, not really. It’s not really always hard. Some of it. They’re really into all the kind of Chicago underground scene. You know, Jim O’Rourke and Jasta Soul, and Tortoise, and all that stuff.
Jamey Bozeman - Weird stuff. Weirdo jazz scene. It’s pretty cool stuff.
Lee Bozeman - He plays the drums for that.
Jamey Bozeman - He’s good, too. He’s very solid. It’s strange. He’s a fantastic bass player, and almost as good a drummer.
Tollbooth - Now we’re getting into pretty much generic questions. What bands have you been listening to a lot lately?
Jamey Bozeman - I’ll list them. this is my suggestion to people to listen to. I’ve been listening to a lot of Brian Eno. Specifically called Before and After Science, which is great. I’ve been listening a lot to Macha. They’re from Athens. Big into college music. I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff that’s more instrumentally oriented, a lot of stuff that’s kind of layered, to the point that’d almost be like Beach Boys, like this group called The Flaming Lips. They’re pretty cool. They have a Beatles meets the Beach Boys feel. Their stuff’s really layered. Macha…Joy Division. A lot of that. A lot of depressing stuff. Joy Electric, of course. Starflyer, if you’re talking about Christian bands.
Lee Bozeman - I’ve been listening to a lot of Jim O’Rourke from Gastill Soul. He did a solo album, which is great. The cover has this cartoon of a naked man with a bunny. That’s all I’ll tell you about it, but it’s really funny.
I listen to a lot of Belle and Sebastian. And I’m always playing stuff for my kids. We listen to Puchini a lot. Opera stuff. Just weird stuff like that. The new Sunny Day Real Estate album. Wonderful album.
Jamey Bozeman - We need to list these, because people need to be exposed to different music.
Tollbooth - It’ll be, like, half the interview.
Jamey Bozeman - I could list for hours, man.
Lee Bozeman - That’s all people need to know what to listen to.
Jamey Bozeman - Just listen to this stuff. Jamey Bozeman - Prayer Chain’s great, but listen to some more stuff.
Lee Bozeman - Like Spiritualized.
Jamey Bozeman - Yeah. The Verve, or
Lee Bozeman - Ride. My Bloody Valentine.
Jamey Bozeman - My Bloody Valentine. That’s really, really good. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit. Loveless is great. Mogwai is a fantastic band that’s worthy of being listened to.
Lee Bozeman - Wheel Oldum. You have got to listen to Wheel Oldum. You know who Wheel Oldum is? House Brothers? Go out and find it. They sound awful. Well, for the most part, they sound real crappy kind of recordings, because it’s just low-fi stuff. But they’re the best songwriters. It’s what they do. They carry around crappy guitars and they
Jamey Bozeman - They just record.
Lee Bozeman - The whole Chicago underground scene. I’m not at all into it like other people are into it, but as I’m being more and more interested in it, it’s just so genuine. All they do is just make music. There’s, like, five or six guys which are in, like, thirty bands, and they keep making up new bands, like Isotope and Tortoise, and Gastill Soul, and all these different bands who are all the same people. It's just such a cool thing.
Jamey Bozeman - But it’s all about making good music. I think there’s a lot more to be said for people who go out and, with their own hands, can try to make things happen. Now, maybe not every band has somebody in it who can design album covers like we do, or can make T-shirts like we do, or who can record like we do, or who can build instruments like we do, or anything we do. We do all that stuff.
Lee Bozeman - It’s like Fugazi. Fugazi has this wonderful mentality. “We make music.” And that’s why they don’t sell T-shirts. That’s why they don’t, you know, sell lapel buttons or stickers. They don’t market themselves. They simply make music.
Jamey Bozeman - They play shows. They play shows for nothing, no more than $5 a ticket. But for us, it’s all about, “What can we do to make good music, keep our prices down so people will be able to afford it, and to respect ourselves when we wake up in the morning?” Because we don’t want to whore ourselves out like a lot of these bands have done. They’re all about the money. We’ve got good friends who would fit under that description, I guess, which is not really fair to them, for me to say that, because they’re doing what they do.
Equipment. Attitude. You got to have the attitude.
Lee Bozeman - I didn’t buy an amp until after our second album.
Jamey Bozeman - It was all borrowed stuff.
Lee Bozeman - I borrowed stuff. I still don’t have any guitar cables.
Jamey Bozeman - You’ve got mine.
Lee Bozeman - You know, I borrow everything. It’s just like --
Tollbooth - A guitar cable’s, like, five bucks.
Jamey Bozeman - Keep telling him.
Lee Bozeman - Yeah, but it doesn’t matter. The idea is just that
Jamey Bozeman - We want to make music.
Lee Bozeman - We make music. It’s not about anything else.
Tollbooth - What have you been reading lately?
Jamey Bozeman - I just finished Space by James Michener. I’m reading Hawaii and Mexico by James Michener. That’s all I’m reading.
Lee Bozeman - I’ve really been into Moby Dick lately. I hadn’t read it in a long time, and I’m re-reading it for my kids. That, and I’ve been reading a lot of Gabriel Marquez. He was this wonderful Spanish author.
Jamey Bozeman - In the Time of Cholera.
Lee Bozeman - I love In the Time of Cholera. I love Another Demon Smiles
Jamey Bozeman - I have that novel.
Lee Bozeman - A lot of poetry. I write a lot of poetry, so I’ve been reading a lot. I’m trying to get published.
Tollbooth - What kind of poets do you like?
Lee Bozeman - I like a lot of the Modernist poets, early 20th Century
Tollbooth - Eliot, Pound. That stuff?
Lee Bozeman - Not so much Pound. TS Eliot is just a god to me. The Wasteland is the pinnacle of poetry, as far as I’m concerned. A lot of the early 20th Century stuff. After 1950, things kind of went kind of bizarre. Although I like, you know, Williams and a lot of the, the cubist sort of, type of stuff. Walt Stevens. Elizabeth Bishop’s one of my favorites. She’s probably one of my biggest influences, as far as when I write poetry. I’m reading a lot of Keats lately. A lot of Yeats, too. I’ve been reading a lot of Robert Frost, too.
Tollbooth - Do you have a favorite venue to play in? FallQuest?
Jamey Bozeman - Least favorite would be any festival.
Lee Bozeman - Any festival.
Jamey Bozeman - We like the people who set them up. Festivals are cool, and we always appreciate them, the opportunity to play. It’s just the worst place to play a show, for us. We need to be in a small club…in the dark. Being out in the sunlight, it’s bad for our skin. It’s open. You feel like you’re just sort of naked up there. There’s no energy.
Tollbooth - Okay. What’s the most important thing you’ve ever learned? There’s a nice broad question.
Jamey Bozeman - For me, it’s just our integrity, doing the right thing. It’s beyond anything else. It’s just doing what’s right. If there’s anything that can change the way our nation functions, the way kids are, the way things are gonna be in the future, it’s teach people how to do what is correct to do, not to simply live for themselves. It’s a very simple thing, but very hard to do.
Lee Bozeman - That’s a very difficult question, though. If you want broad, vague answers, “just do what you think is right.”
Jamey Bozeman - That is very vague. But the obvious answer that there is a simple moral code expounded in the Bible. Those are the things to do.
Lee Bozeman - Well, I think the most important thing that I’ve ever learned is that…um…I don’t know. I haven’t learned it yet. But God doesn’t want us to be famous, that He doesn’t want us to be rich. He doesn’t want us to be all these things that we think are so important in our lives. But He simply wants us to learn how to love Him and how to love each other. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned.
Tollbooth - All right, is there anything you’d particularly like to say to our readers?
Jamey Bozeman - Don’t take it too seriously.
Lee Bozeman - Yeah. It’s just music, and if it speaks to you, that’s great. That’s the intent. But there’s no hidden messages or deep messages.
Jamey Bozeman - There’s nothing particularly exalted about us. It’s just simply, “We’re in a band and you people listen to the music that we do, and that’s about where it stops.”
I will say one thing, though, about being married and that sort of thing nothing beats being married and having a kid. Not rock and roll. Not anything. If I had to make the choice, I would give up playing music before I would not have my kid. I mean, it’s obvious.
Yeah, but the point being we’ve got kids. The kids are, in a lot of ways, our future, and they’re what we’re about, our wives and our kids and our families. As long as we’re keeping those things in focus, I think as a byproduct we’re going to make good music and maybe be around. And those are the things that are important. We’re not going to waste all our lives and energy trying to be a band. We’re going to spend our time on things that are important, and hopefully the band will follow suit. Or music will follow suit. I just wanted to say that.