LaPush’s Thom Donovan

The impression I get is that LaPush came out of nowhere, but I’m sure that’s not the case. What’s the background on the band?
I played in Stir from 2000 to 2002, two years. But sort of the last year I was in Stir, we had started LaPush. It was me, my brother Steve, and Brad, the drummer, just the three of us. The three of us had played together in Flynova for about a year and a half; it was pretty short. So we had started LaPush; it was really just a studio thing; we were writing and recording. Because I was still off doing Stir; I was in Memphis with them, recording the album. I’d come home on the weekends, we’d record some LaPush stuff, but we never did any shows, didn’t have a full band, nothing. And then after the Stir thing kind of ended, we decided to turn it into a full thing. I knew Kevin, our bass player—he worked at a music store—so I asked him if he’d be interested in playing with us, and he brought in a friend of his, Casey—who plays keyboards—with us. We brought them in to sort of record songs that we’d already written, and we didn’t start playing shows until November. In a way, we popped out of nowhere, but we evolved from Stir and, before that, Flynova, we’d all played in bands around St. Louis.

Maybe July is when all five of us got together, and then we started working on new songs as a band, as opposed to just songs that Steve and I would write.

Comparing Stir’s sound to LaPush, Stir’s a definite rock band. How would you describe LaPush’s music?
Stir kind of came up through the whole Aware Records, Midwest, roots rock thing. I think LaPush is a rock band, but we have more European influences; we don’t have the Americana-type sound that Stir had. At the same time, it’s not anything that’s super-experimental; we’re still a song-oriented band. But probably a lot of the music influences come from European bands. I mean, there’s a lot of great American bands; Ryan Adams is probably my biggest influence as a songwriter. But, you know, his last album sounds like The Smiths, so there you go.

Is fronting a band with your brother an advantage or a disadvantage?
It’s an advantage. We’ve grown up writing and playing music together, so either I was off playing, doing something else, or if we were in a band together, we really weren’t writing and contributing creatively. So this is the first time where we’ve taken songs and ideas that we’ve capped on our own in our basement studio, and now actually realized those songs into a full band, and that’s pretty cool. It’s actually easy being in a band with him, because we can fight and argue and yell and scream at each other and it never gets weird, because you’re brothers and you’ve always done that. I can start a sentence and he can finish it. I will literally bring in a song and I’ll be like, “I have no idea where it needs to go,” and he just knows where to go, and vice versa. It actually makes it pretty easy.
He’s someone that, even though he’s my younger brother, I’ve always looked up to him because he’s so talented. He can play and write on every instrument; he’s such a talented guy. So I love creating music and writing songs with him.

How’d you hook up with the Urge to open for their reunion show at the Pageant in December?
I’ve been friends with those guys forever, but after Brad Booker left Stir, John Pessoni came in as the new drummer, so I’d played with Pessoni in Stir. They were looking for opening bands at the Pageant, and he just asked me if I wanted to do it. I was like, I don’t know; that’s going to be kind of weird, because we’re not— We were really nervous, because I know how the Urge crowds are, and I know musically we don’t belong there at all. So all these kids are at the Pageant—all these skater kids, ready to mosh—and we walk onstage with an acoustic guitar and a computer. When we came out, the crowd was like, what is this? They were heckling us, and giving us hell. But then, as the set went on, I think we were just gradually winning them over. There was a point in the set where someone yelled, “You suck!” after a song. Steve was like, “Hey, wait a minute; I don’t come into your work and tell you the Big Macs suck, do I?” And the crowd just loved it; then they started cheering and yelling, and from that point on—We have the whole show on video, and from the moment he made that comment, they just respected us and were totally into us and the heckling stopped. I think they just appreciated good music, even though it was a different style than what they came there to see. But we had to really work to win them over. And that was like our third show.

It was cool, because when we were playing, everybody in the Urge was at the side of the stage, watching our whole set. They were totally into it; they all loved it. It was just a great night. The Pageant—especially the Pageant sold out—is such a great venue. Probably one of my favorite venues that I’ve played in the country, and it’s here in St. Louis.

What made you choose the name?
My brother came up with the name. My brother’s wife used to live in Olympia, Washington, and there’s LaPush, Washington—it’s actually the shore where Goonies was filmed. It’s just this amazing, picturesque shore, and he said it’s one of the most beautiful, picturesque places on the planet. When he was there a few years ago with her, he thought it would make such a cool band name. It’s got this French sound to it; nobody would know what it is. He was thinking of when we were growing up, and you saw the cover of the Joshua Tree, and you were really too young to maybe understand what it is. And then you find out, “Oh wow, that actually exists; it’s the place where they shot that.” So he kind of thought it would be cool if people just think of LaPush as a band name, and then as time goes on, someone just finds out there’s a place called LaPush in America, and then to find out that it’s such a cool place. So that’s kind of the inspiration for the name.

That’s where you’ll have to shoot your video.
We have all these concepts of coming out if the rainforests that surround it.

What’s the band’s 12-month plan?
Right now, we’ve released the five-song EP independently, and it’ll be available at all of our shows, and online at our Web site, and we’re also distributing it at another Web site called So we just want to get that out there. We’re constantly writing and recording, so eventually we’ll release a full-length album. Right now, we’re just doing shows in St. Louis and the Midwest. We’re opening up for national bands, just to try to get us in front of an audience.

I had this [idea]…I was talking to the guys at Mississippi Nights. It would be cool to build something like Pale Divine had. Now that the Urge are gone, Stir is gone, there’s no bands hanging around where, when you go to their show, it’s an event. When you go to see Kill Hannah in Chicago, it’s an event. I would love to build something like that; make Mississippi Nights what is was with Pale Divine. You’ve got this band, but there’s all these people coming together; it’s not just about going to see the band, but it’s a cool night of something to do. I mean, Pale Divine shows were like, “I cannot wait until their next show.” All those bands had it. Now I think there’s a void, and I would love to build something like that; I think that would be so cool.

We’re trying to do these national shows first, to try and get in front of a crowd because we’re so new. Put the album out, try to get as much radio as we can, and sort of grow independently and organically, not try to rush to the music industry. And that way we can just continue growing creatively on our own, without the pressure of having a label involved. And I would love, if we were gonna get a label involved, I would love to go with a smaller label, where you’re still gonna make the record that you want to make. They didn’t spend half a million dollars recording your album, [so] you’re not pressured to make a platinum-selling album right out of the box. Just grow it the way that a lot of cool bands used to grow. Look at R.E.M. or any of those great bands; they just grew it from a total grassroots level. And now they actually have careers and loyal fans.

I would love to bring this band to Europe. I’ve played over there so much; music is so different, just the way that radio works and everything. I think we would do well over there.

How did you hook up with Matt Nathanson?
There’s a promoter in town, Justin Mank; he sent us a random e-mail through our Web site and asked if we wanted to open up for Matt. I wasn’t familiar with Matt but my brother is, and I was like, Steve, what do you think about this, and he was like, yeah, let’s do it. I’m really excited to see him.

Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PlaybackSTL

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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