Lapdogs began many years ago as an acoustic duo. Nick and Stef played on the streets of Saugatuck as well as in bars and sandwich shops around the Grand Rapids area. As of late, with other musicians joining in to give them a fuller "band" sound, Nick and Stef have referred to their duo gigs as "2Dog," while full band rock-n-roll gigs are officially "Lapdogs."
The idea for the duo was conceived during third shift work at the Grand Rapids Press. Nick, a college student, and Stef, job-drifting, formed a friendship at the Press over five years or more. In the final months at the Press, Stef also met his future wife and Lapdogs keyboardist Heather.
Nick and Stef learned to play close to four hours of covers on the streets before they began working on original tunes together. Often they played for tips and tea. One time Stef was given a $20 just to play “Blackbird.”
The song “Melancholy Mona” from debut album “Un-Plugged” is about a workmate from the GR Press. This peppy young lady, whom Stef and Nick antagonized ad infinitum, kept them somewhat alert and awake while working the line at 4am on weekends.
The Grand Rapids Press eventually did hire one loneLapdog – Heather – as a district manager. She continues the job to this day, while also running a residential cleaning business from her home in Grand Rapids.
Heather has never played a musical instrument of any sort before joining the band. She is learning keyboards as a favor to the band – she uses sticky notes on the black and white keys which tell her which notes she is playing.
Inspiration in the early days came from The Soil & The Sun, which Stef and Nick saw live many times. The original thought was, “If we can do it even half as good as they can…”
The song “Eileen” (from the album “Junkyard Love”) is tangentially related to The Soil and The Sun in concert: while the song masquerades as a description of a one-legged woman named Eileen, the truth is that the song relays the tale of how Heather lost her boot on the way home from The Soil and The Sun in Ann Arbor.
Drummer Todd Hansen joined the band when trying to track down the owner of a lost photo album. Stef’s mom, who lives outside of Chicago, was somehow called, and the photo album was eventually returned to Stef. The album contained hundreds of photos of Stef’s bands and travels in the 90s. Stef had left the album in a “ghost room” – a creepy room next to the room he once lived in. Todd had moved into Stef’s old room, found the photo album, contacted Stef’s mom and returned it to him. After another year it was discovered that Todd also plays the drums.
Stef and Nick have for years used Elixir HD acoustic strings exclusively.
POTBELLY sandwich shop has been a great help in their musical growth. While Potbelly was Stef’s original troubadour-style job, Nick often joined in. Last year Heather even joined in, on a Potbelly tour that took them through Northern Indiana.
Due to the band’s belief in all things “indie” -- college, non-commercial and even pirate radio have been a staple since the beginning -- Lapdogs songs have been played from coast to coast all over America.
Lapdogs physically create every piece of their CDs. They actually have “CD Making” parties – nights when more CDs need to be put together. Many episodes of the TV show “Twin Peaks” have been watched this way.
The name “Lapdogs” came out of a desire for a band name which was somewhat meaningless but easy to remember. The name may have also been influenced by Stef and Heather’s chihuahua Lilly.
Drummer Todd Hansen has extensively played in the bands Muppet, Janis, Black Rabbit, and Prom Babies. Lead singer Stef Loy has played in the Miscellaneous and Perry & the Poor Boys. Lapdogs have performed incognito as Switchblade Salad, Ratchet Thugs for Jesus (RT4J), and Rabid Weasel.
On the album “You Live There,” Nick channels some new electric vibes with a splattering of tremolo guitars (especially on the song “When You Said.”) At the time of the recordings, Nick didn’t own a guitar with tremolo capability -- these sounds were accomplished by Nick playing the guitar with Stef, on his knees, jamming a screwdriver into the bridge, violently shaking it and smiling and screaming like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”
Stef constantly tells a story about a stalker named Michilene, even going so far as to write a song about her (found on “There You Live”). The story has grown over time, to the point of it ending in a grocery store (aisle seven) with Stef in a physical altercation with her and a can of baked beans. The woman does not exist, stories about her are a lie, and the song Michilene is actually about nicotine – although the “girl” is still a bad habit.
Lapdogs are 70% “straight-edge,” older than dirt, and sometimes a little cranky too. They are happy to play first in the night and go home and go to bed early.
Rumors about what really happened to Nick in Muskegon are unfounded. The song “I’ll Never Go Back to Muskegon (Alice in the Sky)” has nothing to do with drag queens or drunken A&R reps.
Lapdogs as a band are most excited about these two upcoming gigs -- an all-ages show at the DAAC (Thursday July 6) – and the Speak EZ Lounge for Local Spins (Weds November 8, with Great Black Night).
YOU LIVE THERE
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