2 Tribes: Lydia Loveless and Ben Lamb

Over in the print edition of Racer X we have a monthly feature called 2 Tribes, where two people who share some kind of connection answer an identical set of questions. For our May issue (on newsstands now-ish!), I was lucky enough to line up singer/songwriter/ass-kicker Lydia Loveless and her bassist/woodworking enthusiast/husband, Ben Lamb. They really put a lot into their questionnaires—the print version represents maybe a third of what they gave me—so I'm happy to be able to share the uncut version here. These guys are great.

Lydia Loveless (Patrick Crawford/Blackletter)

Lydia Loveless (Patrick Crawford/Blackletter)

Who would play you in a movie?
Ben Lamb: I'm gonna go with John Corbett. I'm sure he could nail both my striking good looks and my inability to sing.
Lydia Loveless: Greta Gerwig. She's delightfully awkward and deadpan, like me.

Last person who made you nervous?
BL: My wife, Lydia. I dig her so much, it's all I can do to keep my cool!
LL: I have severe social anxiety. Everyone makes me nervous.

Greatest accomplishment?
BL: Being self-employed since 2005. Not having a job can be pretty hard work!
LL: Surviving grumpy old men in close quarters.

What’s your hidden talent?
BL: Besides playing bass, I really enjoy woodworking and calligraphy. Art is pretty much going to be my retirement plan.
LL: I'm just riding on the non-hidden ones. I'm … really flexible?

Talent you wish you had?
BL: I wish I could sing! It's just not gonna happen, though. As much as I give advice to people to “follow your bliss” and all that, sometimes you just suck at something and need to move on. Fortunately, I have surrounded myself with two of the best rock and roll singers I've ever heard: Lydia and Todd May, our guitar player.
LL: I'd love to be able to draw. I am really envious of people who can.

Ben Lamb (David Kindler)

Last movie you liked so much, you watched it twice?
BL: Birdman! Everyone in it is amazing, but Ed Norton steals the show.
LL: Birdman.

Favorite sports team?
BL: Go Bucks! (That's THE Ohio State Buckeyes, for those not in the know. Specifically the football team.)
LL: Buckeye football.

Best place on earth?
BL: Pagosa Springs, Colorado, playing the Outlaw Snowdown Festivals.
LL: Bilbao!

Worst place on earth?
BL: Wolf Creek Pass, about 10 miles east of Pagosa Springs, during a blizzard, when your van blows a tire at the top of the pass, causing you to miss your flight to Sweden later that afternoon and miss the first week of your Scandinavian tour. There's even a song about that place.
LL: Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

One place you would like to travel to?
BL: Phillip Island, Australia, for the MotoGP race.
LL: Borneo!

Funniest story from the road?
BL: We toured the entirety of Canada with the Supersuckers in the spring/summer of 2013 and celebrated my birthday with one of the first shows. Eddie Spaghetti announced my birthday from the stage, and the crowd showered me with beers, shots, and even jars of weed (don't try this at home, kids). Then he did it again the next night, and the night after that…. He eventually informed me that "every night is someone's birthday on tour.” Not a bad custom, if you ask me. I got pulled over a week later at 3 a.m. outside of Calgary with a busted taillight and narrowly avoided a search of the van, so I subsequently donated the jars to the Supersuckers, who quickly dispatched them.
LL: You know, it's actually very sad, but most people probably wouldn't think so. On our first big run last year for Somewhere Else, our drummer at the time won a stuffed animal from a claw machine. We had no idea what he was supposed to be—he was totally weird, with a big pink nose and huge eyes. We named him Baby Monte. We'd all take turns snuggling him in the van, and we started a photo series that we intended to keep up forever, all over the world, of him in random places. But somebody left him in the hotel in Phoenix. We were eating at this Italian restaurant when we realized it and Todd just exclaimed, “I am sick to my stomach!” and we both had tears in our eyes. Road life is rough, man.

Your guilty pleasure?
BL: Grape cigars. I don't even really smoke, but when we're on the road and I'm driving, I'll do whatever is necessary to stay alert, especially if I can avoid “energy drinks.” I love their contributions to racing as sponsors, but I hate their contribution to my stomach lining.
LL: Smoking. I've tried to quit many times. I know it's disgusting and it's going to kill me and all that stuff. But when you need to be alone, a long walk with a cigarette is hard to beat.

Favorite store?
BL: Half Price Books. It's always a great place to kill time during tour, plus there's not much more exciting on tour than picking up a great book for cheap. You can tell we really party hard.
LL: I love thrift stores. I buy new clothing so rarely—almost all my clothes are used. I also have an obsessive book-buying problem, and thrift stores are good for that. I'm eventually going to have to live in a bookshelf.

Favorite book?
BL: Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut.
LL: Jane Eyre.

Favorite subject in school?
BL: I would have to say Music. I was in the marching band all through high school, and it taught me to read music. It also taught me to hate marching band. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was done with school, all my grades dropped, and I was just burnt out. I painted houses for a year after graduation, though, and realized that there are far worse things than being bored with school.
LL: English. #grammarsnob

Favorite food?
BL: Everyone in the van knows I will not pass up a Shoney’s when it's time to eat. For my northern friends who don't get out much, it's a southern-based restaurant. The food is pretty good, but they always have a buffet, which means within three minutes of entering the restaurant we can all be diving into a huge, unlimited portion of whatever we want: catfish, mashed potatoes, grits, greens—all the comfort food you can stand.
LL: Italian. It's cheap (no matter what most Italian restaurants seem to think), delicious, and easy as hell to cook Italian food. My family's very serious about our Italian heritage. I guess most Italians are. My ultimate comfort food.

Least favorite food?
BL: Beets. I try every year, but they just don't do it for me.
LL: My mom used to make German pancakes growing up and I have PTSD from it. Sorry, Mommy....

Favorite song?
BL: “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” Charles Mingus. Some people say jazz is too esoteric and willfully obtuse. If you feel that way, then this song is for you. It's a beautiful, memorable melody that sticks with you, and it's easy to play but next to impossible to master. Jeff Beck covered this one, and Joni Mitchell even wrote words to it.
LL: Whoa, that's tough. Maybe “Runaway Wind” by Paul Westerberg.

Favorite musician?
BL: Claude Debussy. When you tire of marketing BS, commercial radio, and even genres, ol' Claude has the most beautiful, timeless melodies waiting for you.
LL: Jay Gasper.

Favorite songwriter?
BL: Joni Mitchell. If you guys had a “least favorite songwriter” category, Lydia would also pick Joni Mitchell. Headphones are used a lot in our household.
LL: Prince.

Favorite television show?
BL: TV generally sucks, and if I like something, it's a sure sign that it'll be cancelled in a year. But having said that, if we're on the road in a hotel and an episode of Seinfeld comes on, it will never ever get turned off.
LL: Dr. Who.

(Todd Cooper)

Favorite website?
BL: Ffffound.com. Want to see something weird? Go there, click on an image, click on another image, and down the rabbit hole you go. It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book for weird artist-types.
LL: Popjustice.com.

What was your first motorcycle?
BL: A 1982 Suzuki GS450E. I loved that bike. I crashed it frequently, and thus eventually replaced almost every part on it. I never received a title for it, which made it somewhat “challenging” to ride on the street legally.
LL: Suzuki FZ50 (rot in hell).

What bikes do you currently own/ride?
BL: I have a 2001 Suzuki SV650S. When I was first getting into motorcycles, I sat down on one of these new in the dealership and it just seemed like an alien spacecraft, it seemed so futuristic compared to my 450. I know it's pretty primitive compared to modern bikes, with such wonders as fuel injection and working suspension, but it was a great feeling regardless to finally get one—even if it had been lowsided and came with a salvage title.
LL: I have a Tomos Streetmate.

Favorite riding memory?
BL: The first time I got on my bike and rode down to the backroads where I grew up was a very emotional experience. I'd been there before in a car, but obviously riding a motorcycle was a much more intense way of exploring the same hills I rode on my bicycle and skateboard on as a kid.
LL: My first Vintage Motorcycle Days with Ben, we took a long, muddy backwoods ride.

Other than your own, which instrument do you wish you could play?
BL: I love guitar, but I suck at it! I always try to get better every year, but it just may not be in the cards for me.
LL: Violin.

Your drink of choice?
BL: Cheap beer on ice, good bourbon on the rocks.
LL: Water or Bulleit.

Who was your childhood hero?
BL: Cliff Burton, the original bass player from Metallica. Not only did he kick ass playing fingerstyle in a speed metal band (it's not easy), but he was also a gifted composer and penned most of Metallica's long instrumental passages. That band would be a much cooler entity if he was still around.
LL: Britney Spears, and she still is, dangit.

Favorite way to pass the time on the road?
BL: I do most of the driving, so usually my time is spent trying not to be furious with moronic drivers who drive .5 miles an hour over the speed limit in the left lane. I kind of prefer no music when I'm driving. So much crappy music out there is just background clutter, and it prevents you from having a clear head and developing your own thoughts when there's just white noise blaring away.
LL: There's not a lot of time to “pass,” sadly. I absolutely love yoga, and any time I can fit it in, that’s great. I love to take walks because it's the only time I get to really be alone. Also journaling, and I love to watch ESPN for hours on end just kidding my band does.

What can’t you live without when you’re on tour?
BL: Clean socks. I wish I had some sort of fresh-sock delivery service on tour, as I'd ideally change socks three times a day. It just feels so great! As is, I wear exclusively black T-shirts and black socks on the road so I can throw it all in one load of wash and not screw it all up.
LL: Tea tree oil and arnica for rock and roll injuries, coconut water, and my journal.

If you couldn’t play music, what would you want to do for a living?
BL: Definitely art and design, with maybe some writing on the side. Although it did take me a while to fill out this questionnaire, so maybe I should stick to woodworking and painting.
LL: I love to cook, and I also love jobs that utterly consume me and isolate me, so maybe a chef! I've also considered world's most deadpan yoga teacher.


Which song do you wish you’d written?
BL: From an artistic standpoint, "Wildfire" by Michael Martin Murphey brings me to tears every time. It reminds me of Luke, my Bernese Mountain Dog that is no longer with us. I can't even try to cover it at home without bawling. Crap, it's happening now. I miss you so much, Luke! But from a monetary perspective, The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” gets played at every single athletic event ever, along with "Rock & Roll, Pt. 2" by Gary Glitter, so either one of those would be great, assuming I retained the licensing rights.
LL: “American Pie.” Then I'd make sure it was never played for anyone, ever.

Which song do you wish had been written about you?
BL: I have had songs written about me, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
LL: Having a song written about you is actually quite uncomfortable. Sorry to all the people I've written songs about!

Most annoying thing about you?
BL: I get very agitated by other people's driving, so I end up doing about 95 percent of the driving on tour. Which makes me a bit take-chargey, as I end up being the de facto tour manager/den mother/guy who drags everyone out of the hotel room. We are pretty laid-back people at home, but on the road we quickly drop into our “road warrior” roles for the duration. It's a fun time for sure, but it's definitely a job and not a vacation.
LL: I'm very negative and self-loathing. I've heard that gets on everyone's nerves. It gets on my damn nerves.

Most annoying thing about Lydia/Ben?
BL: Lydia is unflinchingly honest, which not everyone is prepared for. I wouldn't change a thing about her, though. She's also remarkably optimistic, especially when it comes to assessing the dishwasher's ability to remove caked-on food. Or maybe she's just manipulated me into scrubbing the dishes.
LL: Joni Mitchell is his favorite songwriter?!?!

Best part of being a professional musician?
BL: Not having a daily job is the best thing ever! In 2005 I got canned from my full-time job as a graphic designer and vowed never again. I have had to hustle every month to pay the bills, from mowing lawns to trimming trees, painting houses, and hauling away garbage. But each morning I wake up and do whatever I want with my day. Spending three hours practicing bass, then another four designing T-shirts, then six more rehearsing our songs … life could be worse. Of course, there's no fiscal security other than going out and kicking as much ass as you can, but it's great motivation!
LL: Playing music.

(Todd Cooper)

Worst part of being a professional musician?
BL: Well, knowing I probably will never own a new car or motorcycle or a house can be kind of depressing. But I can still enjoy cars, bikes, and houses, just on a somewhat depreciated level. I think if I looked at my birth certificate closely, I might find “salvage title” somewhere in the fine print. If you manage your expectations accordingly, you can get by on not much money at all, and it's a worthy exchange for me to get all my time back to spend as I see fit.
LL: Being told you “don't really work.”

Best part of working and touring with your spouse?
BL: I get to see her every day and don't have to deal with the loneliness of separation that some of the other guys in the band do. Plus she is an amazing artist and I always can't wait to hear her new songs and play them onstage. It's like a dream come true, but it's a dream I never even dared to imagine, having a rock-star wife.
LL: Not having to worry about who I'mma hook up with after the show.

Worst part of working and touring with your spouse?
BL: Well, we have to see each other every day, which can get somewhat tedious. If someone is annoying you at work, you can just go home and complain to your spouse about it, then watch TV or work in your shop, then go to bed and try again tomorrow. We … don't have that option at all. We wake up with five people in one hotel room, shower, eat, drive in the same van together for six hours, arrive at a bar, hang out backstage, play the show, pack up, and drive to the next hotel room. There is no escape, other than the workout room or the continental breakfast. I try to make the most of both facilities.
LL: Well, I'm a person who really values their alone time, and let's just say that is not a thing on tour.

Best present you’ve ever received?
BL: We actually have had some fans send us guitars and basses, which is an amazing and generous gesture. My parents got me a bandsaw about six years ago, though, and I've managed to start a whole business with that one machine and make thousands of dollars with it. That was pretty cool. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
LL: My sister-in-law gave me a scarf inspired by the Tenth Doctor (in Dr. Who) just totally for no reason. It actually makes me excited for winter.

Favorite non-swear word?
BL: I try to be a “murder your darlings” kind of guy when it comes to having pet phrases and favorite words. But I have always found the word loquacious to be perfectly loquacious, and thusly perfectly self-describing.
LL: Contumelious.

If you found $1,000 on the street and had to spend it, what would you do with it?
BL: First off, I think the words “had to spend it” are somewhat unnecessary. I have several interests, but depending on what I was into at the time, I would spend it on either an XR100 engine for my NSR50, a Gibson acoustic for Lydia, kickass boots and leather jackets, a Les Paul Jr. for yet another failed attempt at playing guitar, a really good planer for the woodshop, sushi for a week, or rent so I could go back to the studio and worry about how I'm gonna pay the next month's rent.
LL: Probably a new acoustic.

Who has inspired you the most?
BL: Robert Williams, the artist. He just makes the coolest, most interesting paintings ever. Look him up! No “job,” no pension, he just lives by his wits, his skills, and his imagination. And he thrives in that environment. I want the burden of my success or failure to be squarely on my shoulders, with no one to blame but myself if things don't work out.
LL: This is cheesy, but I would actually say Todd, my guitar player. He's an amazing guitar player and songwriter, and he's taught me a lot about using restraint, giving a song space, and how to play my damn instrument. He is also a very patient person. 

Words to live by?
BL: “Have a good time, all the time”—and the hidden secret behind that saying is to find a way to enjoy everything, even the most mundane aspects of life.
LL: “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” —Jane Eyre

Who has inspired you the most?
BL: Robert Williams, the artist. He just makes the coolest, most interesting paintings ever. Look him up! No “job,” no pension, he just lives by his wits, his skills, and his imagination. And he thrives in that environment. I want the burden of my success or failure to be squarely on my shoulders, with no one to blame but myself if things don't work out.
LL: This is cheesy, but I would actually say Todd, my guitar player. He's an amazing guitar player and songwriter, and he's taught me a lot about using restraint, giving a song space, and how to play my damn instrument. He is also a very patient person. 

Words to live by?
BL: “Have a good time, all the time”—and the hidden secret behind that saying is to find a way to enjoy everything, even the most mundane aspects of life.
LL: “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” —Jane Eyre