Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Leslie Hall and her band, the Lys, might be the greatest secret hiding here in the great state of Iowa. Without a doubt, without any sort of hesitation or pause, Leslie & the Lys are absolutely the strangest gang of friends hiding here in a state not known for its peculiarity. It is a band that bears no recognition to any other band on the planet. We heard about them on a lark, tapping into the grapevine and getting the rumblings that a few people we knew were involved with the band of friends whose songs were about crafting. Shows across the state were packed with people and we supposed that the reason for this is because these crafters - those faithful bedazzlers, those rummage closet sifters, those knitters and shy seamstresses - had no musicians that they could look to as motivational or inspiring, saying to them, as if directly, "You're cool with me. We're all cool or are we uncool? No, wait, we ARE cool. Let's share supplies!" These are the folks who might spend their time watching television, but then the evening of primetime dramas or true crime programming has reached its conclusion, lying there in their hands and lap is an afghan to behold - or a couple pairs of booties for a new edition to the family. The combinations are endless. These are folks whose hands feel most comfortable with a strand of yarn passing over them, a sensual act if ever there was one for some people. We're not really sure what Hall's intentions are with this project, but we like every one of them. She seems to be just as much a songwriter, as a comedian, puppeteer, alter-ego, lunatic and potential merchandizing mogul. Leslie & the Lys are a band about a lifestyle, about making things with your hands and within that sort of simple definition lies all kinds of quirky possibility for unlikely foreplay and weird eroticizing of such acts - in the same way that Har Mar Superstar latched onto the idea of being a sex symbol, even as a hairy, balding young man with a paunch and a penchant for stripping down to tighty-whities while singing in front of strangers. Hall and her Lys - typically dressed in matching outfits and gaudy leggings - go the route of the over-the-top performers, throwing make-up on with abandon and creating a sight that has no comparison. It's satirical rap and it's indie rock and it carries out a mission of bolding going where no rock and roll band has ever been before lyrically. We get our dose of songs about tight pants - everybody's wearing them - in nearly every song!! - and we are taken into these stories that sound as if they could have been ripped from the pages of a comic book tailored to this very select society of crafters and their providers. Hall is a super hero of sorts, with her face putty and wigs and jiggle enhancements, looking like Jiminy Glick in far more spangles and sparkles, while singing and rapping like a lioness who falls asleep watching old episodes of "Sex and the City," but in her dreams, applying the fashion sense of Blanche Devereaux or Sophia of The Golden Girls, all slummed and thrifted out. It's this world that becomes a magical one for Hall and the Lys and it's where a line like, "I was already wearing tight pants/I just did not activate them," sounds fascinatingly tragic.