Jan 5, 2024
Last Legs' new single “Tara” is rooted in the real experience of American youth with stories of love, loss, and desperation that pull at your heartstrings.
In an era marked by fleeting trends and a fast-paced musical landscape, new tunes are constantly being released, leading to an oversaturated market full of creatives wanting to showcase their craft. But I have discovered a band I feel will emerge as an up-and-coming force in the indie music scene due to their talent, drive, and emotionally charged lyrics full of imagery and soundscapes. Hailing from the Garden State of New Jersey, this vibrant five-piece rock band’s sound hints at New Wave and Americana while exploring themes from the 70s and 80s amongst a backdrop of folky, narrative-based lyrics rooted in realism. Their stories of love, loss, and desperation pull at your heartstrings and their poignant lyrics are known to bring on the tears. So, who is this band? They go by the name Last Legs.
Formed in 2019, Last Legs is comprised of a lifelong group of seasoned musicians with an extensive history of over 20+ years rooted in the local Asbury Park music scene. Last Legs emerged from the ashes of notable indie bands Lowlight and Roadside Graves when various members wanted to create more material, but under a new moniker. Derril Sellers plays guitar while his wife Dana handles the keyboards and contributes vocals. Colin Ryan is the man with the plan on drums and percussion, Rey Rivera plays the bass and does all the MPC drum programming, and John Gleason is the lyricist and lead vocals bringing it all together.
The band recently released a cover of REM’s “Nightswimming”, which is quite remarkable. The Last Legs version is rearranged, reinterpreted, and sounds nothing like the original. The band has orchestrated a beautiful take on a classic song, one worth noting.
Fresh off recording their four-song demo EP, the band released their new song “Tara”, which is out today, and it is the first original song by Last Legs to be released on all streaming services. It’s also the perfect introduction to the band’s music. If you’ve had the pleasure of seeing them perform live, you’ve probably heard vocalist John Gleason explain, “These are songs of love, loss, and desperation, and every word is true.”
“Tara” contains lyrics that set the template for much of Last Legs’ music by telling a story that is rooted in the real experience of American youth: “When I was young, I ran away”. The song is visceral and specific, allowing listeners to feel the desperation of a life out of your control and going all wrong. The need to escape is real and earned when you hear the chorus: “You can take me anywhere, as long as it’s away from here”.
Musically, “Tara” is a two-parter. Synth-driven the whole way through, the band is surprisingly intricate and fluent. The personal and detailed lyrics lead you to expect a country-folk arrangement, but the 80’s influence here is undeniable. This is New-Wave Americana. The first half is catchy, syncopated, and almost danceable. At the bridge, the band opens into a rolling, expansive vamp as John drives home the helplessness of childhood and the end of naivety. “Tara” is that time in our lives when we lose the sensitive, vibrant life force of childhood and become grey, unfeeling adults. “You can watch the way I crumble; watch the way I disappear”. Indeed.
Last Legs is currently working on a full-length album to be released later in 2024, so stay tuned. Mixed Alternative was able to sit down and chat with the entire gang recently to discuss what makes their interpretation of “Nightswimming” so amazing, what their future holds, and more. Check out our conversation below, and then check out their new single, “Tara”. We think you’ll love these guys as much as we do.
MaM: Thank you for speaking with us today. Let’s dive right in. Where did the band name come from?
Colin: A huge Google doc. It was back and forth for months. We all liked the name Last Jumps that John came up with. John was going to say it one day and flubbed and said Last Legs instead. Everyone liked the name, so it stuck.
John: We also like the meaning behind it because it stands for the last leg of the journey as well. It could be positive or negative.
Dana: Our music explores the themes and topics of death, grief, etc. and I think it suits the music, too.
MaM: Your cover of “Nightswimming” is incredible because it sounds nothing like the original song. Had I not known that it was by R.E.M., I would have thought it was a new track. How did your cover of it come about?
John: It was my selection because we went back and forth with many songs and I’ll be honest, I’m not an R.E.M. fan, but “Nightswimming” is the one R.E.M. song that hits me in the ways the music of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen does. I thought that the song was so perfect and beautiful and there is no way we should cover it and try to sound exactly like them. I don’t feel that is an interesting way to do a cover song anyway unless you are playing it at a bar where people want to hear the song sound exactly like the original. The thought was that we wanted to mess it up by changing the lyrics, the tempo, and the style, and I think we achieved what we set out to do. And the fact that you like it is great. The main thing we did with “Nightswimming” was we took the bridge and made the whole song out of that bridge because we loved the chord progressions there.
Dana: Yeah, we swapped the music from the bridge of the original song with the music of the main hook—the piano part—and that just seemed to work. I think as artists we are willing to experiment and drop any kind of bias of how things should be. I do think that it’s cool how we got it to tether back to the original song by flipping the bridge and the verse.
Derril: The reason we did that, to begin with, is because our record label, Mint 400, does a compilation of songs from a certain decade every year and every band on the label chooses a song for the compilation. The decade this time was the 90s, so this was our choice.
MaM: As I was listening to the demo you sent me, I was thrown into 80’s nostalgia overload and wanted to ask you about the creative process of writing music. How do you approach that?
Dana: Some songs start with a kernel of an idea from a particular band member, but then some happen because John will start singing something and then we’ll build the song around that, but a lot of the songs do come together in a rehearsal or a setting where we are all together.
During the pandemic, we got good at working together remotely and that got us accustomed to playing together even when we weren’t. We still send each other phone demos, too, where I’ll come up with something on the piano and then I’ll send it out. I think something we want to try with the upcoming record is to change the process because I think the process will dictate what the song ends up being. The process gives you an environment to work in so you can do different things.
John: We have a song on the demo called “I’ve Been Loved” that we went through almost ten different versions before we ended up on the one that is on the demo, and each one was good, but it was just not hitting perfectly right until we got to the final version. Some songs kind of just come together and some are more involved in the process to get to the result.
MaM: Currently, who is inspiring you musically and why?
Derril: I’ve been going through a musical and fashion renaissance, and I’ve been copying off Warren Ellis. I’m trying to grow into him these days and I’ve been following him a good bit.
Dana: Since I play keys, I like the work of Brian Eno. The 80’s vibe you hear is because of me. I use a lot of 80’s keyboards and I have a Roland Juno 60—an original one—that I’ve played for many years. It just sounds great, but I recently stopped gigging with it because it just seems abusive to the instrument. I love music from that decade…all the post-punk stuff. We’ve been listening to the new Andre 3000 flute album, too, and it’s amazing. Sounds and texture are what I gravitate towards.
Colin: John and I just went to see Mary Lattimore recently at a church in Philadelphia. John is a fan, but I had never heard of her before. I’ve been listening to a good bit of her stuff trying to get caught up on it all because it’s really good.
John: She’s a harpist and she uses a loop pedal and it’s magical. If you like ambient music, you’ll love it. It’s melodic ambient music. For me, lately, it’s been singer/songwriter Damien Jurado. I’ve been listening to him since the mid-90s because he continues to put out compelling challenging and beautiful records.
MaM: What are your plans for the future of the band?
Last Legs: More people crying at shows.
Dana: We love traveling and we would love to be the opening act for artists we admire to connect with an audience and fans. We love creating music and our goal is to release our record in 2024 either with a label or independently. We now have this democratization of the music industry where anyone can reach their fan base if they do a certain thing in a certain way. Hopefully what we are doing will be infectious and other people will pick up on it. That’s our goal and we look forward to the rest of 2024.
Be sure to follow Last Legs on social media and check out their tunes. All that tugging at your heart strings will be worth it!
Apple Music: Last Legs - Apple Music
*cover photo by Jeff Crespi
Nicole Brice gets super excited about new music. Got something for her to check out? E-mail your submission to: email@example.com.