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MUSIC

Les Savy Fav takes time to stay fresh and frenzied

December 13, 2007|August Brown

In a recent public-service announcement for an antimalaria campaign, Tim Harrington of the noise-punk band Les Savy Fav plays a mosquito -- a giant, scraggily-bearded insect that gleefully terrorizes a New York office complex before succumbing to a well-placed net.

Les Savy Fav fans would expect such antics from Harrington, even when he's combating infectious diseases. The band's concerts have involved Harrington conducting traffic outside the club, or taking sweaters from a dozen female fans and donning all of them at once, or pulling a giant blanket over the audience.

And the band's sets have become something of indie-rock myth, partly because they make every club feel like a basement hard-core show, where the goal is to cram in as much insanity as possible until the cops show up.

"We could probably do more as a band if we were focused on being professional," Harrington said. "But for us, music is this rarefied thing and I want every show to feel more precious. When you have nothing to lose, you can risk everything."

As spontaneous and unpredictable as the band's shows are, so is Les Savy Fav's recording schedule. The band's September release, the lovely and volatile "Let's Stay Friends," is its first proper album in six years. The quartet had plenty of outside pursuits to stay busy (Harrington is a graphic designer and has a new baby, bassist Syd Butler owns Les Savy Fav's label French Kiss Records), but the downtime was in part a purposeful decision to keep Les Savy Fav a labor of love.

"The band had been feeling like a job, like we were professional musicians, and we wanted to fight that," Harrington said. "We're anti-professionals. Exposure is so easily gotten now, so to be a band's that underexposed is interesting for me."

"Friends" doesn't show any of the rust expected of a band that took more than a half-decade off from recording. Harrington's manic yet oddly plaintive wails are as rousing as ever, and the group's fuzzy punk chops are knife-sharp. It's the sound of a loose-cannon band learning to burn brightly while not burning out, even if it means keeping an occasional day job as an insect in a foam suit.

"When I was writing this record, I had all this anxiety where I asked myself, 'Am I not valid if I'm not living with my band in a bro-dude house?' " Harrington said. "But it's not the house with five dudes that defines the aesthetic."

-- August.Brown@latimes.com

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LES SAVY FAV

WHERE: El Rey Theatre, 5515 Wilshire Blvd.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

PRICE: $19

INFO: (323) 936-6400.

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