Getting ‘Lost’ in the music
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Alicia Lozano has a fun piece on a New York band that is taking their obsession with the ABC series "Lost" to musical extremes with a unique "island sound" :
Brooklyn musician Jeff Curtain (above right) devotes roughly 17 hours a week to "Lost," a show with such a fanatical following that Curtain and his friends felt compelled to start a band based on the TV drama.
Previously on Lost is exactly what the name implies: A recap band. Through short spurts of musical whimsy, the island aficionados summarize the week’s plot, focusing on themes and characters that are especially entertaining. Notable songs include "Ballad of Sayid Jarrah," based on the Season 4 episode in which the former Iraqi soldier (Naveen Andrews) recounts his brutal military past. Another favorite is "The Island Won’t Let You Die," which involves chucking scores of inflatable, tropical paraphernalia into the crowd.
The typical show includes tossing fake palm trees and fresh fruit around like rice at a wedding. Leis are distributed at the door. A jumbo cardboard airplane is carried through the crowd and demolished in a mock crash. A chorus line of "sailor girls" sing backup vocals and dance onstage. But the group’s greatest treasure is the life-size poster of "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams, which is fanned with giant leaves throughout the show.
"This is a punk version of ‘Gilligan’s Island’ where we run through the songs as fast as possible so we can tell you everything you need to know about the entire season in an hour," Curtain said. "We are serious ‘Lost’ fans."
As giddy as teenage girls before prom night, Previously on Lost is gearing up for Thursday’s Season 5 premiere with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Performing at Brooklyn’s Bell House, the band will recap Season 4 with songs from their album "The Tale of Season 4 and the Oceanic Six" and screen the full two-hour premiere with an open bar and giveaways.
The amount of pomp and circumstance going into the premiere is nothing new to Curtain, who studied musical theater at Columbia University. Now a sound engineer for Pitchfork TV, an online music channel dedicated to all things indie, Curtain met Adam Schatz (on the left in photo), the band’s co-founder, through mutual friends. He was busy creating "a science fiction ballet" called "Champillion" for the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival and needed a keyboardist. Schatz, a saxophone student at NYU, was in.
Two years after meeting, Curtain admits that their friendship is demarcated by the show and by their shared love of famed astronomer Carl Sagan, whose musings on UFOs and extraterrestrial life influenced their musical sensibilities.
The pair embraced Sagan because he is "someone who taught us that caring is cool again," Curtain said. "Curiosity and appreciation is a more productive way than the darker side of creativity or maintaining an image that you don’t care."
But even though Previously on Lost cares more than the average viewer, the band didn’t get into the show until well into the third season and didn’t start recording until the fourth. On a whim, Curtain picked up a DVD of the first season in 2004 to see what all the fuss was about and immediately understood, practically watching the entire thing in one sitting.
"People get hooked more quickly when they are able to watch the whole season back to back in a 24-hour session," he said. "’Lost’ already is the biggest show on the planet. It’s more than a TV show at this point."
The drama and suspense that keep viewers compulsively tuned in inspired the band to take their music to the next step. Midway through the third season, Curtain recruited a collective of five other musicians who were willing to make watching "Lost" their part-time jobs. Together, the band created a separate world based on the TV show, complete with instruments disguised as various inflatable fruits and plants.
When Season 4 started, Curtain and the crew knew it was time to get to work. They watched and re-watched episodes, penning themes and quotes from the week’s plot. On Sundays, the band would convene for an entire day of writing, recording and ordering chicken and brisket from their favorite BBQ place.
"We’ve based the growth of the band on the progress and steps of the show," Curtain said. "It did start as sort of a joke but we felt we were the most qualified to recap."
Their qualifications have propelled them into unexpected fame. The band’s Myspace page and iTunes downloads have earned them millions of online hits. "Lost" producers flew the band to Los Angeles in August, where they met cast members and played crowded shows at the Echo, Spaceland and the Knitting Factory, Curtain said.
"We heard Naveen can really shred on guitar," Curtain said. "We’re waiting for him to sit in with us."
– Alicia Lozano
Photo courtesy of Previously on Lost
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