Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Fun Lovin’ Criminals
Hip-hop, alternative trio
The Fun Lovin’ Criminals, a trio of funk-infected pseu do-punks from New York, found themselves stars in the summer of 1996 with their infectious alternative-radio hit “Scooby Snacks.” The bass-heavy song related a sad but laughable tale of doped-up loser bank robbers, providing ample evidence of the FLC’s bizarre sense of humor as well as urban-groovy sensibility. “FLC belong to the post Beasties-wave of ‘real’ hip-hop,” wrote Simon Price in Melody Maker. “It’s all bottleneck, Hammond, stick on snare, only a few blocks from Beck territory.” The FLC’s love of New York, crime fiction, and the cinematic blend of the two was very much evident in their first studio LP, 1996’s Come Find Yourself, which namechecked everyone from Robert DeNiro to John Gotti and even sampled bits from Quentin Tarantino movies.
Not surprisingly, FLC’s roots lie in New York’s nightclub scene. The band’s frontman Huey (they prefer to be known by their first names) resembles a young DeNiro, and, after a stint in the Marines, began working at Manhattan’s famed Limelight club in the early 1990s. A
Members are Fast (attended Syracuse University), bass, keyboards, trumpet, and harmonica; Huey (served in the U.S. Marine Corps), vocals; and Steve (born Stephen Borovini, c. 1967); drums.
Both Fast and Huey worked at the Limelight nightclub in New York City, early 1990s. Band formed in 1993; released Fun Lovin’ Criminals on Silver Spotlight label, 1995; played first live show at the Limelight; signed with EMI Records; released first LP on EMI label, Come Find Yourself, in 1996.
Addresses: Home —New York, NY. Record company —EMI Records, 1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104.
longtime blues aficionado, Huey had played guitar for years and at one point joined a band. At the Limelight, he met Fast, a fellow musician, and the two began writing their own songs together. They then recruited Steve, a friend of theirs who had played drums in a techno outfit; they officially formed as the Fun Lovin’ Criminals in 1993, borrowing their name from a local graffiti crew. Their sound was a blend of sampled bits plus live music; Fast programmed keyboards and played bass, trumpet and harmonica, while Steve handled programming as well as drums. Huey wrote the pop-culture-heavy lyrics, sang, and played guitar.
Their first gig together as FLC came after they snookered Limelight management into letting them play. Performing live proved to be an unexpected thrill. “We started jumping around like idiots,” Fast told Jancee Dunn in Rolling Stone about that first show. They continued to play at the club, and eventually the Limelight DJ alerted some record-industry insiders to a gig. Shortly thereafter, FLC signed with EMI, and released an EP in 1995 that was but a forerunner to a full-length, self-produced album. Released it in early 1996, Come Find Yourself, according to Dunn, worked in references to “everything from Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew to franks and knishes,” she wrote in Rolling Stone. The record “seamlessly and unself-consciously melds funk, rap, a dash of Casino Royale flair … and gangster—not gangsta—posturing,” Dunn noted. Listeners even found echoes of 70s Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and in the same interview with Dunn Steve admitted to being a huge fan of another band practically synonymous with that decade, Steely Dan.
By the summer of 1996 the “Scooby Snacks” single had made inroads on modern rock radio. The catchy, hook-laden song with lyrics about a bank robbery gone comically awry was only one of fifteen oddball, goofball manifestations of the FLC’s perverse sense of humor: on “The King of New York,” they declared, “La di, da di, free John Gotti,” the notorious New York Mafia don, and “Methadonia” poked fun at habitual drug users. They sampled dialogue from the Quentin Tarantino films Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Roni Sarig, reviewing Come Find Yourself for Rolling Stone, even went so far as to term their sound “Tarantino rock” before evoking comparisons with other white-boy rap acts such as House of Pain and G. Love and Special Sauce. Sarig pointed out that the FLC grooves, which “spike action-packed musical lawlessness with humor” ensured their audience was a youthful one; the critic also noted that by linking up with “fun-loving Hollywood criminality rather than the perceived ‘real’ violence of rap,” the FLC and their label had kept Come Find Yourself from being saddled with a parental-advisory warning sticker, as a real “gangsta” rap release dealing with similarly lawless themes might have been.
Wackiness and paeans to crime aside, Come Find Yourself also included some surprises, such as a cover of “We Have All the Time in the World,” a song formerly done by Louis Armstrong for the James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. “All three of us are songwriters and we compliment [sic] each other nicely,” Huey asserted in a press release from EMI at the time of their major label debut. Steve concurred: “We all have different backgrounds and influences between the three of us, we do have common ground and it starts with the song.” The “New Yawk” angle in their music, much hyped to promote the band, worked well, wrote Melody Maker ’s Price. “Every sucker from every magazine has bitten the bait. Their press clippings read like they were dictated at gunpoint by Chrysalis [their U.K. label]. The words ‘urban’, ‘hoodlum’, ‘cinematic’, and ‘DeNiro’ clutter the column inches like chili dog wrappers in the gutter.” FLC promotional loot to record-industry and radio insiders even included windbreakers with the FLC logo, in mock homage to standard-issue Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent-gear familiar to the American public from television footage of drug raids.
But FLC’s irreverent antics eventually landed them in hot water, and no doubt irked the parental surrogates at EMI as well. Even as their celebrity was building, they had found that being signed to a major label is sometimes difficult. As Huey put it to Dunn in Rolling Stone, label executives “aren’t down with emotions to the extent that we are,” he said. More ominously, the band’s fondness for prank phone calls was already apparent from that Rolling Stone interview in the summer of 1996—Steve had told Dunn, “When I’m bored, I call people and ask, ‘Whassup?’ and see where the conversation goes.” But during a tour of England in April of 1997, Steve was arrested in Leeds for making obscene phone calls to women’s gyms in the area. Police held him overnight, and released him in time for the FLC to play a scheduled Manchester show that night.
Official reports surrounding from the FLC drummer’s arrest also provided fans with his actual identity, one Stephen Borovini, who was given an “official caution” in British legal parlance. EMI executives downplayed the salaciousness of the incident, with one representative telling Melody Maker that “if it was really as horrible as [the news stories] said, then obviously it wasn’t big or clever at all. But the fact that he was cautioned and released seems to suggest that it really wasn’t that bad.” Leeds authorities, however, stated that had they known about the phone calls prior to the FLC show in Leeds, they would have cancelled the concert.
Nevertheless, U.K. tour was a great success, and they opened for U2 on several American dates of their PopMart tour later that spring. Noting the energy emanating from the band and its newfound success, Melody Maker Mark Roland recommended catching a live FLC performance, as he did in the English town of Norwich, asserting that “at this point it’s almost as exciting for the band as it is for the audience.” He termed them “the best bar band on the planet.” As FLC frontman Huey explained to Billboard, “in Europe, they tend to get the irony of what we do,” he said. “Here, some people say we’re irresponsible’…. The way we look at it is, you either get humorous or you lose it and start shooting.” Their ultimate aim, Huey continued, is to tap into the general Zeitgeist and simply offer a way “to just have a good time and forget the fact that the rent’s due.”
Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Silver Spotlight Records, 1995.
Come Find Yourself, EMI, 1996.
(With others) Lounge-A-Palooza, Hollywood Records, 1997.
Billboard, March 9, 1996, p. 17; December 14, 1996, p. 73.
Melody Maker, June 29, 1996; April 12, 1997.
Rolling Stone, April 4, 1996, p. 60; June 13, 1996, p. 25.
Further information for this profile was obtained from promotional material provided by EMI Records.
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