Ask any midtown musician if he or she has heard the name James (Jimmy) Armbrust, and chances are, the answer will be yes. Armbrust was once a constant presence in the KC music scene, playing in bands such as Piston Grind, Tarantula X and Gunfighter. But the times are a-changin’ for Armbrust. A little more than three years ago, he quit his job at Waldo Pizza and moved to California, where he came upon the likes of a little band called Louis XIV.
Yes, boys and girls, Louis XIV. For those not as instantly shocked as if the neighbor’s daughter had been seen lifting her top in a Girls Gone Wild commercial, suffice to say this gleefully randy San Diego quartet (whose new album, The Best Little Secrets Are Kept, dropped on Atlantic) is known almost more for the instruments they (occasionally) keep in their pants than the ones they use to make music.
“We clicked right off,” Armbrust tells the Pitch from a hotel room in New York City. “I worked at a bar, and they [the original members of Louis XIV] were coming in a lot. As an ongoing joke, I would ask people if they were in a band, and if they were, I would tell them they should kick out their bass player.” When singer Jason Hill found out that Armbrust played bass, the timing was perfect; the band needed someone, and Armbrust had essentially given up on music. “I’d put my bass under my bed for six months,” he says. “I was pretty much done, finished with music at that point.”
Since then, Armbrust has experienced a pulse-surging stream of touring, media attention and girls, girls, girls. Songs such as “Finding Out True Love Is Blind” celebrate the band’s desire for any ol’ flavor of chick: “chocolate,” “vanilla” or red-haired “carrot juice.” And the cover of the band’s new album features the curvy, truncated posterior of a nude girlie whose back displays the song titles. (Armbrust assures us that the model does not have cankles — there was just no reason to show what’s below the top of her ass, he says.)
“We love girls,” Armbrust says. “There’s definitely some tongue-in-cheek, but it’s kind of what fuels the fire. We just got our tour bus, and it’s insane every night. It’s just a mess.
“We market ourselves being ourselves,” he continues. “We set out to be our favorite band — what we love, what we want to sound like. We are what we are. It’s not just a gimmick.”
Louis XIV’s oversexed lyrics may border on laughable at times, but the group’s lusty image shouldn’t overshadow its songs’ genuine rockability. The music is raw, crunchy, vintage rock, stripped down and cranked up with hand-claps and wheedling English accents reminiscent of Mick Jagger.
But will Armbrust’s hometown crowd cast aside its inhibitions and get down and raw to an ex-local lothario’s new grooves?
Well, by all accounts, the folks at Waldo Pizza are proud that their boy has hit the big time — but don’t expect the pizza joint’s owner to bump Lyle Lovett off the jukebox in favor of the new monarchs of raunch and roll, even if one of them used to slide his pepperoni in the oven back in the day.