Originally created 02/29/04

Ambulance LTD keeps style fluid



NEW YORK - The guys in Ambulance LTD are one big anomaly. They all seem innocent enough, with wide eyes and boyish looks, but they're deliciously crass.

Each is self-deprecating about his musical ability, but quick to compliment fellow band members. And while they sometimes act like a bunch of teenage boys on a camping trip, when it comes to music they're focused, melodic and mature.

"Most bands look all bad, but their music is tame," drummer Darren Beckett said with a sly grin. "We sound a lot sweeter than we really are."

Their self-titled, debut album was recorded in London with producer Jim Abbiss, and partly in New York, with the band co-producing several songs. It's quite different from the garage-rock currently percolating in the New York music scene, but it's difficult to nail down their style.

Some songs on the album are heavy on the guitar and grunge, others are bluesy, and reminiscent of classic rock. Songs with keyboards such as Anecdote are especially fun. Lead singer Marcus Congleton writes thoughtful lyrics, and the harmonies are tight.

"We make an honest, heartfelt product and don't think about what we do or don't sound like," said guitarist Benji Lysaght. "And these guys are great musicians."

Most of the songs on the album were written by Mr. Congleton, then fleshed out by the rest of the band.

"I just pick up tunes somehow, and if it stays in my head overnight I know to write it down," he said. "I don't know where they come from."

This night, the band is gathered around a small table at a bar in Brooklyn, having just come from a rehearsal.

The foursome has only been playing together for about three years after meeting in New York, and has traveled to Britain and all over the United States for shows. Only bassist Matthew Dublin is from New York. Mr. Beckett is from Ireland, Mr. Congleton from Oregon and Mr. Lysaght from California.

"We're more of a team than a family, and that helps us work really well together," Mr. Lysaght said. "We're not afraid to kick someone out if they aren't pulling their weight, because we didn't go to grade school together or anything."

It certainly seems like they've known each other forever. The conversation bounces around from girls to other bands to Mr. Congleton's 20-pound cat who feels neglected when the band goes out on tour.

"We all love the cat," Mr. Beckett quipped. "I love him so much I could drink him."

The band is getting ready to head out on a U.S. tour, playing with Stellastarr and The Killers. They love performing live, but readily admit their transportation - a little van - is cramped and it's hard to spend so much time together.

"We try to ignore each other as much as possible before a tour," Mr. Dublin said. "It gets to be a lot ... being stuffed in the van together for hours on the road. We all need chiropractors before it's done."

So why do it?

"We can't help it. We're musicians. What, are we going to get 9-to-5 jobs, sit in a cubicle and pray we don't get fired?" Mr. Dublin said. "Republicans are in office, times are tough. We make music, and we don't make any money right now. That's just how it is. But maybe someday we'll be able to make a decent living off this stuff."

ON TOUR

Ambulance LTD will perform March 25 at Atlanta's Cotton Club, 152 Luckie St.