Louis XIV before the big vampire convention.
Dishwater was in the midst of one of their greatest scores when the band began to fall apart. Guitarists Jason Hill and Robbie Dodds had become more interested in country music driven by the likes of George Jones, and the songcraft associated with it. This wasn’t a great fit with the two-hour sets that they were performing at venues such as Winstons.
“We were actually in Hawaii for a gig for Dishwater,” Hill explained. “It was one of our last gigs. They put us up in Hawaii for a week and all day long we would sit in hammocks overlooking the ocean. We wrote ‘Weekends’ there, and then played at night in Dishwater. But it was in that week in Hawaii that we said ‘You know what? Let’s try this.’”
“This” became Convoy. The formula was basically Dishwater minus their lead singer (Ryan Ramos) plus an old chum (Brian Karscig) and a whole lot of Americana influences. The band spent a couple years living together out in Jamul where they recorded 2000’s The Pineapple Recording Sessions. Their first residence was a three-bedroom house on a 46-acre property. Next to their house stood an abandoned, rat-infested mansion that had a “cocaine/swinger vibe from the 70s” according to Hill.
Their second haunt was an “adobe castle” that was 20 minutes further out and closer to Tecate. The second casa was tougher on Hill’s bandmates. “I was like ‘Okay, fuck this. Let’s get back to civilization.’ It’s not like you’re gonna meet anyone out there. Eventually we moved and joined the life of single people back at the beach.”
The band signed a record deal and released Black Licorice in 2001, but only lasted for two more years after that. Near the end of the band’s run, Hill was living in a room above a recording studio in Bay Park that had a sink, but no shower. “At night, I would go around the back balcony overlooking a Shell station and I would literally hose myself off,” he explained. It was here that the concept of a song cycle involving a teenager, a partying mom, schizophrenia, and Louis XIV began to take shape. Soon, music from the project made it to local radio, and Hill needed a new band. Convoy holdovers Karscig and Mark Maigaard hopped on board and were joined by Jimmy Armbrust — the wild ride that was the early days of Louis XIV had begun.
“All of sudden it just spread like wild-fire when it came to radio stations,” Hill said. “San Diego started playing it before it was even out. Brian and I bought a CD burner and we burned CDs and would sell them at shows.... We sold at least 15,000. We weren’t even counting at a certain point.”
Louis XIV released two albums on Atlantic and called it a day in 2009. Hill went on to produce bands and pursue a new passion — working on music for film and TV projects. His big break came when director David Fincher asked him to work on a song for the trailer of his 2014 film, Gone Girl. Later, Fincher would utilize Hill’s services for his Netflix series Mindhunter. Hill’s upcoming run of Louis XIV shows will find him taking a break from the TV work to reconnect with some old friends… and instruments.
- Thursday, March 19, 2020, 8 p.m.
- Music Box, 1337 India Street, San Diego
“It’s fun playing guitar again,” he explained. “That’s the last thing I reach for now. I reach for a cello or I invent all these instruments — these crazy weird instruments. Big metal things with cones and crazy shit.”
Louis XIV play the Music Box on March 19.