Expensive Love by Vicky Cryer

There are two foremost things you need to know about Vicky Cryer. The first is that the Los Angeles dance-rock collective is not an all-star band. Though it (currently) features the drummers from Muse and Nine Inch Nails, the bassist from The Killers, Julian Casablancas’ keyboardist, and several other notables, this is a band owned solely by Jason Hill; guitarist, singer/songwriter, and leader of the defunct Louis XIV.

The second is that despite the feminine name, Vicky Cryer is most definitely a man. Vicky (Victor) Cryer is Hill’s pseudonym for this project. It’s Hill channeling New York Dolls’ frontman David Johansen’s (who Hill has now collaborated with on two albums) alter ego Buster Poindexter.

“A lot of bands have names that you know what kind of music it is; it’s adjective followed by noun,” Hill said in a recent chat that he fit in on a Friday night between a recording session and a call from his girlfriend. “I wanted nobody to know who the fuck it was. I just wanted it to be able to define itself…I liked the idea of not being able to be pinpointed in every facet musically.”

This band of buddies, which will play one of its initial shows Thursday at Popscene, owes its existence to a Virgin Airlines stewardess on a 2009 Australia-Los Angeles flight. Louis XIV had just finished what would be its final tour and decided to “take a break or break up.” Hill and the stewardess began to chat.

Fast-forward a few days, and the two of them are at a party in a San Diego high-rise that’s home to some white-collar Australian criminal. A friend of the stewardess is there when Hill lets it slip he is looking to start a new band. The friend announces she knows Jamiroquai bassist Nick Fyffe, as well as Nine Inch Nails and Julian Casablancas’ drummer Alex Carapetis.

Hill calls the two men, in Australia and London, on the spot and they agree to fly out to record with him. “We had this … leap of faith with these guys not knowing each other,” Hill said. “It could have been a disaster, but within seconds it just started working.”

In 2010, Hill moved from San Diego to his new home in the Hollywood Hills. “I just had the idea I kind of wanted to live by Jack Nicholson if I was going to live in Los Angeles; he’s somewhere around the corner from me,” Hill said. “(It has) banana trees in the yard, and it’s like this old, weird hunting lodge. Instantly I thought, I could really make a racket up here any time of night. It just has so much character, and it spoke to me.” He built a recording studio in the home and named it Ulysses, the name that first entered his head when he first saw the home.

Hill’s friends Dominic Howard, drummer for Muse, and The Killers’ bassist Mark Stoermer were the next to join. “Essentially, I got (Howard) a little drunk and said ‘why don’t you play in the band?’” Hill said. “He was fearful as hell at the idea of playing with another drummer. He was used to playing with the same group of guys.”

Howard, a lefty, and Carapetis, who’s right-handed, are polar opposites but complement each other, Hill said. The Muse drummer is thoughtful and refined, while the NIN drummer is wild, resembling Animal from The Muppet Show. Rather than competing against each other, they are good listeners who know how to weave in and out on a song.

Eventually, a few of Hill’s other friends, including Casablancas’ keyboardist Jeff Kite, Flaming Lips’ violinist Ray Suen and saxophonist Sam Gendel also signed up.

Vicky Cryer released a five-song EP of ‘70s rock, dance and disco fusion tunes earlier this year and played its first show, in Los Angeles, in August. The Popscene show will be the band’s first gig outside of Southern California.

“I like San Francisco a lot and used to live there years ago,” Hill said. “I played Popscene before (with Louis XIV). Muse played Popscene. Aaron Axelsen (who started the club) is a great guy.”

Then he began to consider how the band would fit all of its equipment on the stage of the small Rickshaw Stop, which is hosting the concert. “We’ve got two drummers, keyboards, two bassists and a sax player; it’s going to be tight,” he said.

Hill said he’s on a roll completing a debut album. At the moment, he’s working on a 10-minute song called “Cut Me,” which he described as a Japanese rainforest that eventually erupts into something wild. “It’s my favorite thing I’ve worked on for as long as I can remember,” he said.

After the album is completed in about two months, whatever Vicky Cryer decides to do will depend on the band members’ schedules. When his band mates are touring or recording with their primary bands, Vicky Cryer will play limited engagements, and Hill will invite other friends to fill in, he said.

Since Hill left Louis XIV, his tastes in music have not dramatically changed. He keeps artists like Serge Gainsbourg, David Bowie and Peter Gabriel in regular rotation. Vicky Cryer is not all that different musically from his former band. He wanted a change because he wanted more control over his music.

“I wanted to leave Louis because I felt a little bit caged by the business (and) Atlantic Records,” he said. “The one thing I wanted to make sure about this band was that I can take it in any direction I want. There’s no rules to it. The band is defining itself as we go along. The moment I feel caged is the moment I want to leave.”

Vicky Cryer performs on Thursday, January 26th at Popscene at the Rickshaw Stop (10pm, $15).

Follow writer Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.