Arts Desk

The Exit Interview: Lejeune

How bad is the drummer shortage in D.C.?

So bad that when one percussionist leaves, three bands call it quits. At least, that was the case when Greg Gendron decamped for Japan last March. His departure spelled the end for Lejeune, The Courtesans, and Secret Pop Band—three long-running groups that regularly played at the Black Cat and other major venues.

"We are not looking to grind out records and play innumerable shows.... We are trying to get as much enjoyment out of the band as possible," says Lejeune frontman Sam Bishop. "And Greg was a big part of that."

Few would accuse Lejeune of playing innumerable shows. Over the group's seven-year history, it played around two dozen shows, says Bishop. Perhaps that's because the first gig, for Lance Armstrong's "Tour of Hope," was such a bust.

"Lance Armstrong was supposed to ride in with Lejeune playing in the background, on this huge stage on the Ellipse, with a Jumbotron and everything" recalls Gendron. "We sound checked the night before and were excited to play through those huge speaker stacks."

The whole event got rained out, and, as a consolation prize, the band was offered a meet-and-greet with Armstrong.

"I don't think any of us went to that; we were so bummed," Gendron says.

The band's final show was a bigger success, albeit on a much smaller stage. Last winter, Lejeune fans packed into Galaxy Hut for an epic, 90-minute set encompassing the band's full catalog of folksy indie pop.

"Two years lapsed between our penultimate and our ultimate show," says Lejeune keyboard player J. Forte.

What were they doing during all that interim time? Practicing, says Gendron.

"Lejeune is the most well-rehearsed band in the world. We practiced at Barco Rebar in Falls Church, and they charge a ridiculous amount of money," says Gendron. "We probably paid for that guy's retirement, over the five years we practiced there."

All that practice paid off last winter, when Lejeune went into the studio (well, its bassist's basement) to record its final album—"Adieu," released last month, and the subject of this week's One Track Mind column in Washington City Paper. They only had a few hours to record four songs, and they nailed it, Gendron recalls.

"It's our best work; it's a shame it took us seven years to get to that point," he says. "Not to diminish our other albums — they are good too. But on this last one, we finally got to where we always wanted to be. It's a good resting place for Lejeune."

Gendron now lives in Iwakuni, Japan, in a home with paper-thin walls. In deference to his neighbors, he hasn't practiced much, though he hopes to start a band in the future. "Japan doesn't have a Craigslist—or if it does, I haven't discovered it yet," he says. His former bandmates, Forte and Bishop, are working on respective solo projects. "I don't think any of us are going to hang up music," Bishop says.

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