Sometime in the late spring of 2013, Lenny Lashley and I connected via social media to arrange an in-person meet up as a way to help promote Illuminator, his then-upcoming debut solo album under the Lenny Lashley’s Gang Of One moniker. It was a bit of a crossroads moment in Lashley’s career. He’d long been respected, especially locally, as a singer and songwriter of the beer-soaked punk rock and whiskey-soaked cowpunk varieties through his years in Darkbuster and Lenny and the Piss Poor Boys. By the time the 21st century’s first decade had closed, however, Lashley had struggled rather publicly off and on with some mental health and substance use-related issues, and both of those aforementioned bands had flamed out under less-than-ideal circumstances.
I hadn’t done many interviews at that point in time but wanted to take a more active roll in ramping up that area of Dying Scene. I’d known of Lashley professionally since Darkbuster won the coveted Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble in Boston in 2000, but we’d only met in passing a time or two (including once at the infamous local real-deal dive bar known as the Cambridgeport Saloon, though that incident was more memorable to an underage me than it was to him for sure). So I took the opportunity to put fresh AAs in my old-school cassette recorded and met up with Lashley for coffee on a bright, sunny Jamaica Plain afternoon in June of that year. He struck me as open and honest right from the first moments of our conversation. Not only was it a week before the release of Illuminator, but it had also just been announced that Lashley signed on to join Street Dogs as they regrouped after a very brief hiatus. There was a lot of uncertainty, but things certainly seemed like they were trending in a positive direction.
Fast-forward to 2019 and that upward trend has shown no signs of going off track, both personally and professionally. In the years since our last chat, Lashley’s reconnected with his “one true love,” Shelley. He’s gotten sober, recently surpassing the five year mark from alcohol and cigarettes and the three-year mark from drugs of all kinds, perhaps no easy feat for a guy who’s previous band’s catalog includes the likes of “Booze N Pills,” “Lenny’s A Drunk,” “Miller,” “Cheap Wine” and “Whiskey Will.” He put out a new Darkbuster record, albeit under the name The New Darkbuster because, well, time hasn’t exactly healed all wounds yet. He toured throughout Europe and the States as a solo artist and with The New Darkbuster. He and his Street Dogs brothers put out a few 7-inches toured Europe and the States some more, and finally put out an excellent new full-length, Stand For Something Or Die For Nothing, last year via Century Media.
February 15th marks the release date of Lashley’s sophomore Gang Of One album, All Are Welcome (Pirates Press Records). For this project, Lashley enlisted not only the production services of Bouncing Souls’ Pete Steinkopf once again, but teamed up with fellow Street Dog Johnny Rioux and Mighty Mighty Bosstones drummer Joe “The Kid” Sirois for the core of the recording process. The group worked quickly throughout a much tighter timeline than the one that resulted in Illuminator a half-dozen years ago, resulting in a sound that is familiar sounding yet no less stellar than its predecessor. Echos of Strummer and Springsteen and Hank Williams and, well, Darkbuster, all somehow abound without one emerging as a clear leader. That’s part of what has made Lashley such a compelling songwriter over the years; an ability to float between styles and influences in a way that pays homage rather than simply aping, thanks in large part to a trademark New England accent that’s thicker than clam chowder (sorry, that’s a cheap analogy).
Where Illuminator found Lashley turning the lens inward and processing some of the struggles he’d been going through in the years leading up to its release, the better place he’s been in these days allowed him to shift his focus in an outwardly direction. One needs to look no further than the album’s cover art and the theme of its title track, “All Are Welcome,” complete with its bridge section that contains a portion of Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, for evidence of where Lashley found more than a little inspiration. Punk rock has long talked of revolution, and one of the fortunate side-effects of the present sociopolitical climate is that its proven fertile ground for talented artists to inspire the proverbial troops. But it’s not all Clash-style combat rock on All Are Welcome; there are songs of heartache and loneliness and unrequited love and Revolution, but the kind that’s found on the Major League Soccer pitch and not the kind that’s fought in the streets.
Lashley and I met up for a mid-week lunch recently to talk about All Are Welcome and the mental and physical work it took to pull the album together. As always, we covered a lot of ground, from writing without the aid of foreign substances, to the difference between the two Gang Of One albums, to how, despite being on the other side of 50 years old, life as a musician can still be full of surreal experiences. We also talked a lot about the upcoming Dropkick Murphys tour, that’ll feature support from Lashley’s Gang Of One project backed by a full band, which will be a first for a tour of this magnitude. Head below to check out our chat, and head here to pre-order All Are Welcome while you’ve still got time!