Let's Active is an American rock group formed in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1981, and often identified with the jangle pop guitar work of the group's frontman and songwriter Mitch Easter. After disbanding in 1990, the group reformed in August 2014 to play a benefit show in North Carolina.
Let's Active performing in 2014
(Suzi Ziegler, bass; Mitch Easter, guitar)
|Origin||Winston-Salem, North Carolina|
|Genres||Jangle pop, power pop, alternative rock|
|Years active||1981–1990, 2014|
|Associated acts||Tres Chicas, the Windbreakers, Grover, Velvet Crush, Shalini, the Fiendish Minstrels, Snatches of Pink, Dex Romweber Duo, Game Theory, the Love Language|
Let's Active was formed in 1981 by Mitch Easter, a guitarist and songwriter best known as a record producer, with Faye Hunter on bass. Drummer Sara Romweber, then 17 years old, joined to form the original trio two weeks before their first live performance.
The name of the group was taken from a T-shirt sold in Japan bearing an inadvertently nonsensical English phrase (a popular fashion at the time). In a 1984 interview, Hunter said, "It's embarrassing for people to ask you what the name of your group is and you don't want to say it out loud", and noted that the band had been erroneously billed by promoters as "Let's Dance" and "Les Active".
The group played their first performance in November 1981, opening for R.E.M., whose first EP, Chronic Town (1982), was produced by Easter. He also co-produced R.E.M.'s first two albums (1983's Murmur and 1984's Reckoning) with Don Dixon.
Afoot and Cypress (1983–1984)Edit
The band was signed to I.R.S. Records in 1983, shortly after filming the video for "Every Word Means No" as guests on I.R.S. Records Presents: The Cutting Edge, the label's MTV television program. According to Easter, the cheaply made "econo-video" was based on the band's concept of having dogs running through the set, "which would make it chaos. But they couldn't get dogs, so instead they got these puppies, which changed the vibe considerably – and changed the worldview of our band for all eternity, because these puppies were just so adorable".
The group released the full-length Cypress in 1984. Romweber quit the band during a UK tour that year, and Hunter and Easter, a couple, split up shortly afterward. However, the band was kept alive by Easter, who played as Let's Active with Hunter and two members of The Windbreakers, Jay Peck (drums) and Tim Lee (keyboards), until a new permanent lineup was established.
Big Plans for Everybody and Every Dog Has His Day (1985–1990)Edit
In 1985, Easter brought Angie Carlson, previously a rock journalist, into the band to play guitar and keyboards. After Hunter's departure, Carlson also took on a role as vocalist, and would later marry Easter.
The band's second full-length album, Big Plans for Everybody (1986), was largely a solo recording by Easter, who played most of the instruments himself and handled the mixing and production. On board for a few tracks, however, were Carlson, bassist/vocalist Hunter, and drummers Rob Ladd and Eric Marshall. Dennis Ambrose played bass at the beginning of the group's 1986 tour, with the lineup of Easter, Carlson and Marshall. Ambrose was later replaced on bass by Janine Cooper Ayres for the fall leg of the 1986 tour opening for R.E.M.
By the time of Let's Active's third and final album, Every Dog Has His Day (1988), the band's sound had evolved into harder-edged power pop. The album was produced by John Leckie and Easter, and listed a lineup of Easter, Carlson, Marshall and a new member, bassist Jon Heames (credited as "John Heames"). Despite the credits, though, the album was largely recorded by Easter and Marshall, with significant contributions by Carlson. The subsequent tour featured a cohesive lineup of Easter, Carlson, Marshall and Heames.
The band became inactive after a final performance in early 1990 – around the same time Easter and Carlson broke up.
Post-breakup careers (1990–2014)Edit
After the dissolution of Let's Active, Carlson went on to form the band Grover in 1993, which released a single and one full-length album, My Wild Life (1995), with Easter producing some of the tracks.
Easter, meanwhile, concentrated on his production career, and rarely performed or recorded his own music throughout the 1990s, although he did join Velvet Crush as a touring guitarist for a time in the mid 1990s. In 2000, re-teaming with Marshall, Easter formed the trio Shalini with singer-songwriter and bassist Shalini Chatterjee, who was then Easter's girlfriend (now former wife). The three also briefly played under the name the Fiendish Minstrels, which featured Easter's lead vocals as well as a selection of Let's Active tunes in their repertoire. Easter also records and performs under his own name. His first solo album, Dynamico, was released in 2007.
In August 2014, Easter and Sara Romweber reunited Let's Active for a benefit performance for a cancer charity, the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation. Easter invited former Game Theory member Suzi Ziegler to join the group, stepping in to fill Hunter's role as bassist. Easter had previously worked with Ziegler when he produced Game Theory's 1986 album The Big Shot Chronicles. The trio, supported by keyboard player Missy Thangs (of the Love Language) and vocalist Lynn Blakey, performed a set that included "Every Word Means No" and "Edge of the World".
Legacy and critical responseEdit
According to Billboard, the 1984 song "Every Word Means No" was a "quintessential gem" of its period, and the early Let's Active was "one of the more intriguing garage pop bands", with "endless hooks and cleverly skewed lyrics".
AllMusic's Mark Deming wrote that the group's recordings established that Easter "deserves to be acknowledged as one of the finer songwriters of his time and place," and "by all rights, should have made him the darling of the college radio (and maybe even the pop charts) with their sharp hooks and insightful lyrics".
Let's Active was the subject of a tribute album, Every Word: A Tribute to Let's Active (2003), which featured 20 cover performances by artists such as Don Dixon, Bill Lloyd, Bobby Sutliff and Tommy Womack.
- Afoot (1983, I.R.S.)
|US Hot 100||US Modern Rock||US Mainstream Rock||UK|
|1986||"In Little Ways"||–||–||–||Big Plans for Everybody|
|1986||"I Feel Funny"||–||–||–||non-album (Bucketfull of Brains magazine flexi)|
|1988||"Every Dog Has His Day"||–||17||–||–||Every Dog Has His Day|
- Athens, GA: Inside Out (1987), archive footage
- Strong, Martin Charles (2003). The Great Indie Discography. Edinburgh UK: Canongate. ISBN 1-84195-335-0. Retrieved 2014-05-20.
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- Sullivan, Denise (1998). R.E.M.: Talk About the Passion : An Oral History. Da Capo Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-306-80857-9. Retrieved 2011-01-10.
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- Bessman, Jim (May 6, 1995). "Former Writer Turns Songwriter on Grover's Debut on Zero Hour". Billboard. 107 (18): 11. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
- Hochman, Steve (July 19, 1986). "Talent in Action: Let's Active". Billboard. 98 (29): 22–23. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 2014-08-08.
- Strange, Jay (December 20, 2011). "Janine Cooper Ayres and her tour with Let's Active". Art into Dust. Archived from the original on 2014-08-15.
- "Faye Elizabeth Hunter" (obituary). Hayworth-Miller Funeral Home. July 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-04-10.
- McGovern, Kyle (July 22, 2013). "Faye Hunter, Let's Active Founding Bassist, Dead of Apparent Suicide". Spin. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05.
- Brandle, Lars (July 22, 2013). "Let's Active Founding Bassist Faye Hunter Dies of Apparent Suicide: Reports". Billboard. Archived from the original on 2015-10-06.
- "Be Loud 14". Be Loud! Sophie Foundation (official website). Archived from the original on 2014-08-12.
- Deming, Mark (2001). "The Big Shot Chronicles". In Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen. All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide to Popular Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 165–1666. ISBN 9780879306274. Archived from the original on 2013-06-02.
- "Let's Active Setlist at Cat's Cradle, Carrboro, NC, USA". Setlist.fm. August 9, 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-08-12.
- Deming, Mark. Every Word: A Tribute to Let's Active at AllMusic.
- Every Word: A Tribute to Let's Active (CD). Laughing Outlaw Records. July 22, 2003. ASIN B0000AGWR1.