Seeing the lyte

I've been here before.

"Billy, I haven't seen you in ages!" ages a publicity princess standing registerside at Camelot Music in the Florida Mall. "What's it been, like two years?"

"Ages!" I blither, having no idea which black-smock blowout it is that I'm talking at.

"C'mon back," she instructs, as she surely must have two years ago. I always forget a face.

But not these faces. Before me in the back room sit the three hunky chat poppers LFO, and I'm not even checking labels for Abercrombie or Fitch. I can't. I'm in love.

"Do you want some water?" offers lead man Rich.

Anything stronger?

"Can I get you a chicken sandwich?"

No, I'm already imagining one. Anyway the local boys are set for a record signing at the old mall record store, and I'm holding them up. Which means I must be very important to them. Let's get down to (yawn) business.

"Has success spoiled you yet?" I Rick Springfield.

What follows is some strange apology for their horrible first record, a light pop abomination that offered the pop world some suburban limericking by way of its singles "Summer Girls" and "Girl on T.V." I guess they like girls.

Most of the songs were just standard songs written by big songwriters of the time," grumbles Mitch. "We admit that. But at the time we didn't know any better. In our defense, 'Summer Girls' was written by us, and was a hit. 'Girl on T.V.' was written by us and was also a hit. We were just really getting comfortable writing songs at that time."

"Summer Girls," in particular, charmed like a chalkboard scratch when it whispered its white-rap rhyme of "Abercrombie and Fitch" and "Chinese food makes me sick." Some things aren't meant to be said. But, predictably, looks overpowered. So did an early TransCon representation that saw Lou Pearlman predictably running his chubby fingers all over their career.

"He had money. He was helping us out," defends Devin.

I have 20 dollars ...

"I mean, at the end of the day, it's a business."

Is it ever. The boys are clearly dolled-up for promotion, sporting requisite hanky heads and carefully coiffed facial hair experiments. Does that make them a boyband, like, even if they write their own songs?

"We never asked to be in that category, and I can't get mad that we're put in it," pontificates Rich. "We never set out to be that. We never wanted to be that."

Here's where I reach for my own hanky.

"But nobody cares what we have to say about it. Now it's our job to just put out music that we believe in, and hopefully it will change people's perception of us."

It doesn't hurt if you look good, too. Or does it? Anyway, the boys are enjoying rising fortunes, thanks to the jangley summer single "Every Other Time," a song that seems to be about a bad relationship that prompts the female protagonist to accuse Rich of being gay. Which, I suppose, is why I'm here.

Originally, the band was dubiously crowned the Lyte Funkie Ones, an obvious Pearlman misspell issue. The roots of the name go way back, though -- all the way to Rich's streetwalking teen-age years, in which he waxed a little Vanilla Ice, keepin' it real in his private suburban hell.

"When I was a lot younger, me and my friends were just freestylin' and writing rap songs in the neighborhood. Those groups were mixed -- there would be a lot of black kids, I was maybe one of two white kids. One day a friend walked in the room and said, 'Ah, it's the light funky one.' Everyone laughed, and then, like, that kinda caught on.'

It's been hard to live down, too.

"The first releases that went out, we called ourselves that because it seemed to fit," rambles Rich. "The meaning behind it made sense to me, but to everybody else it was like Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch."

"You can call me anything, as long as the music's good," adds Devin.


These days it's just LFO and the boyband horse that they rode in on. Asked about the A.J. Situation, Rich cautiously avoids any real association, maintaining that they are friends, but not too close.

"Bottom line is, he's really smart. That's guts, what he did," waxes Mitch. "I don't really know the situation. I haven't really 'hung out' with him per se in a long time. It's not as easy as it seems to be in the spotlight, and he was all the time. It's a lot of pressure."

"Besides, if you took a hundred people out of this mall, there's a good chance you're gonna find somebody with an alcohol problem," supposes Devin.

If you took one person out of this chair, you might, too. It comes with the territory. As does the responsibility of knowing that with writing criticism comes criticism of writing criticism. And LFO hates the press.

"It's great to talk about people's lives," stumbles Devin, "except for the people talking about it."

Whatever. I guess I'm leaving alone.


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