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Not to be confused with Lilies, Lillies, or Lily's.
Origin Washington, D.C., United States
Genres Indie rock, indie pop, shoegazing, dream pop
Years active 1988–present
Labels Slumberland Records, SpinART, Ché, Primary, Sire Records, Darla, Tiger Style, File 13, Manifesto, Rainbow Quartz, Rocket Girl
Associated acts
Members Kurt Heasley
Past members
  • Tim Foote
  • Mike Hammel
  • Archie Moore
  • Harold "Bear" Evans
  • Ken Heitmuller
  • Mike Glasgow
  • Dana Cerick
  • Alex Hacker
  • Beth Sorrentino
  • Jay Sorrentino
  • Paul "Pablo" Naomi
  • Art Difuria
  • Bryan Dilworth
  • Mike Lenert
  • Dave Frank
  • Michael Deming
  • Rich Costey
  • Robert Andreano
  • Thom Monahan
  • Aaron Sperske
  • Trevor Kampman
  • Torben Pastore
  • James "Fuzzy" Sangiovani
  • Steven Keller
  • Mickey Walker
  • Gerhardt Koerner
  • Don Devore
  • Mike Musmanno
  • Don Piper
  • Michael Johnson
  • Matt Horn
  • Tommy Joyner
  • Steven Keller
  • Chris McAllen
  • Trish Scearce
  • Mario "Pel" Lopez
  • Mark Scott
  • Dan Horne
  • Jesse Gallagher
  • Spenser Gralla
  • Noah Bond
  • Doug Tuttle

Lilys are an American indie rock band formed in Washington, D.C in 1988. The only constant member is Kurt Heasley, with the line-up changing regularly. Several of the band's tracks have been used in television advertisements, and the band's biggest hit was one of these, "A Nanny In Manhattan", which reached No. 16 in the UK after being used in a Levi's advertisement directed by Roman Coppola.[1]


A Floridian by birth, Kurt Heasley spent his early years in Hopatcong, NJ and in Virginia Beach. He was expelled from school in the 10th grade for 42 unexcused absences, which he explained as time spent "Learning how to program Emax II samplers and editing functions. Getting up on the Atari 1040 ST sequencing software."[2] He later made his home in Northern Virginia and DC.

In 1988 the then 17-year-old Kurt Heasley (known to friends and colleagues as "Wally") was working at the DC club the BBQ Iguana when he recorded a demo tape which he gave to Slumberland Records boss Mike Schulman, who was sufficiently impressed that he released the band's first records.[3][4] The band's name is derived from John C. Lilly, a pioneer in the exploration of human consciousness although Heasley claimed in 1998 that it was "From that collection of Hebrew folk tales, the Bible, after Adam's first wife, Lilith, who gave birth to all the monsters of the world."[5]

Recording in DC at Inner Ear Studio, Lilys' first seven inch single "February Fourteenth" (the title a tribute to My Bloody Valentine, one of Heasley's major influences)[2] was released on Slumberland Records in 1991. Heasley then relocated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he wrote the debut Lilys album.[2] The album, In the Presence of Nothing, followed in 1992, with the influence of My Bloody Valentine again in evidence.[1][6] Early recordings used a variety of musicians including Archie Moore of Velocity Girl.[1]

The band's next releases were in 1994, including the mini-album A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns produced by Adam Lasus, which featured the track "Ginger", which was used in a CK1 advertisement.[1] A third album, Eccsame the Photon Band, was released in December 1994, and Heasley also had a spell playing bass guitar with Apples In Stereo.[1]

In August 1995 Lilys recorded Better Can't Make Your Life Better to be released on Ché in the UK in 1996 and Sire Records in the US. The album includes Lilys' most famous song, "A Nanny In Manhattan", which became a hit in the UK Singles Chart (reaching No. 16 in 1998),[7] after being used in a 1998 advertisement campaign for Levi's directed by Roman Coppola.[1] Heasley explained how the track was selected for the advertisement: "They wanted something kitschy and retro, but didn't want to pay for a Small Faces' tune."[5]

By 1995 Kurt had migrated to Boston to form his most well known version of Lilys. It was there that Beachwood Sparks drummer Aaron Sperske and Torben Pastore joined the band.[8] Lilys spent the next five years recording and performing around the world. This included the first fully live performance on Top of The Pops since Aerosmith in 1978.[citation needed] The band was signed to Sire Records via its acquisition of Ché Records, and 1999's The 3-Way was released on the major, before corporate restructuring left them without a label, and the band's output slowed for the next few years.[9] Also in 1999, Heasley made a foray into electronica with the album Zero Population Growth: Bliss Out Volume 15, part of the Darla Records Bliss Out series.[1]

In 2000 Lilys released the "Selected EP". In winter of 2000, Kurt began recording Precollection in Philadelphia. Three producers and three years later, Heasley began working with producer Michael Musmanno, who produced the latest two Lilys albums. Heasley signed Los Angeles label Manifesto Records for the latest two Lilys albums.[9]

In 2008 and 2009, Lilys performed at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, curated by My Bloody Valentine, and opened for My Bloody Valentine at some of their other US shows.[10]

The band line-up has changed regularly, with over 72 musicians being members of the band during its history.[2][9][11] Heasley said of the ever-changing line-up in 2003:

"I love turnover in the band because some people can't add to the student-teacher relationship. I need them to teach me what they want to do in the band so we can quickly move into that area. You always reach these incredible compromises, hopefully they're democratic, but I guess they're more like mono-monarchies. I guess it is democratic. You're giving each person a stake in the law but I've always been the majority holder."[9]

Heasley collaborations and productions[edit]

Heasley has collaborated with other acts such as Nobody, appearing on the band's 2005 single "Fancy", a cover of the Kinks song.[12] and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, singing "Tschuss" on their 2003 album And This Is Our Music. He also contributed "effects" to Poole's "Snowcicle" on the band's Alaska Days album, and performed on Apples In Stereo's 1995 album Fun Trick Noisemaker, and Neko Case's 2009 album Middle Cyclone. He co-wrote the Twitch Hazel contributions to their 1997 split double-7-inch EP Kramer's Beach. He has also produced recordings by other artists including The Asteroid#4 (Apple Street: A Classic Tale Of Love And Hate, King Richard's Collectibles), The Ladybug Transistor, and Mazarin and co-engineered Echo Orbiter's Laughing All The While.

Musical style[edit]

The band's music has shifted style several times in its history. The early recordings, including debut album In The Presence of Nothing, were strongly influenced by My Bloody Valentine.[1] They then moved through dream pop before settling on a new style that has been described as mod revival and a particularly strong influence from The Kinks, and other 1960s bands such as The Monkees and The Zombies leading to the 1996 album Better Can't Make Your Life Better,[9][13] Later releases included elements of psychedelic rock and a return to their earlier shoegazing sound.[1] The band have gained a reputation for sounding very similar to other artists and bands over the years, with Michael Sandlin of Pitchfork Media going as far as saying "You might say Lilys frontman Kurt Heasley is a world-class thief",[14] but as one journalist put it "I know we're supposed to hate bands that sound too much like other bands, but the difference with the Lilys is that they do it so blatantly and so shamelessly that it's somehow rendered okay."[15]

Robert Christgau described the band's sound as "amplified watercolors".[16]




  • "February Fourteenth" (1991), Slumberland
  • "Tone Bender" (1993)
  • Tone Bender EP (1994), Summershine - first 2 singles re-released as EP
  • "Returns Every Morning" (1996), Ché
  • "A Nanny in Manhattan" (1996), Ché
  • Which Studies The Past? EP (1996), Sub Pop
  • Services (For The Soon To Be Departed) EP (1997), Primary
  • "A Nanny in Manhattan" (1998), Ché (UK No. 16)
  • Lilys/Aspera Ad Astra Split (2000), Tiger Style, split EP with Aspera Ad Astra
  • Selected EP (2000), File 13
  • Well Traveled Is Protest Lilys/Big Troubles Split 7" (2012), Speakertree Records

Compilation appearances[edit]

  • "Claire Hates Me" appears on Neapolitan Metropolitan (3 x 7-inch EP box set) (1992), Simple Machines
  • "Excelsior Plainslide" appears on Ten Cent Fix - A Jiffy Boy Records Compilation (1993), Jiffy Boy Records
  • "Strange Feelin'" appears on Sing A Song For You: Tribute To Tim Buckley (2000), Manifesto
  • "Dreams Never End" appears on "Slumberland Records - The First 20 Years" (2009), Slumberland Records


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 836-837
  2. ^ a b c d Rapa, Patrick (2006) "Tall Tale Storyline: A brief history of the amazing Lilys.", Philadelphia City Paper, February 16–22, 2006, retrieved 23 December 2009
  3. ^ Fischer, Jonathan L. (2009) "Guilty Feet Have Got No Rhythm: 20 Slumberland Memories, Part 1", Washington City Paper, November 12, 2009, retrieved 24 December 2009
  4. ^ Brown, Joe (1992) "Lilys, Monday At the 9:30 club", Washington Post, July 24, 1992
  5. ^ a b Belcher, David (1998) "Jean Therapy for Giant Strides", Glasgow Herald, February 13, 1998, p. 19
  6. ^ Ankeny, Jason "Lilys Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation, retrieved 22 December 2009
  7. ^ Lilys, Chart Stats
  8. ^ "Lilys | david lynchburg, CA | Pop / Psychedelic / Shoegaze | Music, Lyrics, Songs, and Videos". ReverbNation. Retrieved 2012-04-14. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Howard, Brian (2003) "A Man Up", Philadelphia City Paper, 22–28 May 2003, retrieved 23 December 2009
  10. ^ Bruchman, Bryan (2008) "Lilys played Bell House (pics), opening for MBV @ Roseland", Brooklyn Vegan, September 22, 2008, retrieved 24 December 2009
  11. ^ Orgera, Alexandra; Saul, James; Howard, Brian, & Rapa, Patrick (2006) "The Lilys Family Tree", Philadelphia City Paper, February 16–22, 2006, retrieved 23 December 2009
  12. ^ Mosurak, Doug (2005) "Still Single, Vol. 3", Dusted, 2005, retrieved 24 December 2009
  13. ^ Lewis, Catherine P. (2006) "Lilys Everything Wrong Is Imaginary", Washington Post, February 3, 2006, retrieved 23 December 2009
  14. ^ Sandlin, Michael (1999) "Lilys The 3-Way", Pitchfork Media, April 20, 1999, retrieved 24 December 2009
  15. ^ Chang, Vickie (2006) "Sounds Just Like Awesome: 90s rockers the Lilys ripped off pretty much every band ever", OC Weekly, July 6, 2006, retrieved 24 December 2009
  16. ^ Murray, Noel (1999) "Rock Steady: Three bands stay true to rock 'n' roll, with mixed results", Nashville Scene, May 20, 1999, retrieved 23 December 2009

External links[edit]