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An ever-morphing vehicle for songwriter and sole consistent member Kurt Heasley, Lilys have swung wildly between genre and sound in different phases of their career. Moving rapidly through bandmembers, home bases, and musical fixations, Heasley took the Lilys through adventurously overdriven shoegaze on their 1992 debut In the Presence of Nothing before taking a sharp turn toward Kinks-indebted mod pop on 1996's Better Can't Make Your Life Better. Later releases like 2006's Everything Wrong Is Imaginary forged new ground while calling on shoegaze elements from the band's early days. Lilys were formed in 1988 when Heasley was living in Washington, D.C. after a lengthy stint of traveling. The band's earliest output was heavily influenced by My Bloody Valentine, and their debut single, "February Fourteenth/Threw a Day," was released in 1991 on Slumberland. The single, their 1992 debut album In the Presence of Nothing, and the 1993 EP A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns all included various players, and reflected a slow shift from a heavy shoegaze style into something closer to fuzzy indie pop. Moody second album Eccsame the Photon Band, released in 1994, continued this subtle shift by stretching out the songs and exploring vaporous dream pop. In 1996 Heasley relocated to Boston and Lilys took their first dramatic turn with Better Can't Make Your Life Better. The album completely abandoned the dreamy shoegaze sounds the band had just a few years earlier, opting instead for songs strongly influenced by the Kinks, the Small Faces, and other British mod pop bands from the mid-'60s. This phase of the band's style took them through the next few years and resulted in two EPs and their 1999 album The 3 Way, which received critical praise and was their sole release on major-label Sire. During this time, the band also experienced their closest brushes with mainstream success -- one of their songs was used to soundtrack a Levi's advertisement and subsequently scored them a minor hit in the U.K. The band's third phase began when Heasley moved to Philadelphia around the start of the 2000s, changing the band's direction and his focus on starting a family. 2003's Precollection turned away from the blatant Kinks and Monkees re-creations of the band's previous releases, instead mixing some of the unwieldy guitar textures of their earliest days with Heasley's ever-evolving songwriting style. 2006 album Everything Wrong Is Imaginary took a similar approach. Output from the band slowed after the release of this album, but they played occasional live gigs and showed up in 2012 with the Bowie-flavored song "Well Traveled Is Protest" on a split-7" with Big Troubles. By the 2020s, the band's earliest albums had become increasingly rare collectors' items, and various reissue campaigns were launched.
© Fred Thomas /TiVo
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